Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ironman Canada Race Report

I woke up on Sunday morning with a horrible sinking pit feeling in my stomach. I'd had the weirdest dream overnight... that something had happened with the race and they had to cancel the bike... so they were just going to make it a swim/run... then last minute they figured we could do the bike after all but it would have to come after the run... so last minute change to the race it was going to be swim/run/bike. It was mass confusion and in my dream I did the swim and the run but felt horrible and after the marathon I just said screw it I'm not doing a 112 mile bike ride right now. So I quit. And in my dream I was sitting in T2 with no chip when Nalani arrived in from her marathon and she was also looking horrible- like she'd been through a war. But she gave me this look like WHAT ARE YOU DOING JUST SITTING THERE?? I shook my head and told her I was over it and not doing the bike. She shook her head right back at me and without another word dragged herself onto her bike and set off to finish the race. So of course I was left feeling like such a loser b/c I'd quit for no reason other than I just didn't feel like doing it anymore.

I cannot tell you how relieved I felt when I realized that the race had not yet happened... that I still had a chance to go out there and do it the way I'd planned. Phew! There would be no quitting today.

So race morning was easy and pretty much all went as planned. We found a parking space (seriously- our biggest worry!), I got a message saying all 3 of my Louisville athletes were out of the water and on the bike, and then we set about doing all the normal pre-race stuff like pumping our tires, etc. I would not say I was very nervous. Actually I felt pretty happy because I love IM Canada and I knew that in all likelihood this was the last time I'd probably do it. I smiled a lot. :)
Nalani had my back.
We found Krista and Shane and Jen and Karen (from AZ) and lined up on the right side of the swim start...
So Nalani and I went to the front line and stood about waist deep in the water waiting for the horn to go off. Interestingly, I still wasn't nervous. Just super calm and happy. Horn blew, I dove in, kicked fairly hard and took about 15-20 strong strokes in full anticipation of getting the shit kicked out of me. But you know what? I did not get touched. I am not kidding. Not once. No one touched me. All I could think was Did that just happen?? Did I just start an Ironman swim with 2600+ people and not get touched? At all?

You can see me in this picture I'm at the bottom pink cap that is just a little off the front with the bent right arm. Nalani is right behind me (waving). Cleanest swim start ever in the history of Ironman. Unbelievable.
They told us it was fine to stay to the right of the buoys on the way out- we did not have to take them on the outside- just had to go around the turn buoy on the outside but that was like 1600+M away so by that time you'd be with your people so shouldn't be too bad. I find it interesting that even then, just about everyone stayed on the outside (left) of the buoys. I stayed right and swam alone for maybe 1/2 the way to the first buoy then thought maybe I should find some people to draft off of... so I moved over and got on the left side with a group... stayed there for maybe 20 strokes and got jostled some and didn't like it... so I moved back just right of the buoy line and swam alone in peace all the way to the first turn buoy. I felt relaxed and my stroke felt good but I really did not feel like I was working very hard. On the way back I finally found a little group I was happy with so we lined up and swam in a straight line train all the way to the finish. I came out in 58:xx which was not my fastest IM swim but it was absolutely the easiest. Toward the end I found myself thinking that there was no part of me that wished I'd done more fast 50's and 100's in the pool in training. I was grateful for all the 1000M repeats I did and the multiple 5K workouts that people thought were unnecessary... My fatigue level getting out of the water was zero.

T1 was simple- it wasn't super cold (seriously our conditions were perfect could not have really been any better) so I didn't need arm warmers or anything... hopped on my bike and smiled as big as I've ever smiled as I rode out of town. The crowds were awesome and I'd just had the most perfect swim I could imagine and now I got to ride the most beautiful 112 miles around...
Bike was good... First 40ish miles are mostly down and pretty fast- I knew this so my goal was to ride easy but not slow. I passed Nalani and a couple other women but then the roads were fairly clear of riders so it just felt like a great training day! I was happy and felt good enough. At some point maybe mile 20-30ish Kendra (eventual overall winner) passed me- she looked like she was riding strong but relaxed/smart so I threw an invisible 7M rope on her and increased my effort a little. Then another gal passed (in my age group) blatantly drafting off a guy as they flew by. Hmmm. Wonder if she knew that was cheating? I dropped back a bit but watched that gal stomping on her pedals and drafting 3 different people over the next 5-10 miles... I thought maybe she'd blow up and come back to me later but she did not. She went on to finish 3rd in our age group and took a Kona spot.

We turned to climb Richter Pass and I absolutely ignored everyone around me and just climbed at what felt like a steady comfortable effort. That climb was not that hard though it did seem like I got passed a lot. Mostly men but some women too. It was spread out though so I spent a good amount of time riding alone as well.

Then we hit some rollers and maybe mile 50-60ish a whole peloton of ~15 riders came flying by. Really?? I stopped pedaling, let them pass, and saw another gal in my age group sitting on toward the back of the group. I had passed her earlier (she beat me out of the water) and now she was passing me back while sitting on in this huge group. Nice. Eventually (maybe 5 miles later?) that group did split up and I passed that gal back and did not see her again until ~14 miles into the run... though she went on to get 2nd in our age group and took a Kona spot as well. Apparently in Ironman the phase cheaters never prosper does not apply. I do not mind calling these girls out publicly on my blog because what they were doing was not accidental. It was blatant. I know there are some courses where you really have to go out of your way to avoid draft packs because it's just super crowded or whatever... Canada is not one of those courses. It was VERY easy to ride legally on that course. You had to go out of your way to draft/cheat. Not too many people were doing it but some were and it just irritates me that girls who are strong enough to get on the podium still feel like they are willing to cheat to do it. The gal I feel the worst for is the one who got 4th in our age group- missing a Kona spot by 1' to those girls who I saw drafting.

Ok, rant over.

Moving on. I felt pretty good for the rest of the ride. The yellow lake climb was longer and harder than I remembered (80-95 miles into the bike) and my thinking there toward the end of the bike was that this bike course is legit!

It is easily one of the most beautiful courses in the world though and I LOVE it that it is only 1 loop, but by no means would I say it was a 'fast' bike course. Some girls rode it super fast of course, but that was because they are super strong! In the end, I was satisfied with my bike split (5:35) as I thought it was fast enough but did not leave me feeling depleted at all. In fact, after I handed my bike off to the volunteer in T2, I jogged to the change tent and immediately knew that my legs felt good! YAY!

So off I jogged onto the course and I after the first couple minutes I settled into the same pace I'd been running all my brick runs- actually a little slower (like 10"/mile slower) than I'd been training- and I felt perfect. Couldn't believe it- no twinges of cramping, stomach was good, energy levels were good, mentally I was good... It was all good! I ran by Teresa Nelson who was cheering and had the biggest goofiest grin on my face and I high fived her and told her I'd never felt better! I whooped it up with little kids at aid stations and sang out loud to fun songs playing on loud speakers and before I knew it I was at mile 7 just jamming along and wondering when it was going to get hard? I knew it was going to get hard at some point but I was trying to not rush it... thinking that every mile that passed by before it gets hard is one less hard mile I'm going to have to face at the end!
Interestingly, around mile 8 it started to feel a little harder. I say interestingly, because one change I made in training this year was to lengthen my brick run off my long rides... so most weeks my long brick was ~5 hours on the bike then a 7 mile run. So running 7 miles off the bike was an absolute no brainer in training (I did it probably 6x)... which made it also then a no-brainer in racing... So not super surprising then that when I entered territory I'd not exposed myself to in training that it started to feel harder. It wasn't crazy hard yet or anything and I managed to still pretty much hold pace but it just wasn't as light and fun and easy anymore.

After the turn around is when it actually got hard... which is the classic story, no? They say the race doesn't start until mile 13 of the run, which actually isn't true because these days the top girls are so strong that if you're not at least close at mile 13 you're not actually going to catch anyone unless they completely melt down... which is less and less likely as athletes gain experience with training for and racing this distance... nevertheless by mile 13 it definitely becomes very hard to hold pace. Maybe a mile or so after the turn around we faced a short but significant uphill and my left medial hamstring (semimembranosis for you PT types) completely seized up on me and stopped me in my tracks. YIKES! I hate that. I couldn't even stand up straight for a minute or two... just sort of stood there and held it until it released and then began walking... just willing myself to keep moving forward. Eventually I resumed jogging again but pretty much from that point on I was in crisis management mode and only managed to jog for a few minutes at a time before I would walk for a few seconds. I kept my walk breaks short but did them often... My goal was to prevent another full on seizure of that muscle that was clearly feeling pissy. I've had hamstring issues on that left side all year (pretty sure they are the root of my calf issues) so maybe I should not be surprised that 14 miles in it went out on me... In all honesty I'd choose this hamstring issue over a calf issue (if I had to pick) b/c the hamstring will release for me and I can (sort of) keep going vs when my calf goes, it GOES, and there's no pushing through that one. So in good news, my calves were fine for the whole marathon! My quads and hamstrings, notsomuch.

Anyway, the last 12 miles were hard. It was a full on sufferfest out there which is what I expected of course (duh- it's an ironman!) and I think I did a decent job talking/willing myself through it. So while the second 1/2 of the race was certainly slower than the first half, it wasn't as catastrophic of a meltdown as I've had in the past. I was still managing ~10' miles even with all the walking.
Anyway, the last bit felt super hard too because there were so many cheering spectators everywhere and it was hard to not get caught up in that and push just a little harder... muscularly though I just really could not push any harder and I was feeling twinges of cramping coming on again and I was just WILLING my legs to not cramp... don't cramp don't cramp don't cramp... then with the finish line just like 200 meters away I was swearing at myself trying to force myself to keep running and not walk... Funny though b/c in the pictures of my at the finish I look so happy (thanks Jill for all these great shots by the way!!) but I promise that in my head I was just swearing at myself because I wanted to stop and walk so badly! 
10:51 final time... interestingly my swim split was not a PR, my bike split was not a PR, my run split was not a PR, but my overall time was still a 3' PR. Overall, even with the mechanical meltdown there at the end of the marathon, I feel like I executed this one better than I've executed ironmans in the past. I think I fueled it well, my energy level stayed more consistently high than I've managed to pull off before, and my mental state was pretty good the whole time. I think that had I been more muscularly durable and ready for that long run, I might have been able to pull off a better 2nd half of the marathon, but at best maybe 10-12' faster. For this race I was focused on the process vs the outcome and hoping that if I nailed the process that I'd get the outcome I wanted... In the end I'd say I came pretty close to nailing the process... but honestly even if I'd 100% nailed the process I still would have missed the desired outcome because the girls in my age group were just that fast/strong. It took top 3 and a 10:34 for a Kona spot this year so unfortunately that was out of reach for me given my fitness level going into that race. I feel like I did the best I could with what I had on the day and I feel at peace with the race and how it all turned out. Of course I also already have a plan mapped out for addressing my mechanical limiter going forward so maybe I'll post more on that later... :)
Lastly, I want to send off a huge congratulations to all my athletes who raced this weekend... Sounded like IM Louisville was a brutal hot bloodbath... but Armando and Mary grit their teeth and finished even though they were not having their best days (Good JOB!!). Patrick managed to meltdown less than most of the other guys in his age group so he got rewarded with a Kona spot (YES!!). Clearly it was not a PR kind of day in Kentucky on Sunday but it doesn't always take a PR to qualify for Kona! In Canada though it was a different story... before the race Gene decided that 10:20 would be his perfect day- he's now got a new Ironman PR of 10:19! Krista was all smiles all day just crushing the whole damn race- finishing with a 3:59 marathon and a 48' PR at 11:02. AWESOME!! Once again Nalani proved to herself and everyone else that nobody does the back half of an Ironman marathon better- strong finish for her at 11:12. And Shane discovered he has a mechanical limiter like me so he battled some severe cramping on the marathon... together we will work on solving that pesky strength issue... So in the last few weeks Team BSC had 11 Ironman starters and 11 Ironman finishers... with 5 PR's and a Kona spot. We'll take it. :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Few Notes From North of the Border...

Just a few notes here as I  want to get to bed... Not quite tired enough to sleep yet but trying to adjust to the time change!

~Canadians are SUPER friendly. Seriously, everyone we've encountered since we've been here has just been beyond nice and welcoming.

~Naramata is the place to stay if you ever come do this race. It's about 15' drive from the race site but well worth the time in the car for the beauty of the drive... And being a little further away from the Ironman scene this trip has made it incredibly relaxing and pleasant. 

~the weather forecasters lied about the wind being still. It's not crazy howling or anything but it's blowing for sure which is actually fine by me. Nalani and I did a sunset lake swim this evening and the chop was for real. I would love it of race morning was like that! Either way actually- wind or no wind- whatever. It's all good.

~Nalani has been laughing at me as I've told a couple stories about the last times I did this race... Honestly those races probably deserve a post of their own but we got a good laugh out of some of my memories. It's like 'You know you're an old-timer in the sport when...' And I'm saying things like "Well the first time I did IM Canada I registered by mail. Like, with a stamp! We didn't have back then." And when discussing gearing ratios for the climb up Richter and Yellow Lake and I told her "Well when I did this before we only had 9 speed bikes so I only had a 12-23 and I got through just fine..." Too funny. 

~So ya it's been a long time since I've done this- my first Canada was 15 years ago (15 years!!!) and then my second one was 9 years ago. I am SO glad to be back, especially given the news that this is the last official Ironman Canada. I'm sure it'll still be a great race as a Challenge event... But still... Sorta nostalgic given that I lost my Ironman virginity here. 

~Nalani and I have laughed A LOT so far this trip. It's been so easy and fun. Like laughed until we have cried... And we haven't even been drunk yet! Wait til we hit the wineries. 

~I heard there was a bit of a BSC convention in Louisville today! I saw pics of 5 of my athletes there (3 of whom are racing) riding together and it warmed my heart. If I was anywhere but here this weekend, I would be there!

Okay, enough of this for now. As always, check FB for pics! 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Race Week!

It's race week! I can't believe it. Ok I can believe it. I am just excited and it seems like you say things like I can't believe it! when you're excited. :)

Today definitely helped me get in the Ironman mood. I got to 'watch' two of my athletes race at Mont Tremblant and they both did awesome. Team BSC has scored 2 for 2 with Ironman PR's so far during this Ironman Palooza... Brian went 10:06 (7' PR) and Mike went 10:21 (77' PR!). Mike pretty much had my dream race (Swim 55', Bike 5:32, Run 3:46). Brian nearly even split his 3:26 marathon and went from 9th in his age group to 5th in the last 10K simply because he held pace and didn't slow down (easier said than done for sure). A lot can happen in that last 10K if you're not slowing down and Brian proved that today!

This is how you feel when you work your ass off and it all comes together on race day. I am so proud of these guys.
THAT is what I want to feel like next weekend!

SO... Nalani and I fly all day Wednesday to get to Penticton where it might be snowing.
Low of 37 degrees?? Are you kidding me? That is crazy. We are going to be holed up in our little B&B on Friday, dressed like Eskimos, next to a fireplace. That I know for sure. Maybe drinking wine. Wine makes you feel warm, no? Apparently there are two wineries within walking distance of the place we're staying (outside of Penticton where it is quiet and serene). Nalani said that's where she'll be (at the wineries) on Monday morning. I told her that if I could walk I would join her. She questioned my commitment and suggested that if I can't walk I should crawl. See? And you guys think I'm the crazy one. I'm telling you, she is crazier than me. She just doesn't keep a blog and announce her craziness to the world like I do.

Anyway, race day forecast calls for winds less than 5mph. Ha! That just cracks me up. I can't even imagine what a pleasant change it will be to ride my bike when it is sunny and in the 70's and not windy. I am going to have to have some serious chats with myself about pacing and holding back a bit on that bike b/c I'm guessing my tendency, in those conditions, will be to drill it. Because wouldn't that be a blast!?! No NO... I will channel my inner Brian and I will even split the marathon. I will channel my inner Brian and I will even split the marathon. I will channel my inner Brian and I will even split the marathon....

I'm partly packed. Nalani is bringing the pump and I'm bringing the Trigger Point rollers. She's bringing the coffee grinder and I'm bringing the french press and the coffee. We travel so well together. This should be a super fun week.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

One Week Out... Inside My Head

I don't even know if I'm going to publish this post but I'm finally feeling the desire to write some stuff down on the blog so I'll type away and then we'll see what comes out... Probably just some random points to start... ;)

~One week til Canada! I must be tapering because yesterday I cleaned my car and today I cleaned my house. No kidding- doing my 5th load of laundry as I type. I also dusted. That happens like twice a year.

~Rode my new bike today for the first time. Really its the same bike- new frame but same make/model white P3 so really nothing should be different about it. I'd be lying if I said I was 100% comfortable on it today but close enough. For whatever reason I'm not a huge fan of the aero bars on that bike and I don't relax as much as I'd like which makes my low back tense up some but it is what it is at this point so I'm going to ignore it next week when I'm racing. :)

~Of course it rained all night so the roads were wet this morning... First pedal stroke on that new bike and she's a mess already. Welcome to your new life, little bike. HTFU. Truth be told if I had my other bike I would have ridden it today instead but my worn out trusty old black P3 has seen her last ride and is going to heaven. I know. So sad! Her replacement is a new P2... stepping down but just b/c I'm poor cheap and in the end she's just going to serve as a training bike so no need to spend any more $$$ than I have to on that one.

~No shocker here- I've been thinking about IM quite a bit and trying to talk myself through how I want to execute each part of the race. I've come to the conclusion that this race is going to be won or lost inside my own head. Physically my fitness is there so that is not a question. But being fit does not make an Ironman easy. So at some point I'm going to have to accept the suffering and push right through/past it. I've never actually been able to pull that off the way I want to pull it off next week so it'll be interesting to see if I can. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to try anyway. :)

~Along with that point above, here is an excerpt from an email exchange I was having with one of my athletes today... This gives a pretty good peak into what's going on in my head right now.

So here's the deal- we are FIT and READY. That does NOT mean it's going to be easy next week. What that means is that how we actually perform is really all in our heads. I don't think you can fake your way through an Ironman if you don't have the baseline fitness... you can't just wing it and rip up the course if you haven't done adequate training (this is not our problem so we don't worry about this). That said, just b/c you're super fit does NOT guarantee you a great race... SO, you go into IM with some humility, knowing that Ironman is fucking HARD- it is a very long day no matter how fit you are... so we respect that and we pace ourselves and fuel ourselves well for the first 7-8 hours. Hold back and stay within yourself having confidence that even your 'within yourself' pace is a strong/solid one... Be patient. Then after ~8 hours, anticipate that it will start to hurt... and HTFU. Grit your teeth and start talking yourself through the suffering. This is where they say IM performance is so mental. Your fitness is there but anticipate that is is still going to be very hard. Expect it. Welcome it. And push through it. THEN you cross the line with your huge PR. :)))))

Monday, August 13, 2012

Relaxing On The Swim

I'm following through on my goal of teaching Moana to swim this summer! She definitely has some fear of deep water and she keeps saying that she can't swim because she's too little. Hmmm. So I started by simply telling her that no- she's big enough to learn to swim! This bit of info seemed to take her by surprise but I have reinforced it enough that she is starting to believe me. :)

When we were at the lake in Washington she did a bit of swimming- mostly just jumping into the lake with her life vest on and Scott would catch her. And even though she could float with the vest on, she would giggle and laugh and scream almost hysterically (from anxiety?) if he was not holding her at least a little. We made a little progress at the lake then b/c at least she seemed to think it was fun, though honestly it was too cold to stay in the lake for too long at once. Here's a little video if you like to watch 3 year old girls scream.

Both days this weekend we took her into the pool at our condo complex. The water is finally warm enough to just play in without shivering so that's a step in the right direction! It's funny too- when she goes in the water without her floaties she's convinced she's 'swimming' even though she has her life vest on. Somehow she does not see the two aids as performing the same function. Anyway, yesterday for the first time she finally started to really relax in the water without me touching her. This was a huge step! And granted she was still wearing that life vest, BUT she managed to completely relax and float on her back (hips up! chin up!) while I counted to 10. Then she managed to jump in without me touching her and dog paddle her way over to the other side of the pool... and back! She did that several times- huge progress really because she learned that if she does indeed just stay relaxed she can move herself through the water in whichever direction she wants to go. I praised her a ton of course and then at the end of our pool time she asked for a trophy. Ha! We came inside and I gave her one of my medals from a triathlon race and she wore it while she was napping.

So we're on our way with Moana. I think progress may come a little quicker now that she's got the being relaxed in the water thing down. That is key #1 for sure.

Speaking of swimming... we did our favorite Ironman workout this morning... 4 x 1000's descend 1-4 w/ 1' rest. Simple. Not easy. I almost managed to nail it... almost being the key word there. Funny thing though my 1st one was just a moderate warm up effort and was only ~20-30" slower than my next 3 which were all 15:20-15:27 (LCM) and felt increasingly hard. So I'm thinking that if I stay super relaxed and swim warm up pace/effort in Canada, I'll give up less than 2' total on my swim split and come out of the water having conserved a good bit of energy. That seems like no-brainer race strategy to me!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ironman Palooza!

And so it begins... I've been looking forward to this stretch of summer for what feels like forever... mostly because of the string of Ironmans coming up... starting today! I think I've maybe mentioned this once or twice before on this blog, but, um, I love Ironman. ;)

So today Ramona finished IMNYC. It was her first one (I'm guessing there will be more for her though) and coaching her through it was as new an experience for me as training for it was for her. I've never actually coached someone who had legitimate concerns about cut-off times before... there might be other coaches who are more suited for that type of thing. I took the Tough Love route with Ramona though and it worked! Ramona is now an Ironman! I am proud of her. Of course I was watching on and off all day and when I saw her mile 10 marathon split come up I did some math in my head and knew at that point she was going to make it. She wanted it enough to gut it out and make it happen, and that's exactly what she did. Relentless forward progress all day = Ironman finish.

So that was just the beginning... next week Brian and Mike take on IM Mount Tremblanc and then the week after that Patrick and Armando and Mary will race in Louisville while Nalani and Gene and Krista and Shane and I take on Canada. With 7 athletes racing 2 Ironmans on the same day, I'm almost glad I'm racing too because sitting in front of the computer all day watching helplessly would probably cause me a heart attack. Two weeks later Shevaun will race in Wisconsin then two weeks after that Kate races Redman 140.6. It's like Ironman Palooza around here! The coolest thing about the 11 athletes coming up is that they are all experienced and they have all trained incredibly consistently for months and are consequently in the shape of their lives!  I think we'll see some very solid performances out of each of them. (I am fully expecting 11 PR performances in the next 6 weeks. No pressure! Lol...)

Make that 12 PRs... I will count myself in there as well. :) It's funny- these last couple of taper weeks going into Ironman... I find myself struggling a bit trying to figure out how to get to the start line in Canada feeling my best. The taper thing is an ART and it changes from year to year for everyone based on life stress/circumstances and race schedule and how the training has gone and just generally how an athlete responds to rest. For me I'm finding that I can't do it the same way I've done it in the past b/c I raced the 3rd and 4th weekends out when normally folks are putting in their biggest weeks... I anticipated this of course which is why I drilled myself for about 5 solid weeks prior to that 2 week race block where I ended up resting a ton... so the rest was needed and it worked out b/c I raced well but then I've got 3 weeks to recover from the travel/racing but keep it rolling so I don't feel flat and fat starting Canada. I don't have it all figured out and am flying by the seat of my pants a little bit with this one. Lucho has helped of course and he's suggested I do 4 key workouts between Boulder and Canada with easy days in between those... Our conversation was funny of course because the whole time we were talking it through I was negotiating for more and he was trying to convince me I don't need it. Ha! So while I was running today I was trying to be honest with myself and coming up with some 'truths' when it comes to me and how/when I tend to feel good and nail my training...

~My ability to hit solid power on the bike is inversely proportional to total run mileage and intensity. I ran very little in the 2 weeks I was on the mainland. Consequently I was biking the best I've biked in a long time.

~Running infrequently makes me feel like a flat footed elephant when I actually do run. I tend to run best when I'm running a lot- not necessarily huge miles, but frequent workouts. This is pretty much in direct conflict with my point above so clearly I need to find a decent balance because unfortunately for me, triathlon does not end in T2. ;)

~I need to swim minimum 3x/week in order to feel decent in the water. This is a great article that talks about keeping it rolling and how poor swimmers don't need to taper their swim off too much prior to racing. I would add that even stronger swimmers should do the same. Swimming doesn't tend to hurt my cycling or running much (if at all?) so I don't have many concerns about that.

So knowing these three things about myself, I am thinking that I'll probably just maintain my swim as normal, do 2 more key bike sessions and then some easy recovery type spinning, and get my run frequency back up. I ran twice today and that was a super way to get some decent volume in without feeling like I actually did a long run. I don't know that I'll do any more double run days between now and Canada but I do think I'll throw in some easy 30' jogs to the schedule because those will allow me to feel better when I do my key sessions.

So there you go! Bring on the Ironmans.... :)))

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Nutrition Plan...

Interestingly, while I was on vacation last week I felt like I was having a ton of conversations about food... what I eat, what I don't eat, etc. I don't think I have everything nailed down perfectly but I don't have stomach issues and my weight stays pretty stable, as do my energy levels (I very rarely if ever bonk)... so what I'm doing works for me. Could I do it better? Maybe. But I'm of the mindset If it ain't broke... So, in case you're interested...

First off, daily nutrition... I don't follow any specific diet (Paleo, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, high fat, low fat, low carb, blah blah blah) but I have read about all those different plans and feel like I have at least a little understanding of where each is coming from. I think the thing that pretty much all those plans have in common is vegetables. So my thought is, you can't go wrong with vegetables! I eat as many vegetables as I can, every day. And I don't put a lot of stuff on/with them. Most of the time they are raw or steamed or broiled or blended. Luckily I genuinely enjoy the taste of most vegetables, and I have noted how much better I feel when I eat a lot of them, so my motivation to consume vegetables is high. Fruits are also right there on that list and I eat most of those plain/raw. Pretty simple. Plant Power. I'm a believer.

I eat meat, though maybe not every single day. But chicken, beef, fish, etc... It's all good in my world. I also like to include good fats as much as I can so I'll add Udo's oil to some foods or coconut oil to my smoothies. I'll eat a whole plain avocado every day if they're available. I love nuts. Almonds and pistachios are my favorites.

I may be wrong on this as I know some people eat way fewer carbs than I do, but I'm not completely sold on the low/no carb thing quite yet. I've def reduced my carbohydrate intake over the last year or so but my thought is that for Ironman, well, I just can't see how one could get through week after week of 18-22 hours of training on a low carb diet. Maybe a single sport athlete training like an hour a day could get by- and maybe even thrive! That I believe... I just haven't gotten myself there. So that said, I eat grains, though less than I used to. Quinoa is prob my favorite but I'll eat rice and oatmeal too. Maybe a little granola here and there but I've def cut back cereal as a staple food group and don't really eat a lot of bread anymore either. I don't have celiac or anything and I REALLY wanted to believe that gluten-free thing was just a dumb fad... but I have tried it off/on and I have to begrudgingly agree that I feel better when I cut out wheat and wheat products from my diet. So I'm not like crazy psycho about it or anything- ie when I was traveling and in airports and had fewer options, I ate a sandwich vs starving myself... but if I had an option to go to Whole Foods I would not choose a sandwich- I'd build myself an awesome salad instead. That kind of thing. I don't think I personally have any adverse reactions to dairy though as a whole I don't eat a lot of dairy. I simply don't like milk so I never drink it. I will eat greek yogurt and cottage cheese but those are the only dairy products I have on a fairly regular basis. Oh, I like kefir and ice cream too, though ice cream is a pretty rare treat that I only eat in moderation or when I'm all stressed out and Scott has left some in the freezer.

I drink a fair amount of coffee (2-3 cups/day over the course of a morning)... but no soda/coke unless I'm racing a half or full Ironman.

As far as training and race fueling goes... I am sponsored by Powerbar this year (Oh, you didn't see that bright yellow kit I wear?!? lol) so pretty much all of my nutrition stuff comes from them and I'm loving it. I like the original Powerbars the best- I'm not picky about flavors they all taste pretty good to me. And powergels I've found I really like too. Mostly it's the thinner consistency I like- they are so easy to get down especially while running. And the flavors are good too. I've consumed a lot of powergels this year.

I'm also sponsored by Vespa and have been a fan of that product for the last year and a half or so... it's an all-natural amino acid product that comes from wasps. The idea behind it is that it helps your body burn/access/use stored fat for fuel vs relying primarily on carbs when training and racing so that sounded like a good thing to me. It has not eliminated my need to take in carbs when training/racing but I do think of it as a type of insurance so if I miss 100 cal here or there it's not a huge issue for me. I also think that because it is an amino acid that it helps me keep a calm/clear head. I find that I think more logically and stay more calm when I take it vs when I don't so that in and of itself is reason enough for me to take it! I've noticed that effect from different amino acid products on my brain for several years and I used to use Amino Vital (drink) because of that reason but now I don't bc it tastes too much like gross fake sugar to me. Vespa has taken over for me as my amino acid of choice.

SO... my nutrition plan for Boulder on Sunday looked like this:

Breakfast: cold bowl of quinoa with kefir, cinnnamon, blueberries, banana. Coffee.

While waiting for my late wave start: Pocket Fuel. This was given to me by one of my athletes as a sample and it was so freakin' tasty I could not believe it. Mostly it's just almond butter with chocolate and bits of espresso but it was prob 400 calories with some fat and protein mixed in there too. Very satisfying! I also took 2 e21 tabs and a vespa in the 30' prior to race start. And I drank a whole bottle of water.

Bike: I drank 2 bottles of 200 cal each plus took 3 powergels. So 700 cal total plus e21 twice (4 tabs total). I was planning a 4th gel but with that flat I got flustered and out of my routine so I missed that last one. I didn't worry too much about it b/c I knew I had Vespa on board which again felt like insurance to me. I drank to thirst which meant I prob had another 2 bottles of water in addition to my sports drinks. It didn't feel like a very hot day to me but the dry air up there made me feel like I needed to drink more. I had to pee in T2 for the first/only time so felt like my hydration was spot on.

Run: I drank a bottle of sport drink in T2 before I ran out and then took a total of 3 gels through the run. I also had a few small cups of coke and water as I felt. I took 4 more e21 tabs as well so a total of 10 for the day.

So that nutrition had my energy levels totally stable, my brain working logically, and my muscles working as well as they could. I wouldn't change a thing for 70.3 races... that's pretty much how I do it every time. It's also pretty much what I train with so nothing was really new (except the pocket fuel and even that didn't have any funky ingredients so it was no cause for concern).

For Canada, I'll likely have a similar plan... Maybe 5 bottles of drink (plus water as thirst dictates) on the bike for a total of ~1200 cal plus 5-6 gels and 10 e21 tabs... plus an extra Vespa on the bike after ~3 hours. So 1700-1800 cal on the bike. On the run I'll drink Coke as I feel which will likely be every aid station, plan powergels every 4-5 miles or so, e21 every hour (I'll prob take ~20 e21 tabs through the day), and then whatever else looks/sounds good to me at aid stations.

So there you go! Pretty simple, really.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Boulder 70.3 ~ Be Brave! Take Risks!

Phew. Made it home! Yesterday was one of the longest travel days of my life... I was up for almost 23 hours and on planes and in airports for most of that. It takes a long time to get back to paradise. ;) While the vacation was fun and all, I was very happy to wake up in my own bed this morning. My to-do list today is about a mile long but what the heck, I'll go ahead and blog before I tackle it.

So Boulder 70.3 was good! I wouldn't call it a dream race performance or anything but given how I felt going in, I'm super happy with the results and think I learned a couple valuable lessons that I will carry forward with me. I'll see if I can communicate them here...

~Being super relaxed and laid back going into a race is the way to go for me. I definitely perform better when I put very little pressure on myself and just go out and do my thing.

~I was pretty cooked a couple weeks ago- like to the point where I wasn't sure if maybe I'd take months to really bounce back? I had some thoughts that maybe I risked too much and pushed too hard and that scared me into doing next to nothing for a few days. In good news I have a pretty good recovery profile and after a bit of panic resting my legs came back so clearly I hadn't fallen quite as far off the cliff as I'd feared. Phew.

~For the first time (maybe ever?) in a race when it got really really hard, and I was really really hurting, I did not cave in. This is huge. More on this in a bit...

So the story of the race...

Race morning was fine and uneventful. When it was time for my wave to go, I lined up right on the front line with a gal named Jen who is a friend of Kerrie's... Kerrie had mentioned to both of us that we might swim together so I was glad to know her. Sure enough, the horn went off, we swam side by side for maybe 100 meters, I liked her pace, no one else was around, so I eased up and got on her feet and stayed there for the next 28'. The effort felt very controlled- never strained at all. We had to negotiate around a bunch of men who started in waves ahead of us but it was never too bad. I had the thought that while I did not feel like I was working very hard, I was confident that our swim split would be fine. It didn't seem like a prudent thing to go any faster/harder primarily b/c the lack of oxygen up in Boulder (for me) was something I should probably respect. Staying controlled was the way to go for me on this day. I was also a bit surprised to find that I was feeling no need to 'prove myself' on this swim- no ego- no need to try to sprint around Jen and have the fastest swim split in our age group. I'd get around her later. I knew I did not have to win the swim to win the race, and this was comforting in some way.

I passed Jen in T1 and was out on the bike first in our wave, but there were probably a thousand people already out there riding from waves prior. It felt way more like a time trial than most races I do which tend to be mass starts because all these people starting at different times and you never really knew where you were. So blah blah blah I settled in on the bike and felt like I was riding fine- not working too hard but was passing a lot of people... was going back and forth with a guy dressed in white 2UX for most of the first lap and it was fine. The Boulder course is not anything too challenging and honestly I didn't even feel like my breathing was challenged at all. Muscularly I felt like I was being challenged a bit (seems like lack of oxygen causes muscles to not function as efficiently as what I'm used to) but I was staying within myself. I finished the first loop in 1:14 on my watch and figured if I held pace I'd come in at ~2:28 which would be a bike PR for me so I was happy enough with that. Looking at splits from last year I thought I'd be able to bike ~2:30 so this was within my expectations. A few miles into the second loop I got passed by a gal dressed in red Kompetitive Edge. I didn't know who she was BUT I was guessing she started 5' behind me (W30-34 were behind us) and that set off a little alarm bell in my head. Mostly like WTF?!? I thought I was doing well but she started 5' back and has passed me already??? I predicted that this gal would be the amateur winner... I could see how she was riding really well so then I had a choice. Go with her or no?

At that point I remembered my advice to Nalani (who was racing in the Philippines that weekend) and I told her to Be Brave! Take Risks! These races were about finding our limits... With nothing on the line we had nothing to lose... so go for it! If we blew up, we blew up... but you never know where your limits are if you don't try to push past them... so I went with the red KE gal. I had to work outside my comfort zone to stay within range on the uphills, but on the downhills I was making up time on her and even ended up in her draft zone a few times on those downhills... was thinking that I did not want to be a total idiot and pass her back so on the downhills I started sitting up and using that time to stretch, hydrate, take a gel, etc. Then we'd go slightly up again and I'd have to work hard to keep her in sight. Around this time another guy dressed in Specialized passed us both and made a comment about how well we were riding... so that was encouraging... and then he passed red KE gal (later I found out her name was Katie) and she used him as a rabbit so we were simply hauling ass by now. And you know what? I was LOVING IT. I actually physically started to feel better and mentally now I was RACING for the first time all day, which is probably a good time to start racing in a 70.3 (after ~30 miles on the bike). We hit a longish downhill section at the top of the loop and I thought that rather than sitting up and being on my breaks, I was going to go for it. Be Brave! Take Risks! So off I went and I passed both red KE gal and Specialized guy and felt like whooping out loud! This was so much fun!!! It might have been the best I've ever felt in a 70.3 race.

So now I felt like were were racing a 40K TT on our way back to T2 but I felt awesome and was not afraid I was being an idiot. Then it happened. A car went by in the other direction and hit a big rock at just the right angle so it came flying over right toward my line... my reaction time was not good enough to swerve around it and I hit it and BAM. Flat front tire. SHIT! And yes, I yelled that out loud. Several times I'm sure.

Red KE gal rode by and asked if I needed anything but of course I said no and just set about fixing the problem. I glanced at my watch as soon as I stopped bc I wanted to know how long this was going to take and I saw 1:55 (ride time- I was about 45 miles in). I did not check for thorns or anything b/c I knew it was a pinch flat from the rock... so I replaced the tube and then went to inflate it with my CO2... Luckily though I was smart enough to check to see if the tube was seeded correctly and when I did that I saw that there was a huge gash in the sidewall of my tire. ARGH! The hole was big enough that a tube would have popped right though so I was not going to be able to fix this without something to plug that hole. ARGH. Take the tire back off and pull part of the tube back out... So you know what else Powergels are good for? Their wrappers. I took a powergel and folded the used wrapper in half and stuffed it into my tire so it would block that hole, then replaced the tube and crossed my fingers as I inflated it with the CO2. Looks like it was holding so maybe I'd be good to go? Just then tech support came up and offered to help... I told him I thought he was good but then we looked at the hole in the sidewall and given that we could clearly see the powergel wrapper thought maybe it wouldn't hold for 11 more miles? He offered to replace the tire for me but I looked at my watch and saw 2:01... I'd already wasted 6' with this flat and I didn't want to waste any more time unless I needed to so I told him I'd try it and see... The mechanic was awesome though and he told me he'd follow me for a while so he'd be right there if it blew again and would help me change it again. So that was comforting.

I got back on my bike and hauled ass to the T2. I cannot believe that tire held. After the race I took a picture... Nice, eh? That rock also put a nice little dent in my (brand new) Zipp 404 rim so I'll always have a nice reminder of this incident.

I could not believe my watch when it read 2:32 bike split as I entered T2. 2:32 with a 6' flat?? Holy crap. My best ever bike split is a 2:30 so this was just super. And running into T2 my first thought was Sweet. My legs feel WAY better than they did at Honu. I took my time in T2 and peed and then jogged out to start the run. Stay relaxed Michelle... 13 miles you can do this... positive self talk, etc. Unfortunately it did not take long before I could feel the effects of the altitude. I actually, on purpose, did not run the 2 days prior in Boulder b/c I didn't want to freak myself out about not being able to breathe or HR being high or whatever... I just figured I would deal with it during the race if/when I started to feel it. So ya, I was running ~8:25 pace but I'm sure my HR was as high as it's been all year on the run and my breathing felt labored and I knew this was not going to be an easy/relaxed run. Decision time again. How much pain was I willing to put up with today?

And in my mind, this next part is the coolest part of my day. I started with the Tough Love technique on myself... You're not going to die. Quit being a pussy. You're not going to die. Yes it hurts. Get over it. You're not going to die. Shut up legs. You're not going to die. Etc. It was the most interesting internal battle I've ever had with myself and I felt like I was winning it. This has been my weakness in the past I think- when I'm hurting I tend to back off and let myself get comfortable again... but on Sunday I'd say that pretty much that whole damn run was incredibly uncomfortable but instead of caving in and walking, I just dealt with it. I allowed myself to be uncomfortable and you know what? I didn't die.

So I was not really thrilled with a 1:52 run split, but I think given the lack of oxygen I was experiencing, that was the best I was going to get out of myself up there with no acclimatization. I did get passed there at the end of the race- that gal went SPRINTING by me so I was guessing she was in my age group (that was the smart way for her to pass me!) though I did not know that I had indeed been leading the age group since T1... I just assumed a couple gals prob passed when I was changing my flat? Anyway, I was pretty stoked to see that I still broke 5 hours with 4:57.. and minus the 6' I would have been more like 4:51 which would have been a 2' PR for 70.3 so there's no complaining about that! I finished this race feeling good about where my fitness is right now and feeling like maybe I finally figured out how to really execute a 70.3... I stayed relaxed through the swim and first half of the bike then increased my effort which is a strategy that is WAY easier said than done... and I talked myself through more suffering than I've previously put up with on that run which again is WAY easier said than done. I stayed calm through the flat episode which I've done before so that was more like confirmation that a flat tire (or any other minor mechanical) does not have to completely ruin your day. So lots of good stuff out there on Sunday.

Less than 3 weeks til Ironman Canada.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Random Notes From Boulder

So I'm in Boulder right now and probably should be getting my shit together for the race tomorrow but figured I'd update my blog instead. :) I don't feel like I'm mentally 'with it' enough to really tell a story so just some bullet points about what's been going on this week and what I've noticed... In no particular order...

~I'm staying with Kerrie and her family. They've been great hosts and they make strong coffee in the morning. It's awesome! Beth is here too from CA and she's been training her ass off. There was a big organized group ride like 110+ miles this morning (a bunch of local pros I think) and for a minute I contemplated bailing on the 70.3 tomorrow and doing that group ride today instead because it sounded like it would be something I would LOVE... but obviously I did not.

~I've ridden my bike 2x and swam once in the last two days since I've been here. Interestingly I have seen Dave Scott on all 3 workouts. Yesterday when I was getting out of the pool (he was about to get in the next lane) I couldn't help myself and I introduced myself and told him I was a fan. I know I'm such a dork but couldn't help myself he's such a legend! He looks like he is about 20 years younger than he actually is. That guy has nice skin. Luckily my social filter kicked in before I blurted that out at him, but that's what I was thinking.

~We saw Rinny riding today too. She was going ~12 mph behind a moped... clearly on a recovery interval. I would have enjoyed watching her do a fast part but we were driving and I got the pro-gawking thing out of my system yesterday with The Man so we did not wait around to stalk.

~So far I am not really feeling too many affects of the altitude. I felt it a little more in the pool vs on the bike but nothing bad at all. I do find myself incredibly thirsty here all the time though. It is really dry and my throat just feels dry all the time (as does my skin I am going through a lot of lotion that I never normally use). People seem to think it is hot but I don't feel hot. It just feels nice and warm to me. Apparently I am going to die of heat on the run tomorrow afternoon though- everyone says that- so we'll see. I truly do enjoy/prefer being warm though so I am not as worried as maybe I should be?

~Last night one of my best friends from high school came and picked me up and drove me to another high school friend's house for dinner. There ended up being 6 of us from Hudson High School there- people I have not seen in ~20 years- so that was just a ton of fun. I missed my 20th reunion which was earlier this summer in Ohio but last night made up for it for sure.

~This morning I met up with three of my athletes who are here to race tomorrow. We rode for a bit then ate at Boom Yogurt Bar which is apparently the Lava Java of Boulder. Funny bc I steer way clear of Lava Java when I'm in Kona but I was excited for this place! I've obviously given myself total permission to be touristy triathlete dork while I am here. And I am okay with that! ;)

~Kerrie has a pair of Recovery Boots and I've spent a good bit of time in them since I've been here. Not that I have actually done any workouts lately that have warranted their use, but regardless, my legs always feel light and springy when I am done with them. I wish I was made of money and could buy a pair. Unfortunately they are not on the top of my priority list at the moment as I just found out that not one but BOTH of my P3 frames have cracks in them and need to be replaced. The new one is under warranty but the old one is not so I don't know what I am going to do to solve this problem. Blah. I'm ignoring it for now because if you ignore cracks in your bike frame then they fix themselves, right? Either that or I need to find a new bike mechanic who is less adept at finding cracks in frames. I swear every time I take my bike equipment to Matt he informs me that it's so messed up to the point of not even being safe. Super.

~Today when I went to pick up my packet for the race tomorrow I walked by the ART tent and there was no line so I jumped in for a little tune-up. After a brief conversation with the ART gal about my issues she asked bout my STL (? somewhere in my ass) and I said I did not know if it was tight but she was welcome to check. Immediately upon touching me she gasped Oh my goodness and I took that as a sign that indeed I am a tight ass. She continued working on different spots down the posterior of my left leg and could not stop saying OH MY with every touch. I was thinking that she had been working on triathletes all morning at this tent so surely she had come across some people that had tight hamstrings/gluts/calves before, no?? I know I am not the only one. Anyway.

~So tomorrow we race. I keep thinking that I should feel more nervous or anxious or something but I really am feeling 100% calm about this one. I am anticipating a pretty good day (I have no reason to think I'll race poorly) but I don't know that I have the deep desire to really drill myself tomorrow- there's not enough on the line I think to force myself to truly suffer? I don't know. I'm hoping I can put together a decent day without having to really hurt myself but maybe not. I'll let you know how that works out anyway. ;)