IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Sunday, November 25, 2007

50 x 100 x 100

For the sixth year in a row, I've been fortunate enough to be able to participate in the traditional 100 x 100 x 100 swim. (That's doing 100 yards every 100 seconds 100 times.) This is the first year in all that time that I actually DID NOT do the whole thing. It was recommended that I not do this workout today. It's not the first time I've heard this. I've been told by several people that they feel this workout provides no benefit.

So I sorta wrote this workout off. I put it out of my mind. But as it got closer and I started talking to some of the other people that planned to participate, I couldn't help myself! I decided to have the best of both HALF of the workout. It's hard to pass this workout by, but I can't quite figure out what draws me to it. Tradition? I've done it once a year since I got back into swimming. And for the last 3 years, it's been an actual "event" at Lincoln Way with many of the same swimmers returning year after year. Maybe it's Pride? There aren't many people who choose the 100s option. (Swimmers can opt for 75s or 50s on that same 100 second interval). It's cool to be able to say I can do it....well, I guess not this year! Or maybe it's just a nice way to get in a good, solid workout on Thanksgiving weekend.

Surprisingly, these 50 100s went by really, really fast. It can seem overwhelming to think about the yardage in front of you at the start of this event. The key is to break it down into "tolerable" distances. For me, that means sets of 10 100s. It just seems easier to think, "OK, you have to do 5 sets of 10 100s" than...just go do 50 100s. It also helps to have friends there swimming with you that you can chat with between 100s. These people were kinda quiet, BC and Rich were really the only ones I was talking with.

The last 10 100s went by in the blink of an eye. And then my portion was done. I was almost sad as I got up out of the pool and headed to the showers. There was a part of me that thought...WAIT...there are still 50 more to go! And though I know I could do it, I decided to heed the advice of my coach who told me not to overdo it. I really didn't FEEL like I was overdoing it, but I already know that when I tell him I did 5000 yards at this pace...well, I'm not sure he'll be jumping up and down about it. But I'm not tired, nor do I feel I worked too hard. I definitely had a lot more to give, which I suppose is the point. This is supposed to be "down" time...recover, rest, yadda, yadda, yadda. Easier said than done. I'll be back next year!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ironman North America Scam

Since I haven't been working out and I have no races planned, I sorta figured there was nothing to write about. But who am I kidding? I have endless opinions on just as many topics, so I tried to think about what really has me irked these days. It didn't really take me much time to figure out what's been on my mind lately. It's the Ironman North America Scam!

Let me back up a minute and give a brief overview. There are 6 Ironman North America full races: Arizona, Canada, Coeur d'Alene, Florida, Lake Placid and Wisconsin. Typically, registration for these races for the next year opens the day after the current year's race. I've only been doing Ironman races for 3 years, but I remember the first race I signed up for closed registration within 4 hours. These races are not cheap, I believe the 2008 rate is now close to $500 per race. (and you must tack on the $18.00+ "processing" fee for online registration).

Fast forward to 2007 where, if you are participating in this year's race, you have the option of signing up for next year's race EARLY - the day before this year's race! Now, the day AFTER the race, entry opens to everyone who is ON SITE at the race. When I drove by the line this year after Florida, it was an obnoxiously long line, probably 3+ hours of waiting. OK, now the online registration used to open at 10am for the next year's race. This year, they've delayed the online registration so they could take all the entries from the people who are on site first. So the online registration opens hours past the announced time...then fills EXTREMELY fast...I think IMFL 2008 filled in 15 minutes or something.

This is ridiculous. All this points to is that if you are not on the race site the day after the race, it's highly unlikely you will get in. So, if I want to get into Lake Placid for 2009, I'd have to go to Lake Placid in 2008 just to stand in line and HOPEFULLY (there is no guarantee) get a spot. Are you kidding me? Who has the time and the funds to do that? Well, I guess some people do, but I just don't think it's fair. I believe Canada has worked this way for years. As much as I'd like to do Ironman Canada, I don't think I should have to take a trip up there the year before just so I can maybe get a spot.

I can complain about it until the cows come home, but there will still be those die-hard Ironman fanatics who will jump through whatever hoops necessary to get in their race of choice. Same goes for the astronomical rising cost of these races that far exceeds the rate of inflation. I get that - you can charge what the market will bear. If people do it and you're still able to sell out your races in record time, you must be doing something right.

I've now had the opportunity to participate in an iron-distance race that was NOT Ironman North America. I've gotta say, there is a big difference. I can only hope that these smaller, no-name iron-distance races grow in number, locations and participation. Most other sports, you can sign up the DAY OF the race, no problem. Try that with an Ironman! It would be great if we didn't have to commit an entire year out (and fight for that entry, nonetheless) and didn't have to be ON THE RACE SITE to get that entry. Oh yeah, if something happens to you in that year that you signed up, like an injury, the most you could get back would be $150 and that needs to be requested a full 6+ weeks out.

So I'm all in support of the up and coming Iron-distance events (you can't use the word Ironman, they have it trademarked, WTF?). Yes, it will take time and practice to get it right, but it will give the athletes more options. There are many of us who do this simply as a hobby - it's not our entire existence! - and we just shouldn't have to make a trip to a race just to sign up for the following year.

I can't complain about the IMNA races. They're well organized, plenty of volunteers, great venues and courses, blah, blah, blah...but there has to be a better way to have registration.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Time For A Little Rest and Relaxation

As I type this, I'm thinking to myself how far away IMFL really seems. It's difficult for me to believe this race was just over a week ago. See, this is how the sport manipulates you. I remember feeling so much pain during the last 10K of that run. If I think back to try and remember details, I remember telling everyone in the days following IMFL that my legs had never hurt so bad before. I remember being asked by an 80 year old woman on the plane during my return trip if I needed help getting off the plane. She said I didn't look so good. I can remember an extreme amount of chafing...chafing that turned into scabs a few days after the race. I remember feeling like I wanted to sleep a lot.

But all of that seems like an eternity ago. For the last few weeks as I prepared for IMFL, I remember thinking I couldn't wait for it to be over so I could take some much needed time off. And here we are, just 10 days later and I'm trying to think of what I can do next. All that work that lasted for months and months doesn't seem so bad (now that it's over).

The Saint and I have been sick ever since we came back from FL. It has been over 5 years since I had a cold, but this one struck hard. The last several days, I haven't even been able to talk. I started to believe I had strep throat and I was very close to heading into one of those walk-in care centers to get some antibiotics or something. Finally today, it's starting to turn around for me and for the first time since IMFL, I was able to get into the pool and swim for a while. I've been advised to do nothing strenuous, nothing long, just get in and swim while remaining very relaxed. It felt good. Actually, it felt great.

I know my body is still recovering from the strain of Ironman and know not to push it. But I have to be thankful of the cold because THAT is what has forced me to stick to the plan. It's tough to take the prescribed time off, but everyone will tell you it's all for the best in the long run. And maybe that has been part of my problem. In the last 4 years, I don't think I've EVER taken this much time off from training. It's part of that type A, addictive personality that just pushes me out the door for each workout, whether it's in my best interest or not.

In fact, I went to a 10K this weekend - just as a spectator - and it was just plain weird. I saw so many familiar faces and they were all in shock when I said I wasn't racing, I was just there to watch. It was UNHEARD OF! "What do you mean, you're NOT racing??!?!?" It was kinda funny. It did make me wish I was racing....well, sort of. Guess it's just not like me to stand on the sidelines and just cheer everyone on. But, it was great! I saw so many friends run by, it was fun to cheer them on and the time flew by! I tell ya, being a spectator can be hard work!

So, I'd like to say I'm back to training, but it's not really training. I'm doing stuff, but nothing "structured." And as much as I'd like to hit a tough workout, I know that's just not the right thing to do. I also know that if I wait long enough, it will be time to hit the hard workouts again soon. And I thought I'd never say this, but I miss running. I can't wait to run again, even if it's really, really slow....

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ironman Florida Race Report

I could go in to all the details and events leading up to the race, but I'm quite sure that would make this post entirely too long. Suffice it to say that everything leading up to the race went well. The training sessions went smoothly, registration was easy, I ate, drank and slept well, and I was relatively calm leading up to the big day.

I set the alarm for 4am, though I was up before then. I got out of bed and quietly went to the kitchen in the condo to start eating. As usual, I'm never hungry when I immediately wake up, so forcing down the necessary calories wasn't easy. Ironman NA is different from most races in that you MUST check in your bike, T1 and T2 things the day before. It does make it easier to pack up on race morning because most of your stuff is already where it needs to be. All I had to bring was my 2 Special Needs bags (these are bags that you can put whatever you want or think you might need half way through the bike and run sections of the course). I put some things in each, not really expecting to use anything except the long-sleeved shirt for the run. Once the sun goes down, it can get pretty chilly.

The walk down to the transition area was quick. We were able to drop off the Special Needs bags on the way down to transition. Then it was just a matter of putting all our nutrition on the bikes, adding last-minute items to the transition bags, pumping up the tires on the bikes, get body marked, then we were off to the beach! Even though we left the condo around 5:10am, time passed very quickly and before I knew it, we would be starting in just 15 minutes.

I stood with BC while we listened to the National Anthem and we moved closer to the water. I thanked him for his support, wished him good luck and I had to walk away. I'm not sure why, but my eyes welled up with tears then and I wondered why I was about to do this again. My plan was to start very, very wide. I just did not want to be in the mix of the washing machine of arms, elbows, legs and bodies of all those other swimmers. I walked down the beach, away from the buoys and the groups of swimmers seemed endless. But I had been thinking about this plan ever since I did my last Ironman swim 16 months ago, I would not put myself in the center of this mess. I got to a place where there were about 8-10 swimmers on my right. We needed to swim out (and considerably left) to get to the buoys. I didn't care that I would be swimming a bit longer, the energy and frustration I save would be well worth it in my eyes. I also decided the people I lined up with were much less aggressive and serious about this race. We were cracking jokes up until 30 seconds before the start.

The cannon went off and I did a couple of dolphin dives to get started. Those are so exhausting! I swam about 100 yards and started smiling. I was not hit at all. I made the right decision. This was awesome! I started veering left to try and catch a little draft. But I didn't want to get too close in there. I found what I thought to be a woman who was about my speed. I backed off and swam a little bit out, toward the right, to get on her feet. Aaaaahhhhh. Nice. She swam crooked every now and then, but when I tried to break away from her, I noticed I wasn't gaining ground. She sighted enough that she never went off course very far. We only had 2 turns before we had to get out to start the second loop, and I followed her through both turns very easily. It was a bit strange....I know I'm toward the front of the pack, but where IS everyone?? Oh well, who cares, I'm swimming effortlessly and breathing as normal as I would just sitting in front of the television.

I got out of the water and looked at the clock...then realized I needed to take off 10 minutes (because the clock showed the professionals' time and they started 10 minutes before us). I was happy to see 29 minutes and some change. This was great! (In the pic above, I'm the one running past the lady with the blonde hair holding a cup of water). I hopped back in, but unfortunately lost the woman I was drafting off of. I saw tons of people swimming INSIDE the buoys and wondered what they were doing. If you swim a course counter clockwise, the buoys should be on your left side. I kept on my way and found another set of feet to draft off of. I was bummed when I thought about the fact that the swim was nearing the end...I was having fun! We made the first of the 2 turns on the second loop and there was only one other swimmer actually going around the right side of the furthest buoy. Unbelievable. I think a few fast swimmers cut the course and majority of the pack followed suit. It made my swim really easy, I felt like there were only about 6 of us out there.

I got out of the water and saw 1:00 on the clock. Sweet...right as expected..maybe even a couple minutes faster! The wetsuit strippers I went to struggled a bit to get my wetsuit off. I grabbed the wetsuit and started running toward the showers they had set up for us to rinse the salt water off a little. To my surprise, I ran into BC headed toward the showers!! It was a nice surprise and I was glad to see he had a very strong swim also. Unfortunately, no one was there to hand me my transition bag, so I went to get it myself. Once inside the transition tent, I was a little out of breath, but calm as I quickly changed into biking clothes. I felt quick as I ran out of the tent only to find that no one was there to hand me my bike. I ran over to my rack to get my own bike and headed out toward the bike course. One of the greatest things about being a strong female swimmer is that I was in the transition tent with just a couple of women and there weren't even many men heading out on the course yet. I got to the Mount Line, got on the bike and pedaled away.

Immediately, I thought something wasn't right. My back wheel, with the disc, didn't sound right. It didn't feel right. Is this all in my head? At that moment, I was riding over some brick paver, so I figured it would sound normal as soon as I got on some smooth pavement. Unfortunately, no...I got on the blacktop and something still wasn't right. I looked down at my back tire and it was flat. NO!!!!! I pulled over and stopped my watch. I didn't want to know how much time this was going to cost me because I knew it would make me push harder to make up the time...NOT a smart thing to do. I ran back a few steps, pulling the bike, to lean it up against a trailer that was lined up on the side of the road. There was a nice older woman there who said, "I know I'm not supposed to help you, but is there anything I can do?" Oddly enough, I smiled and said, if you could just hold my bike for a second, that would be great! I think she was excited about getting the chance to help an athlete in distress. I asked some young boy to go to transition and ask them to send support. For a brief moment, I considered calling it a day. This is not supposed to happen!

I took some deep breaths and tried to calm down. I moved the chain to the smallest gears and took the wheel off. I then took the spare off the back of my seat where it was taped on. I unwrapped the razor blade BC had luckily given to me just yesterday. I then cringed as I sliced the tire off the wheel. This was a tire that only had a couple hundred miles on it at most, but I couldn't risk taking the time to pump it up only to realize that there was a hole in it. I ripped the tire off, unwrapped the spare and I think I surprised myself when I was able to get the tire on pretty quickly. One of the spectators asked, "Have you done this before?" I said, "Ironman, yes...change a tubular!" I tried using my CO2, but for some reason, I couldn't get it to engage. The bikers were flying by me out of transition and it was stressful. I yanked off the hand pump I always keep on the bike and tried pumping it up that way. It was taking air, but I knew I couldn't get enough pressure in there with this little pump. I kept looking for the support crew, but no one was coming. Just then, the boy I sent to get help came back to me and said if I wanted help, I had to go back to transition. WHAT??!?!? Crap. Well, I thought...I could just ride on, tire not completely full, or I could take the extra couple of minutes to go back into transition to make sure the tire was on right and get the right amount of air in it. Had this been a shorter race, I might've made a different decision, but I chose to run back into transition.

It was a nightmare. All these bikers were coming out and I was running all the way back in. I was almost run over several times by people who mounted their bikes and were still looking down at their feet as they rode off...they wouldn't even look up until I yelled to them. It was not only embarrassing, it was frustrating. Any lead I had built up on that fabulous swim was now gone....and then some. As I was about to run back into transition I was stopped by a volunteer. She told me I couldn't go back in. I told her I needed a pump and I was directed to come back into transition! COME ON, WOMAN, I'M TRYING TO RACE HERE!!! She asked if I had a timing chip on. Of course!!!! Then she said, well, then you can't go back over the timing mat. Are you kidding me? She then became distracted, so I headed into transition and tried to cross over a part past where the mat had ended. At this point, I don't care if my transition time is all messed up, the extra time is either going to be tacked on to my transition or my bike split. I dodged tons of athletes all in a hurry to get out on the bike course. I saw some men standing under a tent and I asked them for a pump. They pointed across one of the aisles and I saw about 6 bike technicians standing there with a bunch of pumps. I called to them, but then one of the men I was standing by chastized me and said I need to go over there if I want to use a pump. I was like, "Dude, it's much easier to carry a pump across the aisle with all these athletes going by than it is for me to wheel my bike across the aisle!" He was pretty mean about it and told me I needed to wait for it to be clear. Uh huh, I'd be standing there for another hour if I waited for that! And just like Frogger, I maneuvered my way across the streaming flow of athletes and shoved my back wheel towards the technicians. The technicians were awesome. One tried to calm me down while the other immediately pumped my tire. I asked if it would hold, due to the fact the glue on the spare was kinda old. One guy says to me, "Sure, just don't go fast." HUH??? Another one tells me to take it easy on the turns, but it should hold no problem.

I struggle to turn the bike around in the small space and try not to block other athletes. I now run out with this huge crowd of bikers. It was a zoo. I would later find out that no less than 700 athletes passed me during the time it took me to take care of this flat. Depressing. I got back to the Mount Line, got on the bike and started riding. NOW it feels right! Whew! I took more deep breaths and congratulated myself for not freaking out. Alright, now focus. Just stick to the plan and try to forget about how much time you just lost.

I settled in to my rhythym and tried to enjoy the ride. It was not a hard pace, in fact, many times, I purposely made myself ride slower. This would be a long day. Even with all the lost time with the flat, bikers whizzed by me. I tried not to think about it, just trying to ride my own ride. But it's hard. Especially when you're not working so hard and you know you can keep up with/go faster than whoever is passing you at the moment. STICK TO THE PLAN! I drank regularly and my nutrition was spot on. I took water at all but one aid station and grabbed a couple of bananas when I could. I passed by the special needs bags and decided I didn't need anything. There was no one there to hand me my bag anyway. The miles went by - 60, 70, 80...and I waited for that, "OMIGOD, is it over yet?" feeling. More miles 90, 100...hey, I still feel pretty good! Packs of bikers would go by, drafting. I did see some penalties given. I thought about drafting because it seemed like so many people were doing it, but that would make me ride the pace of the group, not my own pace. And I was really excited to see what I could do on my own. No matter how fast my bike split is, I could never place in a race like this, so I just wanted to stick to my plan and see how I could do. I was quite confident it would be better than last time!!

The wind had picked up in the later miles of the race. As people continued to pass me, I couldn't help but think that this wouldn't be happening had I not had that stupid flat!! ENOUGH! I had to stop thinking negatively about it. I was, though, still pretty cautious around the turns. I kept thinking my poorly glued spare was going to roll right off the rim. Fortunately, there weren't a whole lot of turns on this course and no real downhill to worry about! I got off the bike feeling very good, and the spare held up the entire ride!

I was lucky to have someone take my bike when I rode in, but once again, had to find my own transition bag. I ran over to the tent, slowly, as I fumbled with my Garmin to change it to run mode. I got into the transition tent and did a full wardrobe change. The volunteer helping me was kinda rude, barking at me and I wished she would go away. Just stop moving my stuff, I can do it! But she's only trying to help, so I just dealt with it. I was bummed there was no water in the tent, but I expected there would be some right outside the tent before we got on the run course. I was yelled at to turn my number to the front as I left transition, and I carried my visor as I started running.

Right out of the transition, there was the Saint, yelling to me, said he saw the flat, but that I still managed to put up a pretty good bike split. The way I calculated it, I lost about 15-20 minutes on that fiasco, but I couldn't be sure. Again, I tried not to think about it...can't change it now, anyway. What's done is done. I was running at a pretty good pace and felt great. A deer darted across the course while I was in Andrews Park. Little guy looked all confused with all these runners crowding his territory! I tried to remember to focus on nutrition and to take regular walk breaks. I got through the first 10 miles pretty easily, but then I started to slow down. A woman on the side of the road called out..."MJ...Is that MJ?? HEY - it's Jen Harrison!" And I smiled and said hi back. It was really cool that she was out there cheering people on and even cooler that she recognized me! It gave me a quick boost and I tried to keep on running. By the time I got to the half way point, the Saint was there again, standing outside our condo with the spouses of KK, JQ and sometimes BC.

He said I looked good, but I wasn't feeling good. My quads were starting to ache, no doubt due to the lack of running. Interestingly enough, I didn't feel any shin pain whatsoever.

I continued on my run/walk plan, chose to pass by the special needs bag and hoped I wouldn't freeze on the second loop of the run. I was in a good place mentally, I just hoped my quads wouldn't get worse. Not sure who did it, but someone typed in a message at the motivation checkpoint...THANK YOU to whoever put that message in there. It lifted my spirits as the sun set and I was handed a glow necklace. And though I felt like I was slowing, my pace stayed amazingly consistent until about mile 22. My legs felt heavy and the sound of my feet shuffling on the pavement irritated me. I just didn't have the strength to pick them up high enough to not make that noise any more. I counted down the miles and kept thinking what 4 miles left of Waterfall Glen feels like...then 3 miles, then 2 miles. With 1 mile left to go, I vowed to run the whole mile in. The pain in my legs was worse than any pain I've had before, but not injury pain. This is what you get when you only train up to 12 miles, then attempt to go out and run 26. I can do it...just 1 mile.

I could hear the announcer calling finisher names and saying, "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" I didn't hear them announce my name at either of my other 2 Ironman races, so I hoped I'd be able to hear it today. Down the finishing chute, the specators are lined up on both sides, cheering athletes in. As sore and tired as I was, that rush of coming in...finishing an Ironman race...feels great! There were a couple of guys close in front of me and I thought about slowing a little so I could have a good finish photo, but then I decided I just wanted it to be over. I'm not slowing down for a picture that I'm probably not going to purchase anyway. And the volunteers at the finish could barely get the finishing ribbon back across the finish fast enough as I ran in right behind another guy. I lifted my arms and tried to smile. As I crossed, I finally heard, "MJ, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"