Ironman Boulder-Part Two

I always say; it’s magical crossing an Ironman finish line! Magical in a hundred different ways. When you hit that finisher’s chute, you become weightless. You float. Hands raised around you, cheering you on, high-fiving you like you are some sort of mega-star….and of course EVERYONE is a star that makes that midnight cutoff. Your pain goes away, or at least you’re able to push it so far back behind you, if only for the 90-seconds it takes you from chute to finish.

My Ironman Boulder day started typical. I woke up at 3:45am and promptly started on some coffee. I sat in the quiet of this early day thinking of the months of training that had passed. All of that training for this one day. I felt so ready. I knew I had put in some great training, no doubt about that! My mind fast-forwarded through my day as coffee entered my veins. I envisioned the swim. The calm of the reservoir. Wondering to myself where I would seed myself for my first “rolling start.” My other two IM’s have been mass start…which I’m kind of fond of. My mind rolled through onto the bike. A lot of the course I had never ridden or even seen, which was fine with me. I am a confident rider and know I had trained well for these 112 miles. My mind kept going…onto the run. This run course was pretty unique. Called the Flex-Capacitor for it’s shape; it is three out and backs with 2 loops. I already knew some of the trail. It was gorgeous. I also knew that with its shape, there would be ample opportunity to see my friends racing. My running has been stellar during training as well, and after all is my favorite of all the disciplines.

Hubster and little cub (OK teenage cub) got up as I was preparing my Elvis bagel. My nerves staying pretty well in check, I grabbed the last few things and out the door we went. We got to Boulder High school, dropped off Special Needs bags and boarded the bus to the Res. These busses ran smoothly and efficiently and there was no problem getting right on.

Special Needs (these are the bags that are given to you at or around 56 miles on the bike and 13 miles on the run) You can have anything in them you need.

Bike bag: 2 scoops of Infinit Nutrition in a baggy. (This was juuuuust in case my bike did not go as planned)

Run bag: 2 flasks of EFS Liquid Shot (one full, one half) to finish off the second half of my run. 4-Tylenol

I moved through body marking quickly, and loved that my marker said he would draw a smiley on my other calf. That’s how my day started after all…why not wear it! In transition I knew exactly where my bike was. I had walked it the day before, as I always do. They started announcing that we needed to drop off our morning bags! Morning bags are the bags that contain your wetsuit, cap, and goggles and once changed, you put your clothing that you are wearing into them, hand them off and they are waiting for you when you finish.

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But first….Let me take a selfie!!

I started down the row where my bike was and saw my training partner-in-crime. I gave her a hug and asked how she was feeling, and of course, took a selfie!  She looked great and ready to roll. I kept heading to my bike…. and to my dismay, could not find it!! Now they were announcing that we needed to get lined up for the swim. “WHERE THE HECK IS MY BIKE?” I run back to my friend and with what I’m sure was complete panic and terror on my face I say, “I cannot find my bike!” What was she going to do? HA! I turned back and head back down the row, heart racing, starting to have a little mini panic attack and there…I see her cute little red camo bars. Hallelujah!! I air my tires, add my nutrition bottles on back, put on my wetsuit, drop my bag and get in line for the swim. I felt really good. We make our way down the chute. I’m hugging my training partner. We are smiling, knowing we have trained well and it’s going to be a phenomenal day! Into the water we go.

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Race Morning Thank you God for this masterpiece you prepared for us this morning.

Piranha is what I imagine the water looks like from shore. Fighting one another for position. I am tucked right into the middle, which is fine. I get about 100 meters and finally settle into the chaos of swimming with 2500 other people. I am calm the entire swim, although cannot seem to sight worth anything. Normally this isn’t a problem, but today…. man, it took me some time to see those buoys. I start passing swimmers, and buoys but realize I am far from the buoy line…. I never did seem to get closer in and think that maybe that swim was about 2.8 miles! HAHA! I remained within a pack the entire time including though the swim exit…. we all came out and hit the grass where those amazing wetsuit peelers were. Swoosh…peeled like a banana, and happy my kit stayed in tact!

I moved through bag pickup, into the changing tent to get ready for my bike.

Let me break here. The volunteers in these changing tents are always top-notch. I was immediately greeted by a woman who asked if I needed help. Sure!! She grabbed my bag, dumped the stuff out and proceeded to hand me helmet, glasses, shoes, and gloves. She grabbed my wetsuit, stuffed it, cap and goggles into the bag and got me out of that tent in 5 minutes. Out of the tent I ran towards my bike, praying out loud that I would find it more easily than this morning.  I see my hubby…he’s yelling at me, but doesn’t give me my swim time, which means…. it wasn’t what I was expecting.  Didn’t matter…I couldn’t wait to get onto the bike. I found her easily and off I went out of T1.

I started on water right away and when my bike computer beeped at 10-minutes I started on my nutrition. Infinit has been my bike nutrition for a while and I love how customizable per person it is. Every 10-minutes that computer beeped….On the bike I had plain H2O in my aero drink and 2 3-hour bottles of Infinit.

The bike course is one loop, and consists of a few decent climbs, a lot of rollers, and some long, LONG flat/false flat sections. The wind was blowing, which is typical. Sometimes to our advantage and sometimes, not. I felt strong on the bike the whole time, taking in nutrition and water the whole 112. I had a few (3 or 4) times that I felt sick to my stomach. And at one point quickly ran through a scenario in my head as to what to do if vomiting was going to become an option. Should I stop? Keep going, stay aero and let it fly? What if I did that but got dizzy? Could I really vomit and maintain this bike speed? Thankfully it never happened.

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About 90-miles on the bike course

At 95 miles into this bike course you hit the hills. It’s a small section of 3-4 hills. Short, but one has a pretty good grade to it, and at mile 95…well you can guess how your legs may feel. It was also HOT!! There is a big downhill, and then a sharp left turn, slowing you down into the hills. The wind and air stood still in this section. I may have caught fire, it felt so hot…. I went up them smoothly. Thank you Coeur d’Alene for the hills you have provided me for training. Coming back into town you have great downhill and smooth road. The crowds were great and really pumped you up. I came into transition feeling good physically and feeling GREAT about my 6:14 bike time!

I ran through, handed off my bike to a bike handler and grabbed my T2 bag. Again, the volunteers here were amazing. I sat down and started taking off my helmet etc. She handed me visor, socks and shoes. I took a squeeze off of my EFS shot and a good pull off of a water bottle. I stood as she handed me my Spi belt with number on it. And I was ready to hit the run.

Running 26.2 miles is never easy, but followed by a 2.4 mile swim and 112 miles on a bike…. well that brings a whole new perspective. It’s never going to be easy, and as a triathlete, you just know this. This is the point in your race that you see what you’re made of. It’s that point where you need to dig the deepest into yourself as you possibly can. After all…this is your only way to the finish line. Your will needs to be in tact and has to conquer your pain. You will need to decide how much pain you find acceptable and live there for 26 miles. On this day for me, that pain would be like a punishment.

Starting onto the run, as usual, I felt good. Legs felt strong after a great bike. Soon however, stomach distress set in. Bloating, dry-heaving, walking, I continued on until I saw my hubs at about mile-6. He could tell I was struggling.

This is the 2nd time in an IM that I have had stomach distress on the run. Maybe…this is something that I just need to get used to, or maybe there is something wrong that I need to continue working on. Either way, quitting this race was not an option for me. Re-evaluating my race strategy was what happened. I took in nutrition where and when I could, ran when I could, but ultimately ended up walking quite a bit. Blisters appeared on my feet due to walking. But I knew every step I took brought me closer to that finish. I watched, as people all over that run course walked, sat down, laid in the grass, ran for porta-potties. The heat was intense. (I heard 105 on that bike course) Medical was everywhere to help those that could not go on. I felt very grateful that I was still standing, and still moving forward. I had little bursts of energy here and there. Volunteers, yelling out for us, the stranger that sprayed us with water, other athletes to talk to, drawing and giving energy. After all we were all in the same boat. I FINALLY saw my training partner through the crowd, both of us swerving back and forth through a sea of people to embrace. Tears flowed. It seemed only yesterday that this same type of embrace took place while we raced at Ironman Canada together. She was having a GREAT race, and I was so proud of her. She looked strong and was riding the wave of PR’ing on both her swim and bike that day. We left one another and continued on. Step by step I knew my chance of a PR was diminishing, which was hard to swallow after coming off such a great bike. I thought about quitting. My throat caught thinking about the long day my hubs and daughter had to put in for me while I was out there. I thought about my coach, my family, my friends all watching stats and waiting for me to cross that finish. I kept walking. And that is how it went, mile after mile. My stomach never got better, my resolve just got stronger. When I got to my final turn and knew I was about 1.5 miles from the finish, I thanked God. All day I meditated on Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I love how the Message says it; “I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” I thought and prayed that verse all day long and thought I can do ALL things…even this.

And then…. I came off the Boulder Creek Path. The volunteers were yelling that we had 2 blocks. TWO blocks and I would be an Ironman for the third time! I ran down the street, seeing my friend from CdA…he said, “enjoy that finish line!” Then, my daughter, from out of nowhere is running next to me. I loved that last burst of energy that she passed off to me…. she said “Hi Lady!! I’m going to run in with you!” Music to my ears coming from this teenager who had been on the course being a spectator for her Mom ALL DAY LONG. (It’s much harder I think to be a spectator during this length of a race than it is to DO the race) She ran me right up to the end of the chute and dropped back. That memory will forever be burned into my memory. And then…there it was…that weightless feeling. That magic carpet. That last 30 seconds.

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My dear friend, training partner-in-crime, and sister in pain, tears, laughter and endurance. You give me inspiration every single day!

You forget the day you had. You forget there are blisters and torn, chafed skin. You forget your muscles hurt and your stomach is sick. You forget all of it and know this is exactly why you did this. This is exactly why you’ve trained a year. This is exactly your reward for all of your hard work. Because in this 30 seconds you realize that everything that has tried to destroy you, hasn’t and that the unimaginable physical and mental strain that you have endured cannot and will not take you down when you are dedicated to something that you wish to conquer.

To me doing an Ironman shows you who you are. It shows you your tenacity and how determined you can be. It’s not about a medal, or bragging rights. It shows your strength and your resolve. It shows you that if you really want something, do the work needed to get it. It shows you that when you are at your end and ready to give up, you CAN keep going past that. There’s more rope when you feel like you’re at the end of it.

I did not have a PR for this IM. I could allow disappointment to pour from me but it just isn’t in me to do so. I am so grateful to have trained well and made it through that day, when so many others did not. I am thankful and so full of compete joy for my training partner that PR’d her race by almost an hour. She worked so hard this year and to see her succeed at reaching her goal is to be celebrated!! I am thankful to my hubs and family and friends that supported me throughout this whole year and whole day to the finish. And mostly I am grateful to God for giving me my health, my strength, my determined mind and a capable body to reach for these goals.photo copy 5

photoI will be back out training again soon….well, I am already back to small training days, but will be back for a PR on the Boulder IM course next year on Aug 2. From now until then I have some things to work through nutritionally but am excited to go back and take on that course again! Look out Boulder; I’m coming for you!!

Swim: 1:27  Bike: 6:14  Run: 7:02  Finish: 14:57

Love this quote from watching the Ironman World Championships:  Of all the parts of the body that are tested in an Ironman, the mind may have the most critical job of all.  Because it’s the mind that has to convince everything else to keep going.  To remind the body what’s at stake.

The (not so) Glamorous Life of a Woman and Ironman

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I am laughing at what I am about to write.  I am pre-lauging, because the words haven’t even hit my screen and I knooooow some of this will sound bad.  I laugh now as I sit, outside in my cool, shaded yard.  Listening to birds and the waterfall trickling in our front yard, eating a Schwann’s popsicle.  My workout day done.  When only days ago, hours ago, I was in misery during a workout.  Hot, sweat stinging my eyes.  Things going all wrong.  Ya know….those kind of days.  That kind of day when your mouth opens and says….”WHY am I doing this?” <again> That moment when if given a split second chance, you’d reconsider this whole thing.  That kind of day.

Aren’t we supposed to be Enjoying the Journey?

Here’s the deal; for ever bad day, there are two, three or five good.  For every day that I have overheated, sweat pouring off of me, and salt staining everything I own; I consider the cold, frozen, snowy months.  There are bad days and good, ups and downs….funny and not-so-funny.  Here are a few not-so-glamourous things about being a women (or man) and training/racing your heart out.

Just to name a few:

Let’s start with the swim.  Honestly, can my hair get ANY more like straw in the winter?  Not only are we in the cold weather, but getting into an overly-chlorinated pool..well if there was any shred of health in my hair, give it a few days once in that pool, let alone the MONTHS we in the Pac Northwest have to spend.  No amount of Moroccan Oil will help this out.  On top of it, my hair is naturally curly, which translates; naturally dry and unruly 99% of the time.  Add chlorine…well, you’re looking at a recipe for disaster.  We waiiiiit for the day that we can get in to open water, which lends its own set of problems.  In comes the wetsuit.  If I were maybe say a banana or a sausage link, I might feel comfortable adding a close-to-your-skin layer onto myself.  Wrestling a body into a wetsuit is an art. A tight, rubber skin being layered on… all while trying to be as careful as possible not to yank, pull too hard, rip a hole, dig a nail into or tear a seam.  But making sure it’s pulled up correct, high enough, pulled up over the butt (this helps if you have a friend) and zipped up the back, without it being too tight in the arms and neck.  And lets not even talk about the zipper…..  It’s nonsensical! Getting the wetsuit on is a workout unto itself, and usually leads to increased heart rate,  heavy breathing, sweating and slight exhaustion.  After all of this, you walk into our icy waters to start your swim, where you then get to pee on yourself and into your suit to warm up.  Glamourous! After the swim, if you’re lucky, you may end up with as I did today, a sweet looking raspberry “hickey” on your neck that is SURE to cause some sort of scandal when seen by people around town!  Which leads to my next glamour word; Chafing!

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I’m telling you what, if you have clothing of any sort on; you’re gonna chafe somewhere.  It is inevitable!  I don’t care how much Body Glide you use, you WILL miss a spot!  Always.  Over 140 miles in a race, something, somewhere is gonna go bad.  I have had chafing on parts of my body that quite frankly I didn’t think possible.  And unless I just figure out a way to dip my body entirely into a tub of Body Glide, it’s just gonna be that way.  Probably the worst part…..the post workout/race shower…that in all aspect should feel like the best thing you’ve ever experienced, until water hits that raw skin…..screams of agony and jumping out of the water a best-feeling-ever-shower does not make.  Along with chafing you have it’s counterpart the blister.  Blisters also have a way of cropping up when and where least expected.  I have blisters that have just become permanent residents on my feet.  They don’t even hurt anymore.  They come and go, and it doesn’t matter the socks I wear OR shoes, they appear.  Always in the same place…on the deformed pinky of my right foot.  Add the blister, deformed pinky and the possibility of black or missing toenails (this has thankfully only happened one time to me on said deformed pinky) and you have a pedicure nightmare!  Runners feet….not always the prettiest girl at the ball!  Speaking of pedicures…forget it.  Or…find an exceptional person to do them.  My girl…knows to not even go NEAR my calluses with a pumice stone.  Taking those fabulous, well worn- in, necessary calluses, off would result in more of the above; chafing and blisters.

Lets talk bike.  And throw out words like; saddle.  112 miles on a saddle not quite wide enough for Barbie to sit on.  Or maybe you’re like me and ride a split-nose saddle, which brings its own set of gifts to the party.  This thing has saved my butt though.  Literally.  HOWever…that being said, riding that type of saddle takes some getting used to.  Even though theres nothing pushing into your….nether region, you have the chafing issue to get used to on your upper legs….and sit bones that need to man-up and do their job of…ummmm sitting correctly for HOURS.  Yes, you will have bruising.  Doesn’t everyone get a bruised butt?  HA!  Glamour, right there!!   There are great conversations to be had on a long training rides with your girlfriends.  Things like… the bruising.  Down There.  Things like…which is the best butt cream.  And I’m not talking for your babies.  I am talking  Ruby’s Lube, Chamois Butt Butt’r, Hoo Ha Ride Glide……for all of that fun stuff going on downstairs for HOURS on the bike that is supposed to keep you chafe free and possibly relieve some of the goings-on atop that saddle.  I’ve learned a few things in my time of doing Triathlon;  there is no perfect saddle, not kit that will help, no butt butter that will suffice.  It’s gonna hurt at some point…and thats that!  On top of that; being hit with bugs in the face at 20mph-plus HURTS, bee stings on the bike HURT, and your butt….it’s just gonna hurt!

Let’s move onto the last piece of this fine Ironman puzzle; the run.  This is where chafing can be the worst.  Anything and everything can rub.  I have had chafing from a heart rate monitor, which is soft around my chest, that when sweated on and ran with my body for 26.2 miles at Ironman Canada, decided it just wanted to cut into my skin.  My rib cage looked like it had been in a knife fight after that day.  The same heart rate monitor that I had worn every. single. day. for training.  If something touches you…..your gonna chafe.  This is where we can get Uber ladylike….the run.  Peeing (or worse) in bushes while your running partners stand watch like sentinels.  And, OH, perfecting snot-rockets ranks right up there on the glamour factor for sure. That is some high-class glamour!!  Snot-rockets are also an art form.  Practice!  Doing it wrong….well you can imagine what can happen.  It can get nasty-gross.

PS: The snot-rocket does work particularly well when riding 20mph….those things can really fly.

PPS: You know your heavy into racing season when you find yourself <almost> blowing a rocket from your car window.

PPPS:  It has taken me years…and I still hate to do any of this in front of my husband.  This is a side of his sweet, soft, clean-smelling, perfumed, showered, wife that I have a hard time allowing him to see.  For better, for worse….I guess, right?

Add all of this to water retention, food obsessions, falling asleep the second your head hits the pillow, or before…like…as your walking in from brushing your teeth, having every calendar date, family outing, vacation or camping trip revolve around your IM schedule, sore muscles, wearing compression like it’s your job, and being gone HOURS on end for long bike/run days, laundry that morphs overnight from one shirt on the floor to a Matterhorn sized pile within hours, that continues to multiply because you never have time to catch up, dinner that’s not always on the table on time,  the intimacy that your bike saddle sees more of than your spouse, sock tan lines, bike short tan lines and tan lines across your back that look as if they were branded on you by alien life forms…and you have the glamorous life….

***I know this sounds like I’m wining, but it’s all in fun!  I honestly love every day that I get to do this.  Good and bad, short and long…..it’s love!

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I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

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I just came off of such and incredibly, inspiring, weekend.  A weekend of nervous energy, loads of laughter (LOADS) tired muscles, roadtrippin’, group hugs, high fives, some tears, (from both nerves and happiness), tired aching muscles, a little anxiety, great friends, amazing girl time, new friendships (Hi Jenny and Tomek) Swedish Fish, a Twilight Zone McDonalds stop, toilet sleeping* and Ironman camaraderie.

Ironman Lake Stevens 70.3. (This is not a race report)

A few weeks ago I had made the decision to withdraw from racing LS.  A decision that was hard, but I knew was in my best interest.  A few days after that, the decision was made that I would still attend, with friends and my training group, as support & cheerleader!   I had SUCH a great time!

From the fist 15 minutes of our car ride out of town, I knew this weekend would be amazing (hello Mini Vacation)  The energy of a race has a way of oozing onto you, even if you aren’t racing.  And of course a car of friends wrapped in laughter on a 4-hour road-trip is always Fab-ulous!!

We spent our first night in Issaquah, which is such a beautiful part of the Pacific NW (always so grateful that we get to LIVE here), at my friend’s sisters.  They were great hosts (ummm, hot tub under the stars and a little vodka who can complain?  Not this girl!) The next day we set out for a short drive into Lake Stevens, hit the expo, checked in and met other friends that were racing.

As the one not racing and just /observing it was funny to see my friends rituals of set up.  Clothing, shoes, helmets, bags, changes of clothes.  I observed, being sure to be very quiet as they worked.  They talked to themselves, changed things around, walked around the hotel room…. all this, while I sat in silence.  I felt like Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist, watching…from afar.  Taking it all in, but being careful not to “startle anyone!”  They asked for advice on things, to which I carefully answered what I would do…but adding, “everyone is different.”  A strange breed us Triathletes are.  But then again…having something “off” can make or break a race.  All joking aside, they were great….I just know how it is when I am in race prep, and let them carry on, not getting into their way.

After the packing ritual….we hit dinner with our whole group.  Italian of course, and again the laughter and wine flowed easily.  We toasted everyone, toasted our coach, toasted to the hard work and dedication of this group of athletes.  Then…bed!

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We don’t have ANY fun!

Watching and waiting for friends to finish a race, especially a 70.3 distance is a test of patience and sometimes frustration.  Not knowing (on a huge course) where people are and trying to keep everyone tracked down is cRaZy!  Especially when you know so many racing.  Luckily, I had some great friends to keep me company throughout the day that had also made the drive over to support our BAM’s

For many of them, it was a first at the 70.3 distance.  They all trained hard and well during the past few months.  But as anyone knows on race morning…you forget all that you have put into training and your mind wanders to the “what if’s” and the “maybe I should’ve.”  They have ALL trained, but of course 2 minutes before jumping into a lake with 1500 other athletes for a 1.2-mile swim, you forget that.  So again, we spoke softly, but gave lots of hugs, smiles, “go get ’em’s” slaps on the butt, quiet whispers (R.T.B.) and sent them on their way.

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Lake Stevens 70.3

 

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Watching friends from my training group cross the finish line at a race is amazing!  It brings tears to my eyes, and a huge smile to my face.  It makes my heart happy to see people accomplishing their goals!  To see their families waiting in anticipation is priceless!  Their hard work and dedication paid off.  And as hard as they worked out there…the minute they cross that finish line it’s all worth it.

The SWEET success of a Finish Line

The SWEET success of a Finish Line

Great work BAM’s!  You ALL finished!  You ALL rocked!  Congratulations on your Ironman 70.3 finishes, Fishes!!  The big one’s next!!

 

PS:  IM Lake Stevens put on a phenomenal race.  It is a GORGEOUS venue to race at.  Great support, great seeing the Pro’s out (Congrats to Craig “Crowie” Alexander and Meredith Kessler on their wins) there, and perfect climate.  This 70.3 is definitely on my future race list.  No doubt!!

* I’ve discovered that this is what happens when you are so sleep deprived and you stop for a potty break.  It allows you a 2-minute nap.