Saturday, February 10, 2018

I Don't Want To Be Afraid

I admit that in the last 2 weeks I've had some fears about riding my bike outside. I don't want to be afraid, but when you see your friend in the hospital all broken, its hard not to be.

There's risk in just about everything we do. Sure, some activities incur more risk than others, but if we had to lead risk-free lives, none of us would ever leave our homes. And even that, in itself, is a certain type of risk.

I knew Nikki wanted to go ride Tantalus again. She told me how she didn't want to be afraid. I don't want to be afraid either. So ok. We face our fear and conquer it together? We planned to ride Tantalus together this morning.

I didn't sleep well last night. I tossed and turned and couldn't help but wonder if I was being an idiot? Those drift car guys commented a lot, Why would you ride your bike on a road where you know people drift? Maybe a valid question? In fairness, I rode that mountain for 13 years and didn't know that anyone drifted there. BUT. Now I know. So is it dumb to go back and ride my bike there? Or is it necessary? It's legal to ride a bike there. But is it safe? Is it smart? Is it ok? I mean, surely on a Saturday morning it would be ok?

I wanted to exercise my right to ride my bike on Tantalus. It's a beautiful mountain! It's a challenging climb! It's the type of ride cyclists live for. And yet. I got up feeling nauseous and sick and there was this little part of me that feared that I might not come home today. I hated that feeling, so I squashed it as quickly as I could and went about my business.

And guess what? It was a beautiful morning. Nikki and I climbed and talked and waved Aloha at every other cyclist we saw (and we saw a lot!). We saw people running and residents out walking their dogs. It felt like a state park. There were hardly any cars, and the ones we did see seemed to go out of their way to be nice. At one point, a police car passed us. We waved really enthusiastically at him and gave him a thumbs up as if to say MAHALO, MR OFFICER! He waved back at us. Seeing that patrol car driving around the mountain went a long way toward making us feel safe. I got home and sent a thank you note to HPD to hopefully encourage them to keep up the good work. If they continue to have a strong presence up there enforcing the law, that mountain will be safer for all of us to use and enjoy.

This morning, I felt safe. And I remembered why I love riding my bike outside.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

This Needs To Be Exposed

I rode my bike on my trainer in my garage today. There are a lot of good/valid reasons to choose a trainer over the road. If you're short on time and just need to get a quality session done; If the weather outside is crap; If the session is quite specific and roads don't lend themselves to doing what you want/need to do; etc. Today, I'm conflicted to admit, I stayed inside because I was afraid to ride outside.

I hate that.

This blog isn't about recounting what happened to Lectie last week. But knowing that my friend is in the hospital having multiple surgeries to hopefully repair her legs after she was hit head on by some dumbass reckless drivers is the kind of thing that makes a cyclist think twice about the risk they take when riding outside on the road.

I've been a bit of a distracted mess these past few days. Trying to wrap my head around what happened, why it happened, what we can do to possibly prevent something like this from happening again? All that has led me down some rabbit holes as I try to learn about the drift racing culture in Hawaii. They're all over Instagram so what I've learned isn't anything that isn't out there publicly already... if you take time to look. It's shocking and scary and makes you scratch your head.

So long story short, these guys take pride in building up their cars to go fast and slide. That's about the extent I understand car racing. It's not my gig. But from reading their posts and comments, they're super into it and they take pride in having the best/fastest cars with whatever parts they need to make the car slide sideways or whatever. Apparently it's a thrilling feeling to be sliding around on mountain road switchbacks, and the best road for that on Oahu is, of course, Tantalus.

Wanna see what they do? Watch this video. It was something like this that took Lectie out last week. Absolutely tragic.

I've read through tons of IG posts and comments trying to get an understanding of where these guys are coming from... thinking that if we understood what was important to them, maybe that's how we could come up with a solution to stop it. What I've learned is that its going to be really tough to actually stop these guys. This comment made today on Facebook from a woman who lives up on Tantalus.

These comments made the day after Lectie was hit... Ha ha! Ya. Go tonight! What a great idea.

Seems they don't exactly like cyclists.

What's interesting to me is that they really do assume that 'everyone knows' that Tantalus is the road for drifting. And I'm sitting here thinking how did I not know? I've been riding my bike on that road for 13 years and I've never seen them up there? So while I guess maybe everyone in their community knows, not everyone actually knows. And even if they did, that doesn't make it ok for them to turn that road into a life threatening place at their whim.

 They're not remorseful. They seem to think its funny?

The fact that it's illegal for them to drift is not a deterrent. It's part of the thrill.

Of course the first thing a normal citizen would think is Where are the police?? Get the police up there to patrol the area that will stop the problem. Or. maybe not.
 Or maybe they do sometimes get stopped by a cop. But nothing happens. 2nd time this week you got stopped? No worries. Cop probably slides too thats why.... I know this one is tough to read, but its an IG post where the guy brags about how the cop saw him sliding and let him off.

So what to do about this problem? Cops won't stop it. Killing someone won't stop it. The only way to stop it would be to make that road less appealing to them by installing speed bumps or centerline barriers or something along the sort. That's all I can think of anyway.

Even if we manage to make Tantalus unappealing to them, they'll likely just go look for somewhere else to wreak havoc. Here's a video one of them made. He's clearly super proud of their activities. This was from less than a month ago... on the most major highway in the state. Why these guys are still on the road in a civil society is beyond me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


It occurred to me to not even write up anything about this race… My initial inclination was to maybe just pretend it didn’t happen. Ironman Cozumel? Oh ya it’s a good race. Yep, did that one. Moving on. But my flight to Honolulu is 7.5 hours so what else am I going to do? Might as well type it up and share. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a student of the sport. I experiment. I trouble shoot. I try. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t and most of the time there are lessons to be learned if we pay attention and reflect. I can’t say I know the lesson of this one but maybe if I dissect it enough I’ll figure something out? Plus, I think it’s important to acknowledge our ‘failures’. Part of me definitely wants to call this race a failure. But there were a ton of good things too. And that’s just part of sport.

So the short story is that I trained diligently and in a way that I thought was good. My prep felt solid enough that I had some quiet confidence that I could finally have my day at an ironman. It’s a bit of a minor miracle to show up at the start line of an Ironman fully trained and rested and healthy and in a good head space. But I did that! Standing on the dock getting ready to jump in the water to start, I felt as good as one could hope to feel and I had no reason to believe that I wasn’t going to have my day. And yet, I didn’t have my day.

The swim at Cozumel is in some of the nicest water anywhere in the world. I think even triathletes who have a bit of fear of the ocean could find themselves feeling comfortable in that water. Mostly b/c the visibility is so good. I mean, it’s crystal clear! I think about swims in gross brown reservoirs… Like Vegas, Arizona, Muncie, Ohio… No wonder people don’t like swimming in that kind of open water. You can’t even see your hand pass in front of your face while you pull. But when water is clear and you can see absolutely everything around you, it just feels like there’s no reason to panic. Maybe that’s just me, but I absolutely love ocean swimming in warm clear salt water.

I stood on the dock with the sub 1 hour group. Only like 3 women seeded themselves in this group, but (spoiler alert!) turns out pretty much everyone who entered the race should have done so on that day. Within about a minute of the start of the AG race, I was in the water and swimming. There was no chance to warm up but it was fine… I didn’t feel awesome for the first few minutes, but it didn’t take too long until I felt like I got into my groove and right away I noted that I felt great. I way prefer swimming in my Roka speed suit vs a wetsuit, and I like not being stuck behind 1000+ struggling men that I need to try to swim around with my head up. Instead there were maybe 40 mean ahead of me and they were all strong enough swimmers and spread out enough that I had all the space I wanted to just do my thing. I was never drafting, though I would have drafted had I found a good group to swim with. Instead it felt like I was just little by little catching and passing some of the men who started ahead of me. I saw one guy pass me and I tried to get on his feet but he was moving solidly faster than I was so I couldn’t go with him. Regardless, throughout the swim I felt happy and strong and I just swam and all of a sudden we were at the finish dock. I climbed up the steps and while I missed the split on my garmin, I saw 1:07 on the race clock. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. Was that the start of the pro men’s race? I sort of assumed that it was 10min fast so I thought I swam ~57min which seemed about right and I thought good start… Then I glanced at my watch which was showing time of day and it said 8:16 which was confusing to me. I often have a hard time doing math during an Ironman but I was fairly certain that I’d started right around 7:30 so it couldn’t just be 8:16 b/c that’s only 46min. That couldn’t be right? Could it? If it was, shit. #advantagerunner No swimmer wants a short fast swim in an Ironman. It’s so common these days though. I didn’t let it irritate me, which was a small win for the day. Moving on.

The T1 tent was empty save for the volunteers and one other woman. T1 was uneventful and within a few minutes I was starting to eat my snickers bar and running out to get my bike. A spectator told me I was 2nd female onto the bike and I just thought PERFECT and I got on my bike and started riding. Just like the swim, the first few minutes I didn’t feel awesome but I figured I just needed to settle into my groove and I’d come around and start feeling good. Sure enough, within a few minutes I was in my aero bars and pedaling right at my race watts. My goal for the race was to pedal at a steady effort with a quiet brain and eat/drink enough to support the marathon afterward. Coach set a goal of 167w which based on my training seemed like it would be 100% reasonable to hold. I wasn’t watching watts like a hawk but I was checking in and most of the time I was seeing current power in the 160s so it was just like check. Keep doing this. Eat. Drink. Pedal. Quiet brain. Check. I was being passed by some men but they were passing with enough authority that it wasn’t hard at all to stay legal. Honestly, it was all perfect, just as I’d been envisioning it for the past few months. I’d found the gal who was first out of T1 and passed her, so I made an assumption that I was leading the amateur women's race at that point. I didn’t expect that to last, but still, it’s pretty cool to be in that position, even if just for a little while. It wasn’t the first time I’d been in that position… I’ve led CdA and Cabo before as well. It doesn’t last and that’s fine, but it’s not like I’m going to sit up and just wait for them to come. What do those Smash/Dimond gals say? #letthemchaseyou? Oh hey! Coeur/Cervelo gals can say that too! #letthemchase. (I love that hashtag, by the way.)

Not too long after we’d turned off the ‘windy’ section of the coastal loop (mile 25ish?), I’d sort of re-caught a group of 3 guys who’d passed me earlier. They were riding spread enough apart to be legal, but close enough that I couldn’t really just pass one… I sat off the back of them for a bit trying to decide what to do. I saw my watts drop to like 130 and it felt like a dilemma. Are they going to speed back up? Do I sit back here and soft pedal? Or make a pass? Vince and I had talked and he told me to just be aware of how many surges I was making to pass when necessary… some gentle surging should be fine… should I do it or not? I couldn’t decide. Then I saw the guy in the front of the 3 unclip his foot from his pedal and shake his leg as if he was trying to shake off a cramp, which I took as a sign that he probably wasn’t going to speed back up, so I made the pass. Looking at my file afterward, it was ~90” at ~190w. Not unreasonable at all. But like a minute later, BAM. My first twinge of a cramp (adductor- all the way from my groin to my knee). Shiiiiiiiiiit. GAH! Seriously? 25 miles into the ride? Cramping already? Are you kidding me? Crap.

It’s not like I haven’t managed cramping in an Ironman before, so I tried to stay calm. Ease up on the gas. Drink. Eat. Relax. You’ll be fine. Relax. But really, that is EARLY to start cramping. Like, that couldn’t have simply been a ‘fatigue’ thing. It was way too early for that?

From that point on, I scrapped riding by watts. For whatever reason, 167w was apparently too much for me that day. I sort of intuitively knew that if I kept pushing that, I’d end up sitting on the side of the road somewhere watching my muscles spasm in a very painful way. So I went back to racing the way I actually really prefer to race> by feel. I never looked at my garmin again to see watts. I did glance at it when it would beep 5 mile laps at me, which was every 13:30-15:00 for the most part, which meant I was riding fast, even if I wasn’t riding that hard. The wind wasn’t anywhere near as strong as it can be, so the ride was faster than normal. We did have a bit of a tailwind heading out toward the coast (those 5 mile sections were my 13:30 pieces) and we had a bit of a headwind along the coast and after we turned toward town. But even those headwind pieces were 15:xx so I was still able to hold almost 20mph. I feel like that’s a testament to a couple things- my Cervelo P3 is awesome and I’m comfortable enough on it to stay aero all the time, and my Enve wheels are the bomb. Seriously, I love those wheels. So even though I was still having those twinges of cramps in my adductors (both of them), I was able to manage with easing up, eating and drinking NBS and taking a taste of my Base salt. 

Here’s where I’ll start to trouble shoot. I’ve lived and trained in Hawaii for 13 years now and I NEVER take salt there. I mean, I salt my watermelon and my oatmeal, and I eat potato chips sometimes, but I don’t take excess salt in training, even when its stupidly hot/humid out. Even on my longest training days- no excess salt. No cramping either. And its not like I don’t put in quality 6 hour training days. I do all that in training. Given that, I’m often skeptical about the idea of supplementing with salt in an ironman. If I don’t do it in training, and training goes well, why would I do it in racing? But so many athletes are dead set on it so I had a few bags of Base salt with me (and in my bags to pick up along the way) just in case. I sort of look at it this way- as long as things are going well, I do what I do in training. But if/when things start going south, then why not try the salt? It seemed like the salt might have been helping, so I kept doing taking it. In all honesty, I feel like if I could have been drinking NBS more, I would have been better off. At home I drink that pretty much exclusively, and it works. But during the race, I really only had access to 4 bottles of it on the bike (2 to start and 2 in special needs, which I stopped for). So since I was drinking more plain water than normal, it sort of made sense that I would want/need to add excess salt to that. So okay fine. Taking salt. And here’s where it gets tricky. How much salt is ‘a lot’ of salt? I felt like I was taking ‘a lot’. But since I don’t do it at home in training (bc I don’t drink much plain water), I don’t really have a good gauge of what is ‘a lot’. I was licking my finger with salt what felt like 'a lot'. I think the Base folks recommend every 5 miles and that’s probably about what I was doing. I’ve raced in Kona though without taking any excess salt and was fine, so I think maybe it just depends on whether I'm drinking Gatorade or water when I run out of my beloved NBS.

I peed 2x on the bike (while I was riding) and then really had to go again at the end but the last 20 miles were into a slight headwind and I didn’t want to stop pedaling into that headwind to take the time to pee. I tried a couple times but I swear if/when I stopped pedaling I slowed so much… I just didn’t want to go that slow. So I held it. That’s prob the hardest thing about that bike course- there really aren’t any breaks. The specific fitness required for that ride is to be able to pedal steady without any breaks for a really long time and to be comfortable in aero for 5+ hours. I had that fitness (4-5 hours non-stop in aero on your trainer in erg mode every week will build that for you!) so it was all good, but damn, a slight downhill at some point so you could stop pedaling and pee would have been nice!

Anyway, for everyone who came to the conclusion that I rode too hard, here are the facts about the ride:
~It didn’t feel like I was pushing above my fitness level that I’d trained endlessly (riding 200+ miles/week) to do.
~My avg watts were 147 w NP 150, which was IF of .68 and VI of 1.02.
~My peak 20min was 167w, which was the goal I’d had for the whole ride and what I’d been training to do.
~I was incapable of surging or putting in any even moderately strong efforts for short periods.
~My avg HR was 153, which was higher than it would be at home for a ride at those watts.
~My avg cadence was 81.
~I drank 4 bottles of NBS and enough water that I had to pee 2x and then again in T2.
~I ate 5x Clif bars, a big snickers, a little snickers, and a gel for a total of ~1700 cal (not including the 100 or so in each bottle of NBS) or ~300/hour.
~I licked salt off my finger what seemed like 'a lot', but don’t have quantitative data on this.
~I battled twinges of cramps off/on pretty much the whole time, but never fully seized up.
~I had no other ‘common’ issues like back or neck or stomach pain.
~I didn’t perceive the conditions to be especially hot nor windy. The air was dry as compared to what I’m used to at home.
~I split 5:28 which was in the range of what I thought I could do on a good day but was surprised it was that fast on lower watts than planned. Based on how I felt like I was pushing, I expected the split to be slower. #aeroiseverything
~I came off the bike 3rd in my AG and I’m not sure where overall women? Plenty of women rode a good bit faster than me. I mean, I got passed by some who were riding like the freight train I wanted to be, but wasn’t on that day.
~For the most part, I’d achieved my goal of keeping a Quiet Brain.

Moving on.

So I got to T2, handed my bike off and headed straight to the porta potty to drain my bladder. In T2 I was not unhappy. I would say I was fairly stoic and focused, as I’d planned to be. All business. I didn’t know the time on the race clock but estimating some math I thought that if I ran reasonably, I’d end up with a PR day, which is always exciting and motivating, even if the swim was so fast and short that it shouldn’t even really count.

Coach had calculated that I could run 4:11. Based on how I’d been feeling in training, I was fairly certain I could run a little faster than that. I didn’t think sub 4 was in the cards, but maybe like 4:05-4:08 if I had my day. So I started jogging out of T2 and after about 10 steps that plan went straight out the window. Both quads completely seized up hard. GAH! Plan B. Walk it off. I’ve got enough experience racing with cramps that I know that sometimes if you just relax and walk for a little bit, muscles relax and can then start running again. So. Walking. Relax relax relax. Drink. Eat. Salt. I’d had another bottle of NBS which I hoped would help, and maybe it did a little because after maybe a kilometer I was able to start jogging, but it didn’t last and I was back to walking. GAH. Shut your brain off. Relax. Walk. Try jogging again. Nope. Oh geez. This is going to be a long ass marathon. 

In all honesty, I don’t want to write about the marathon. I mean, what is there to say? My legs didn’t function at all. What was I thinking/feeling? Well, I was trying to not think. #quietbrain I made sure I kept eating and drinking and taking salt, just in case my legs would come around… at the first turn around (mile 4.5ish) I saw Susi and told her that I wasn’t giving up… I still had some hope and was trying to be positive. I mean, what if this was my day to negative split an Ironman marathon? Maybe that was what was going to happen? (LOL> I was still grasping for any sort of possibly positive outcome.) Around mile 9 I sort of knew that it just wasn’t going to happen. It wasn’t getting better. It was getting worse. My quads just felt shredded even though I was never actually running more than maybe 30 steps at a time. Apparently even a little bit of pounding on quads that are seizing up cramping is enough to rip those little muscle fibers right up. 

Do you know how hard it is to stay positive when you’re walking an Ironman marathon and its like your 17th time doing this and you felt so well trained and can’t for your life figure out WHY you can’t do it? Again? It’s fucking HARD to stay positive in that scenario. Any time my brain started going negative on me, I ate something… I didn’t take any gels but I did eat some chews. I drank pepsi. I had mini candy bars with me and York peppermint patties, which were 100x more appealing than gels. I ate a couple of bananas and an orange. My stomach never felt bad. To be fair, I ate all sorts of crap on my long training days (yo, Pop Tarts #FTW!), with the intention of training my gut to handle whatever on race day. So that part worked. It was hot but not as hot as a lot of my training runs. I felt like it was easy enough to stay cool enough anyway by dumping cold water on myself and putting ice in my bra and holding ice in my hands, etc. I mean, sometimes at home I have these thoughts/feelings of being so overwhelmingly HOT that I can’t function. It wasn’t that hot out (to me) on Sunday so my issue was not over heating. It was strictly 100% bilateral quad malfunction.

So. That’s it. My quads didn’t function and I was never really able to ‘run' more than ~30 steps at a time without walking. (Ok. I'm exaggerating. There were times when I was able to take 40 steps without cramping.) I tried to keep most of my walk breaks super short just like 10 steps then back to 30 steps jogging. When I was ‘running’ it was really just super short little shuffling steps. I counted to 10, a lot. For over 5 hours in fact. I didn’t quit. So that’s it. I got passed, endlessly, and felt exceptionally jealous of everyone who had functioning quads. There were times when I would start to think about what was happening but the frustration around that was so high that I really just had to go back to shutting my brain off. Don’t think. Don’t get mad. That was hard. 

On the last trip back toward the finish (~4 miles to go) I had the thought that I wanted to get in the ocean and swim back. Even in the dark, that would have been more enjoyable than what I was facing. And easier. And probably faster. Even in the last mile I wasn’t able to run more than 30 steps at a time without feeling like legs were going to completely seize up again. I had to actively not make eye contact with anyone and just keep my brain quiet and count to 10 again. Can I give a little tip to spectators? I know you mean well when you tell athletes to RUN when they’re walking, but in many cases, that’s really the opposite of helpful. I mean. Trust me. If I was capable of running, I would have been running. I appreciate Susi so much for not saying stuff like that… and for not taking any pictures. She could see how ugly and painful it was and really, I don’t need photographic evidence of that.

So I crossed the finish line and I saw my friend Craig sitting there (he had just finished with a big PR!). I asked the very nice volunteer for one of those space blankets b/c I knew I was about to start shivering. I drank hot tea to try to warm myself. I sat and talked story with Craig and some other guy for a while then eventually went and got my finisher shirt and successfully managed to avoid the people who wanted to take a finisher photo. #nothanks Susi had collected my bike and my bags which was probably the nicest thing anyone could have done for me at that point and we limped back to the hotel and I drank a beer before I even showered. Then I showered, took a shot of spiced rum (mmmm, warm!) then we went and drank beer and ate tacos. #Mexico

The next days my legs felt shredded in the way one's legs would be shredded after you just PRd a marathon. Which seemed weird. I mean, usually what makes me sore is hard running for a long time. Walking/jogging doesn’t typically have that effect. And yet. 

So there you go. I don’t have any answers. I wish I did. I really don’t think there’s much about my training that I’d go back and change if I could. I felt very well trained, but not overly so. I felt great all week leading into the race. Peppy. Strong. Solid. Positive. Healthy. My gut feeling at this point is that there’s some sort of like ‘electrical short’ in my neuromuscular system that causes that kind of crazy cramping and it’s not something that more or different training will necessarily solve. Maybe more salt in a drier environment like that would have helped. That’s sort of the only thing that makes any sense at all to me. Some people who care have given me their thoughts and suggestions, which I totally appreciate. I’ve thought about going the Inside Tracker route to see if something is up with my body chemistry that I don’t know about, but seems like if that was the case, wouldn’t I have felt crappy/fatigued more often in training? My training was solid and gave me no reason to believe that there’s something wacky going on with my system. It’s hard to chalk this up to ‘oh it was just an off-day’ b/c this isn’t exactly my first time cramping in a long race. This was possibly the worst seizing I’ve felt, but it’s not like its new for me to cramp. Will I try again? I don’t know. Possibly not. I mean, I’m not quitting triathlon, but I might stick to shorter races for a while b/c this Ironman gig really just might not be for me. Ha! How many times have I said that before?? In good news, I’ve long since stopped associating my self-worth with my race results, so, good race or crappy race doesn’t change the way I feel about myself. I mean, I get frustrated, but I don’t think I’m a failure as a person or whatever just b/c I ‘fail’ at putting together a decent marathon. I've always loved training long and that probably won’t change. Racing long, well, maybe I’ll stop subjecting myself to that… 17 might just be the magic number.

To finish on a positive note, here are some positive things!
~About 1/2 way through the marathon, Alicia Kaye passed me on her way to the finish. She was pretty far back in the pro field, so clearly not having her best day… but I recognized her kit and said out loud… “Alicia Kaye! I’m a huge fan of yours!” She turned around and in the nicest way replied, “I’m a huge fan of YOURS!” That was really sweet given that she actually had no idea who I am. ;)
~It was fun to see my Coeur teammates out on course in our matching kits! Steph and I cheered for each other a couple times throughout the marathon and that was cool. And I got to meet Triny in the airport and had lunch with her while sharing our race stories (she had a great day!). 
~I love that 2017 Coeur team kit. I mean, I’m sure next years kit will be awesome too, but that red/white/black kit is SHARP and I was proud to be wearing it.
~I saw very little drafting on the bike and everyone I talked to after the race said the same thing. Rolling starts that spread people out are really the way to go to solve the drafting problem, though I also witnessed people (men and women) actually sit up and stop pedaling to actively avoid being in a draft zone. Super refreshing to see. I saw a total of 2 men blatantly drafting, and both of them were sitting on the wheel of a woman. Have they no shame??
~Cozumel is a great little island and a super venue for triathlon racing. It’s a ridiculously far trip from Hawaii, but other than how long it took, getting into and out of Mexico was easy. I felt safe the whole time and the chill vibe of the island really suited me. I would recommend that race to anyone who wants to do an Ironman that isn’t cold. It’s exceptionally well organized for being a split transition and all. Mexican people are genuinely really nice and they go out of their way to help us, even if our president is an asshole to them.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ohio 70.3... Like A Well Oiled Machine

When you race a lot, you sort of learn how to do it. I feel like that’s where I’m at right now. #likeawelloiledmachine

I did 3x 70.3 races in June/July. Honu then Muncie then Ohio. I’m not sure I’ve ever done 3 that close together before? I don’t think I have. Mostly b/c living in Hawaii, logistically it is hard to pull off! But since Muncie and Ohio were just 3 weeks apart, it worked out this year to do them both. Staying in Ohio for a month accomplished another goal of allowing Moana to truly get to know her grandparents better, even if it meant we had to be away from our home (missing Scott and the animals!) for an extended period. 

Usually I don’t go into races with time/split goals. I’ve learned over the years to focus on the process and let the splits take care of themselves… b/c who knows if courses are measured exactly right? Or what the conditions will be like on race day? Comparing splits from race to race doesn’t really make a lot of sense. That said, the courses at Muncie and Ohio are really quite similar. And conditions were about the same this year too. So since I’d set some benchmarks for myself in Muncie (what did I swim there? 30:20? run 2:00:05? I mean, come on), I went into Ohio with a goal of besting those splits. Plus, Vince threw it out there that I should get under 30min on the swim, which should be a no brainer. (Except its not.)

Pre-race at Ohio was night and day vs my pre-race at Muncie. I was calm, collected, stress free, not sleep deprived, totally organized, etc. It was perfect. This is a benefit of racing a lot. I’ve got my process dialed! My only challenge was race morning breakfast. Staying in a standard hotel room posed a  problem b/c I didn’t have a kitchen, but there was a Bob Evans across the street so the last thing I did before going to bed Saturday night was to head there for a stack of blueberry pancakes to go, which I ate on race morning. Perfect.

W40-44 were the 17th wave, starting over an hour after the race had actually begun. That is not at all my preferred scenario but it is what it is. I actually watched the first wave start and finish the swim before I even started to get myself ready to go. Really, I wanted to see what the top first wave (men 40-44) split in the swim b/c that would be an indicator of whether or not it was a ‘fast’ swim. Didn’t seem like it was. Top guy in that wave came out right ~28min then 2 more guys just under 30 then nobody else until 32+. So. That gave me some perspective.

Finally it was time for us to go. I seeded myself on the front line and the horn went off and I started swimming and instantly knew I felt 100x better than I did at Muncie. Woot! I think the difference was that I was a lot more comfortable swimming in opaque brown water b/c I’d done it a few times this past month. Anyway, I took off swimming, looked around and saw no one was coming with me, so just put my head down and swam strong by myself. It was awesome! And then I arrived at the first turn buoy, where the course became a complete shit show. Left turn, swim into the sun, blinded, people everywhere, etc. I wouldn’t say I allowed myself to be frustrated by this (at least, not in the moment) but its just a fact that you can’t swim the way you’d want to when you’re navigating an obstacle course like that. I did the best I could, ran out of the water and laughed when I saw 30:24 on my garmin. Ha! 3x 70.3 swims this year and all 3 were like 30:12-3:25 range. I suspected that Vince would see that split and laugh. I tried! I swear! Anyway, I let it go and hopped on my bike.

Have you ever had one of those days where you start riding and you just know that your legs were full of watts? Ya. That’s awesome. That’s what I felt as soon as I started riding on Sunday. Beautiful! I mean, we live for days like that. The course was super crowded with all the people who’d started in the waves ahead of me, but I just got down in my aero bars and mostly just stayed left and like a fucking freight train just RODE MY BIKE. The scenario was this: smoothly paved flat roads, light winds, perfect temps, and strong legs. Can you say HELL YA? I mean, it was pretty much my dream bike course. I’ve raced enough over the years to know that days like these are rare gifts so I was not going to waste this opportunity! I averaged 22.5mph for 56 miles and was in heaven. While I was riding I was thinking that THIS is the rider I want to be… I mean, it’s the rider I used to be, but something had been missing the last few years... It felt so good to have my legs back I can’t even tell you… #thankscoach

T2 is super cool- you roll into the stadium at the local college there in Delaware and rack your bike on the football field. I racked my bike (by itself!) and headed out on the run. I always do a little assessment as I start running… mostly its like, Ok how bad did I fuck up by riding too hard?? Sometimes it’s really been an oh shit moment… but this time it wasn’t! Woot! Legs still functioning! No twinges of cramping. Muscles seemed fully functional. Ok then! Let’s get to it! I might not have cracked 30min on the swim but I cracked 2:30 on the bike and I figured if I cracked 2 hours on the run I could count it as pretty much the perfect day.

I saw my mom and dad and daughter right as I ran out of the stadium… all smiles and high fives and I yelped out BEST RIDE EVER!!! #sohappy Then like 1/2 mile later thought, for the first time that day, hmmm, it’s a lot warmer than I anticipated… I mean, I wouldn’t call it HOT, but it was warm, for sure. I wasn’t sure I’d had enough fluids on the bike for these temps? I drank 3 bottles on the bike but looking back, if there was one thing I’d change, it would be to have had another bottle on the bike. I was feeling fine at that point, but def thought that I needed to not be a moron in the first half of the run b/c if it felt warm at 11am, I knew it would be really warm at 1pm. First aid station I saw a guy with plastic gloves holding handfuls of ice. Usually they hand ice out in cups but for whatever reason this guy just had a handful of ice. I ran by and without speaking (I had an energy chew in my mouth so couldn’t really talk!) I just pulled open my Coeur bra and signaled for him to dump the ice in my bra. He got a good little laugh out of that but whatever. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, you know? #heatmanagement

Anyway, I was cruising along and all was well and I was running what felt like strong but controlled effort. I walked through every aid station b/c I wanted to make sure I was getting enough fluids and cooling myself off best I could. None of the other aid stations and one though and that was a huge bummer. But at least for a while, I was managing. Even with the aid station walking I was avg right ~9min pace for the first ~5 miles so I was happy with that. Then things just got hard. I mean, they always get hard at some point. I tried to tell myself that it’s fine- only 7 more miles! But it was a long 7 miles. My legs still felt fine but HR felt like it was through the roof and breathing was loud and labored (I was that athlete- the one who grunts and pants and is super annoying. Sorry!). That course isn’t hilly but it isn’t flat and if your HR is pegged on a flat section, you’re screwed when it starts to tilt up. So that’s pretty much what happened. I managed my brain and body the best I could but I had to take a bunch of short walk breaks in the back half of the run b/c I was just absolutely at my aerobic limit. I was wearing my HR strap but garmin wasn’t picking it up, which at this point I’m sort of glad about b/c I would guess that its as hovering around 170 for a lot of that last hour. When it spikes like that and doesn’t come down it’s typically a sign of dehydration and heat accumulation. The only thing that was going to help me was to just stop completely and sit in the shade, which wasn’t an option until I crossed the finish line. 

Toward the end I saw one of my athletes running out (her wave was dead last ugh what a nightmare!) and she was all full of energy and smiling and high-fiving and I think she asked me how I was doing and all I could manage to do was hold my hand out and grunt <can’t speak>. I genuinely was happy to see her (yay her first triathlon and she was right on schedule as we’d anticipated!) but I couldn’t exactly express it in that moment. I know she understood and probably even respected the level to which I was pushing myself. #atmylimit

Eventually I made it onto the track and ran to the finish (first time I’d stepped on a track all year!), with my parents and my daughter cheering me on from the stands. I didn’t make my sub 2 run goal (2:03) but it wasn’t a complete disaster either. I mean, it could have been a lot worse! I crossed the finish line all smiles in 5:08, which landed me 3rd in my AG. I wasn’t in need of medical, but I was in need of some water and shade, and as soon as I found those I was flat out on my back with my eyes closed. It was then that it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen my other athlete, Brian. He also started behind me but we calculated that if we both had decent days that he would pass me maybe around mile 4-5… So I started to worry after I was done and was like crap Brian didn’t pass me. I tried to collect myself while I had a bunch of thoughts about all the negative scenarios that might have happened to Brian... Did he flat? Did he crash? Did he DNF? Was he just having a bad day?? I didn’t know and it took me ~20min before I could function enough to get to my mom who had a phone with a tracker. She looked him up and was like oh ya he did great! Landed 3rd in his AG as well with a lifetime best so there you go! We must have both been too focused during the run to see each other, but we made up for it with a little #TeamBSC podium party after the race was over. :)

Tia also finished with flying colors and I managed to get myself right on the finish line so I could present her medal. That was a highlight and so fun since it was her first one! So. All in all OH70.3 was a great race experience. Not my perfect day, but pretty damn close! And I mean, if we ever had the perfect race, what would we strive for next time? I can definitely see myself coming back to this one at some point in the future though… 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Muncie 70.3... On Instinct & Experience

The day before Muncie, I got an email from my coach... Whats the plan tomorrow?

Um, to swim bike and run as quickly and efficiently as I can? My approach to this race was interesting... Totally different than how I have approached Honu every year. This race just felt different to me- I think because I'd never done it before, I couldn't envision it, I didn't know any of my competitors, I felt zero pressure. I knew I had decent fitness b/c my training had been going well, but there were so many unknowns. My biggest concerns really were the long travel, the missed night of sleep on a plane, and the 6 hour time change. I mean, I was doing the best I could with that travel scenario, and it is what it is, but it definitely required some medication to get myself to sleep for a few nights.

Anyway, I basically told Vince that I was just going to race on instinct and experience. While I had not done this particular race before, I've done enough other 70.3 distances to have a decent idea of what the effort should feel like. And I knew how to fuel and hydrate even if I didn't write out the whole plan beforehand like I normally do. So. Whatever. I'm just going to get through the course as quickly as I can. End of race plan.

I left my daughter to play with Grammy for the weekend and drove from Cleveland to Muncie by myself, which was sort of fun (for the first few hours at least). I don't mind going to races alone. Partly b/c I almost always have an athlete (or 3) that I coach also racing, and I almost always have a whole group of awesome Coeur teammates to socialize with as well. Being a wife and a mom, its not really all that often that I get 3 days completely to myself, so I embraced them! I mean, I don't think I'd want travel and be alone all the time, but for a few days, I enjoyed it! And real road trips for me are rare. We just don't do those in Hawaii. Driving through rural central Ohio was a trip. Truly.

The day before the race was a complete clusterfuck for a variety of reasons. Let's just say it wasn't my ideal day. I like to just have everything prepared and have time to chill out and relax with my feet up the day before I race, but that doesn't happen when you're scrambling around to find a replacement for your broken helmet, its piss pouring rain and storming, your cell carrier suuuucks and keeps telling you no service, you don't know where you're going and can't use google maps b/c T-Mobile is so shitty, the road is flooded but you don't know an alternate route, you can't find a decent healthy food option to save your life, etc. Eventually though everything worked itself out. I found the shitty hotel I was staying in and packed all my race stuff and knocked myself out with an ambien. Only broke down into tears once.

Race morning it was a whole new day! Blue skies and perfect weather in store for the day. I got to the race site early and got all prepped and had time to chill. They called the water wetsuit legal but that was a bit of a dubious call, I think. I mean, I was happy to wear my wetsuit for the hour prior to my wave start just standing around b/c the air temp was cold (to me) but once I was in the water, all I wanted to do was take that wetsuit OFF. My fault, really, but I hadn't put that thing on since probably January, and I didn't get in to warm up, so when the horn went off and I went running into the water and sprinted that start, I was immediately out of breath and uncomfortable  and unhappy. I mean, it's exactly what I advise my athletes to NOT do and there I was doing it. To be fair, I wasn't able to swim the day before b/c the storms had the lake closed by the time I arrived on site, so my only option really was to have confidence in my ability to swim and just keep swimming.

The water was brown and like an obstacle course. Tons of swimmers in the water before my wave went off, and then there were boats and kayaks and buoys everywhere and it just felt super congested to me. My thoughts during the swim went something like this:

~Swimming around people is just a skill required of women 40+ since we almost always start toward the back.
~I can't see anything. Don't worry about it just keep swimming.
~I want to take this wetsuit off.
~Why is that kayak *directly* in the middle of the swim course and not moving? Oh b/c there's a guy hanging onto it for dear life. Swim left to get around them.
~I can't see anything. Don't worry about it. Just keep swimming.
~Ocean swimming is more pleasant than lake swimming.
~I was swimming with a gal in my AG side by side. Eventually she dropped behind me to draft (smart) but then kept aggressively grabbing my ankles (annoying). I wanted to tell her You know that by slowing me down you're slowing us both down, right? Like, maybe just come along for the ride respectfully and don't be obnoxious about it? She was obviously a good enough swimmer to know better, which is the only reason I was annoyed. I don't get annoyed at people who are new at it and out there just trying to survive and inadvertently grab you along the way.

Anyway, eventually the swim ended and we ran through the mud to the wetsuit strippers, who accidentally pulled my whole aero top off along with my wetsuit (I had it rolled down around my waist for the swim and figured I'd just pull it up as I was running to my bike, as I did at Honu). So that was fun in T1 to wrestle with my wet aero top! Lol. Whatever. Eventually I got it on and with some relief, started riding my bike.

I really liked the Muncie bike course! Except for the road leading in and out of the park, the pavement was perfect and just awesome... like IDEAL road to ride on! And it was closed to cars. SO GREAT! The course was definitely crowded with lots of riders everywhere, but because of the wave starts, it seemed that just about everyone was moving along at vastly different speeds, so it was NOT hard to ride legally. I was riding by feel, checking in with power at times, feeling pretty good, doing my thing. Then some gal with a 43 on her calf rode by me (correction, FLEW by me) and instinct took over and I tried to go with her... picked up my effort and look down to see I'm pushing 200w and she's riding away. I kept that up for what felt like too long... 210w... she's still riding away. So. Ok. You go girl! Have at it! I settled back into my groove. Later another gal rode by at a similar speed, but she was glued to some guy's wheel. Her shorts said, "Ride Responsibly" and I had to ask myself, does 'responsibly' include 'legally'?? Apparently not. She really was the only gal I saw drafting out there though. Everyone else I saw was 100% legal and fair.

Anyway, that was that on the bike. I had a harder time than normal chewing/swallowing my Clif bars b/c they weren't hot/melted like I'm used to. I really had zero desire to try to chew them BUT I repeated to myself that mantra Fueling correctly is a choice so I stuffed them down one bite at a time. I only drank maybe 3 bottles of fluids which is about half of what I drank at Honu but temps weren't as high so it felt like enough. I felt relieved and grateful to get off my bike without any major mishaps or mechanicals and looking at my file afterward, it appears I rode pretty steady with only a slight fall off in power in the back half and a low 1.02 VI. Not a perfect ride, but nothing to complain about!
I started the run and saw right away that there was a gal like 25yd ahead of me with a 41 on her calf. I hadn't seen her on the bike so I assumed she had passed me in T2. Normally I'm just out there trying to survive on the run but at that point I felt ok and my run has been going a little better in training so I sort of ignored that whole thing about keeping the first few miles of the run relaxed and easy... I mean, I wasn't killing myself, but I wasn't running 'easy' either. But I was keeping that gal in my sights(!) and for once I was actually racing that run and that felt cool to me. Somewhere around mile 3, I passed that gal and was like whoa I actually passed a gal in my AG on the run?? I mean, other gals were passing us both but for me to actually pass someone (anyone!) in my AG on the run felt like a win. :) For the first 6 miles or so I was absolutely in love with the Muncie run course. Probably because it wasn't the Honu run course. Lol! The rolling hills seemed minor to me and I was able to get up/over them in a way that felt strong/efficient and I was just rolling along and feeling pretty stoked at how it was all unfolding. Around mile 6 I found myself running with a Wattie Ink gal who was super friendly. We had been together basically since the beginning of the run and I think she wanted to work together (she was 39). I told her I was having the best run I'd had in years and she was super supportive like cool then come with me and I wanted to and I tried but I was starting to fade. One of my goals for the run was to prove to my coach that I was capable of running faster than the 9:12 pace he calculated I could do off the bike. At the half way point I was sure I was doing this! #Illshowyou!

In training I've been really good about progressing my long runs but on that day I was just running out of steam. Looking back I think it was a fueling thing, which is crazy b/c normally I pride myself on fueling really well, but that heavy leg feeling I was getting is classic bonk. I'd had 2 gels by mile 8 and at that point started on red bull hoping for some wings, but I think it was too little too late. The hills on the way back seemed WAY bigger than they were on the way out, and I just faded more and more each mile. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other in those last 3 miles. Looking at my run file its clear I started too fast. Vince pointed this out and he was right but I told him (in my defense)- those first 3 miles I wasn't pacing, I was racing, and I don't regret it b/c I learned a little something about myself by playing the game the way I did.

The funny part though... That 9:12 pace I was going to prove I could beat?? I didn't. Coach was right. Dammit. (Honestly this made me laugh so hard when I saw it at the end!)

5:12 landed me 7th in my AG, a full 6min back from 6th. Looking back I'd say there were a few little mistakes here and there where maybe I could have gained a few minutes back but I don't think there's anything I could have done to gain 6min this past weekend. I mean, my legs were DONE at the finish line and 3 days later I still have some soreness. So I am happy with that result. 5:12 is as fast as I've gone since 2012 so YAY finally starting to head back in the direction I want to go, reversing my 5 year trend of getting slower and slower every year... And I saw a glimpse of the runner that I know I can be, so its just a matter of keeping at it until I can hold that pace for the full distance vs fading off. Overall I'd say I really liked this race. It had a great old school type feel to it. It's not easy for me to get to, but I would not rule out making the effort to go back.

I get to try again in less than 3 weeks at Ohio 70.3 so I'm looking forward to that opportunity! I previewed that course a bit on my drive home from Muncie and it looks like a great course too. So stay tuned for an update on that one. :)

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Hawaii 70.3 ~ I Can Do Hard Things.

Race morning I woke up at 1:30 feeling like I needed to throw up. I’m not a puker. Even when I was in college and had over-consumed alcohol to the point where it would have been best for my body to just purge it, I never did. My body just doesn’t really use that protection mechanism. And yet, there I was laying in bed thinking I needed to puke. Was it race nerves? I didn’t think so. I mean, I’ve been doing this for 20+ years. Yes, I still get nervous, but not that nervous.

The nausea feeling lasted and I couldn’t really sleep very well. I had some weird dream that it was race morning and for whatever reason I was all alone (no friends, no family) so I went to this room the race directors had set up for people who were alone at the race. It was like an orphanage of sorts, but for triathletes. I remember wandering around that room and trying to get some coffee- next to the coffee maker were the finisher shirts and medals. Just take one now so you don’t have to do it later?? In my dream I was also totally disorganized… like I couldn’t find my kit or any of my gear and I was just frantically scrambling around trying to get my shit together.

In reality, I was about as organized and put together as I’ve ever been for a race. Bags were packed. Bottles were prepped and in the fridge. Checklists were made. Kit was laid out on the bathroom counter next to the zinc sunscreen. I had 3 TeamBSC athletes at this race, plus my husband and daughter and probably 50 friends. So I don’t know where that dream came from. It was opposite of my reality.

The nausea didn’t go away though. When my alarm went off at 4:30, the feeling of wanting/needing to puke was consistent. I made my normal morning oatmeal but had zero desire to eat it. For years I’ve harped on my athletes about the importance of race morning breakfast, and when they skimp on it or skip it and then go on to have a crappy low energy race, I point out that they should have just forced down breakfast. I don’t care if you don’t feel like eating. Fueling correctly is a choice. And yet. I was, for the first time ever, having an incredibly hard time choking down my oatmeal. I brought it in the car with me and winced as I made myself swallow a bite every few minutes. I think I ate some bad/contaminated salad the night before. That’s the only explanation I have.

We got to the race site and Scott dropped me off and I made a decision. Mind over matter. I would feel fine. I pumped up my tires and put my bottles on my bike and put my speed suit on and drank my pre-load and stuffed down the Honey Stinger waffle just as planned. The nausea didn't bother me again for the rest of the day.

A few days before the race they announced a new rolling- but by age group- type of start. WTF? I was not happy about that. I mean, it looked better to me than the way they’d done it the last few years where the older women just get relegated to the back #lastwave but in my mind like if you’re gonna do a rolling start then at least make it self- seed so the swimmers can just go to the front and people who don’t want anyone swimming over top of them can start further back… Reality is though, it was a decent way to organize it. Of course I’m a bit biased b/c I happened to be lucky enough to be in the age group that they scheduled to go first for the women. I like being at/near the front of the race. It helps me stay engaged and motivated. So even though we were behind all the men, I was still at the front of the women’s race so personally, I had little reason to complain because that’s exactly where I wanted to be.

The day prior to the race the winds were blowing a good bit harder and the swim course was C.H.O.P.P.Y. I swam the whole course alone on Friday morning (People were like What? You did what? Swam the whole thing? All the way out there? Alone? Are you crazy? Lol. #noproblem) and honestly was just salivating at the thought of having an opportunity to race in those conditions. It’s so rare for swimmers to have a real advantage like that! Race morning turned out to be much calmer. Little bit of a bummer but that likely made a lot of other athletes super relieved so it was probably for the best.

They started the age group ‘waves’ 4 athletes at a time every 10” on a beep. I seeded myself in the front row of my wave and when the beep went, I ran into the water untouched and swam off alone. Water was perfect in every way. Clear, calm, warm, open, beautiful. I swam the whole thing completely alone buoy to buoy (just as I had done the day before!). It was exceptionally easy to avoid the men who had started ahead b/c they were all completely spread out. In years past when they start men in waves, we would run into a ‘wall’ of men that was hard to get around. But with the rolling start, it was a complete non-issue. So. A+. There’s nothing I would change about the swim.

Pre-race one of my bigger decisions was aero top or sleeveless tri top? I’d always raced in a tri top but I really like the look of the aero tops (and the sun protection was a huge bonus!) Some Coeur teammates had reported back that they were great to race in as well. My biggest concern was that I didn’t want sleeves on the swim (under my speed suit). I practiced tucking the aero top into my Roka speed suit and turns out, it was a complete non-issue. Lectie opted to wear the aero top and just swim with the sleeves hanging out so she wouldn’t have to deal with pulling the top up in T1. I opted to have the top rolled around my waist and then pull it up in T1. Both ways worked perfectly fine. Lectie- as always- had the fastest swim of the day even with the sleeves out. I swam as well as I wanted to swim and had no problem pulling the sleeves up/on while running to my bike. And I loved racing in the top for the rest of the morning. It kept me cooler, I think, because I could keep it wet and the material is really nice and thin and perfect. I didn’t get sunburnt back/shoulders. I just can’t say enough good things about the Coeur aero tops. I see no reason to go back to racing sleeveless. 

Apparently, its so common to race with sleeves now that Ironman actually gives instructions about where to tattoo yourself if your upper arms are covered.

Anyway, onto the bike, I was pretty certain that the only women ahead of me on the bike were part of relay teams. I set about doing my thing. I glanced a little at my power data but I wasn’t sure it was giving me accurate wattage numbers, so I mostly ignored it and rode by feel. The wind had picked up some, but I’d call it pretty standard wind- not super scary wicked gusts as it had been the day prior. I don’t think there’s a ton to say about the actual ride itself. I feel like I have learned how to do an excellent job at staying focused on the task at hand (Stay aero! Pedal strong! Eat! Drink!). The ride was as fair as I’ve ever seen it on this course. I saw exactly zero draft packs, which is shocking, really. But therein lies the benefit of the way they split up the rolling wave start I guess.

I felt like I was mostly riding as solidly as I could/should be riding. Legs didn’t feel exceptionally strong and the whole ride I was doing a balancing act of how hard I could push before I would feel a twinge of a cramp. Something about the big island, man, just tends to leave my muscles threatening to completely seize up, so I was really teetering on the edge the whole time. I only got caught/passed by one woman who claims she hasn’t been riding her bike at all in training. She went storming by right before we made the turn at Hawi. I wonder what it would be like to ride a bike like that without any recent training? I sure as hell couldn’t do it. Unapologetically, I train consistently and I work very hard. I don’t have enough talent to do it any other way.

One goal I had for myself for this race was to be brave on the ride. I’d had it worked up in my head that it was going to be scary windy and last time I raced here when it was scary windy (2012), my biggest disappointment in myself was that I felt like I rode like a wimp. I sat up and braked when strong gusts came. That was 5 years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. I looked at the wind forecast this year as an opportunity to make that right! And I’m pretty happy with the confidence I rode with. I do remember having the thought that my Enve wheels were performing beautifully. There were times toward the end when the wind had really picked up where I was just flying and in my aero bars leaning right into a very strong crosswind and passing guys who were whistling at me (it was a complimentary whistle- not a degrading one!) and I was like YASSSSSSSSS I AM DOING IT. Just a personal proud moment for myself. 

Overall I am happy with my execution on that ride. I ate and drank everything I’d planned (1x bottle NBS, 1x bottle Infinit, 3x waters, 2x clif bars, 1x honey stinger gel). I also took 4x e21 tabs and that stuff continues to do a miracle job at holding off full on muscle seizures. I stayed focused, calm, and brave. I rode fairly. There’s nothing I would do differently if I could do it all again. Ok, well maybe I wouldn’t hit lap on my garmin at mile 10, making garmin think I was in T2 for 46 miles… I totally screwed up that data coach wanted. #sorry.

Strava thinks T2 was 46 miles! Lol... No segments. #sadface

I arrived in T2 as the second female on the course and leading my AG, but as I was putting on my shoes, I saw Nell riding in to rack her bike. Nell beats me every year at this race (she can run!) so when I saw her there I figured my shot at the top step of the podium was all but zero. My playbook at these races is quite thin. I’m never going to run as fast as the top gals run so my only chance to win, really, is to swim and ride as hard as I can and hope for a decent enough gap where maybe I don’t get caught. I didn’t have it in me to ride any faster than I did though, so I was just going to get beat by a stronger athlete. No worries. Next goal is always just to hang onto whatever place I’m currently holding. I knew I’d be thrilled with 2nd so that became the goal.

Being at/near the front of the race is fun b/c when you’re one of the first women spectators see, they cheer really loudly for you! Plus, I was dressed just like Lectie so a lot of people thought I was her so they yelled GO LECTIE!! at me. That’s a huge compliment so I wasn’t the least bit annoyed! :)

Onto the run, the game I played was simply to continue to attempt to strike a balance between how quickly I could move along without cramping. This run course is just stupidly hard. I was probably more mentally prepared than physically… I mean, my run is going ok in training and I’ve had some decent training runs, but I don’t know. I don’t think anything can truly prepare me for running that course in those conditions off a ride like that… I like to come up with a pre-race motto and for this race it was I Can Do Hard Things. I told my husband and he laughed. His reply was, You pay money to do hard things! #truestory :)

I knew I was having a decent day so out there on that golf course I was just trying to not screw it up! I did have the thought that I can’t wait to do a “normal” 70.3 course where the run is just like 13 “regular” miles. I mean, I love this race and all, but it’s almost laughable to try to run on that spongy golf course grass. Then you finally get onto a stretch of solid pavement and think maybe you’ll get a little reprieve b/c you’ve got a mile going slightly down, but, Psyche! There’s a 25mph headwind preventing you from relaxing while still moving faster. GAH! I mean, it was almost funny. If you were there you know exactly what I mean! I took short walk breaks up most of the steep little kicker hills. At one point I was walking up a short hill next to a guy who had apparently resigned himself to walking for the foreseeable future and he said to me, We can speedwalk together! And I replied, Oh no! I’m running again as soon as we get to the top! And I did. So that’s how my 13 miles went. Once I was within a mile or so of the finish line I actually started grunting. My friend Jodie was running nearby and she could hear me grunting and she was cheering me on- Go ahead and grunt! Grunting helps! Lol! I think it did help.

Shockingly, I hung on to my 2nd place AG finish all the way to the line. I remembered to make the Coeur heart with my hands at the finish line for the finish photo so it’ll be fun to see how those turned out. I’m sure I had a huge smile on my face! 5:25 isn’t even in the ballpark of my best time at this race but I feel like I did so many things right that I can’t be upset about that. I mean, I did the best I could in just about every regard. I’ve learned a lot of lessons in 20+ years of racing triathlons and I feel like yesterday I managed to pretty much put all of them together, which in and of itself is a big win. Then of course the finish line party is quite possibly my favorite few hours of the whole year… Everyone hanging out on the lawn and drinking beer and swapping war stories and its just super fun. 

I’d had 4 beers and very little food by the time I got to go stand on the podium. That smile was genuine! 7 years in a row on the podium here at Honu, but this was my biggest bowl.
I feel like I want to take a minute and thank my coach, Vince, for believing in me and working with me this year. I think he's the perfect match for me at this stage of my racing... He understands me and he cares. I can tell that he pays attention because I can tell he truly wants to. I just really appreciate that! It's funny though- when you have a coach who really believes in you, I think it easier to believe in yourself. It's a good scenario and its exactly what I need right now. So, without getting mushy, thanks, Vince.