IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ironman Arizona Race Report

Some of you asked for it - this is the long version....

I didn't need the alarm to wake up this morning. In true Type A fashion, I was awake just about every hour looking at the clock. I quietly got dressed and headed down to the hotel-sponsored breakfast. I wasn't the least bit hungry, but I know I need to pack in my food now for the long day ahead. I went to drop off breakfast for the Saint (whohad a late night the evening before) and tell him he needed to get up soon. I picked up my bags and pump and headed down for the hotel shuttle to the race start. There were 7 athletes on this shuttle and I was the only female. We had some nervous chatter as we rode to the race start in the dark.

It was cold out. I had forgotten to bring warm up pants so I threw on the only pair of jeans I brought to AZ. I didn't realize how cold it got at night there! I pumped up my tires, was asked about 9 times to borrow my pump, to which I quickly replied "someone's already got it next." It got really irritating. Sally and I had talked about pumping up her tires in the morning - and besides, I didn't have time to wait around for all these people to use my pump and return it to me! I put my bottle of Perpetuem on the bike and filled the aerobottle with water.

Next stop was the transition bags, which were very close together. I had some last-minute things to place in each of them. Back to my bike - I forgot to attach my power meter. On to a potty break - holy cow, the line was long! I ended up putting my wetsuit half way on while in line because at 6:40, I was still in line and the race started at 7:00!I wished good luck to all my Ironman friends and scooted out to try and get a good spot in the water.
The water temperature was a crisp 63 degrees and I was happy to have survived Racine (54 degrees) earlier this year because that made this 63 not so bad. I jumped in off the pier and quickly came up for air from the shock of the cold. Idon't care if you know how cold it is, it's always a shock when you first get in! I swam tarzan-style over towards the front and close to the water's edge. Despite being a strong swimmer, I get a little freaked out in the washing machine of arms and legs that is the Ironman swim. I asked a girl up front what she expected to swim and she replied ":58". I asked another guy and he said "1:30". Me and “:58” quickly told him he may want to reconsider his positioning.
We treaded water for close to 15 minutes. I don't know how, but I managed to spot the Saint along the sidelines where he snapped a quick picture. One of the coolest sights was when I turned around to look and saw both bridges lined with spectators. I defogged my goggles for the last time and the cannon sounded - AW CRAP!
Almost immediately I was clocked in the head. I fought for my position as best I could, but I also know when to let an adrenaline-rushed swimmer with arms-a-flailin' to go on past me. Those are always the guys that run out of gas about 600-800 yards in, anyway. I think I was caught up in traffic for about 7-10 minutes and then I was able to get clear water. I did hug the side and know I was adding yardage to my swim, but I prefer that to the alternative, which is to get beat up. One negative: no draft - no one was out there with me.
Unbelievable, I have to pee! At the turn around (which felt like an eternity), I decided to cut in and find some feet. Unfortunately, people are now losing steam so just when I thought I found a nice spot, it would be too slow and I'd start clipping the feet in front. I then found a nice guy swimming to the outside - I had to kick it up a notch to catch him, but once I did, the pace was good! Didn't last long, guy couldn't swim a straight line if you paid him. I ended up swimming alone for the remainder of the 2.4 miles. I tried to pee while swimming - can't do it.

Coming to the finish, they have aluminum stairs dropped in the water. You cannot see the bottom stair and if you try to grab the rail and pull yourself out, it's very likely you'll slam your shin on the bottom stair. This is why it always looks like everyone coming out of the water at IMAZ is crawling out - they are. The advice we were given was to grab the stairs with your hands and pull yourself up until your feet hit the bottom stair. Looks funny, but it was effective.

Got to the top of the stairs, checked the time, business as usual. Headed to the wetsuit strippers and the woman who helped me really was not good. I think I could've gotten the stupid wetsuit off faster myself! It was clear she hadn't done this before. Ah well. Wetsuit in hand, I started the long jaunt to my transition bag. Between the chilly water and the cold ground, my feet were completely numb before I picked up my bag. I ran right over to my bag, picked it up and headed into the changing tent. There were a few other women in there, but relatively quiet.

Should I pee? No, I'll get on the bike, maybe the urge will go away. The volunteer helping me dumped my bag - which I wasn't happy about. All my stuff came flying out of my bike jersey pockets. I bit my tongue remembering how one lady yelled at me when I volunteered - I know she wasonly trying to help. I crammed all my stuff back in the jersey, just the way I had it before. It was difficult to get my socks and shoes on. My feet were just so cold. Volunteer loses one of my bike gloves so I was scrambling to pick it up. Then she couldn't figure out how to put the race belt on me while I was snapping on my helmet. I just grabbed it and ran.
Not sure if it was planned this way or not, but I was simply directed to my bike. No volunteer handing it to me like has been done at previous races. The unfortunate part about this was that I was the furthest away on the rack that you could be - last bike on the row. I grab the bike and run out wondering if I'll ever feel my toes again. Get to the mount line, not very many people, and I easily get on and take off. I don't remember anything being cold at all - except my feet.
Out onto the course, I smile at the familiar streets and sights. I was fortunate enough to have ridden this course (or close to the exact course) twice this year. I knew when the turns were AND - I actually knew which WAY we were turning! Pretty exciting for this directionally-challenged triathlete!! I felt great. Holding my power exactly where I wanted it and it felt easy. My right contact now was bothering me. I kept blinking to see if I could get it to go back into place, but that wasn't happening.
For the first 10-15 miles, I did have to purposely slow myself down. My legs just wanted to go. I was uncomfortable now - but only because I really had to pee!! I make it to the Beeline Highway, which is a long, gradual uphill. It felt like the wind was coming straight at us, but looking at the bushes (or tumbleweeds or whatever it is they have there in the desert), they were not moving. I don't think there was ANY wind. Yet, I was riding on what looked to be flat, at my designated power, andsaw my miles per hour at 13. OUCH! "This is going to take me forever," I thought. Saw my first HUGE pack of drafters and wonder why people do that.
Now I really have to pee. I decided to hit the aid station at the turn around which was at the top of Beeline. I figure, do the work, use the bathroom, then haul it on the downhill back in to do the loop again. BONUS - going to the bathroom this early in the race is good - no waiting for a porta potty! While in the porta potty, I hear an athlete who just came out of another porta potty start swearing. Apparently, he broke his cleat. He’s screaming at the poor volunteer, who really has no idea what to do, nor is it his job, and I am happy I just don’t take myself that seriously.
Back on the bike, the ride back into town was SO MUCH FUN! I was flying down, in my biggest gear, having a hard time keeping the watts up. WOO HOO - I get to do this 2 more times! The spectators on the bike course were non-existent. About a mile before the turn around back into town, the people were lined up, cheering, ringing those beloved cow bells. I make the turn and I'm off on loop 2. Still can’t see out of my right eye. Gotta get that damn Lasik.

I was very comfortable temperature-wise and my legs felt great. On up the Beeline, I just told myself how great the return trip would be. It felt like it took me a long time on this second trip up the long, steady hill, but I just stuck to my plan. I was being passed by many men, sometimes riding way too close or cutting over before they should have - again, I wonder why people do that? I mean, it's a pretty big road! And with my right contact still not in the right place, it wasn't a good situation.

On to my third lap, I realize I drank my Perpetuem much too fast. I only have a couple of sips left and I have over 30 miles to go. For a split-second, I wonder if I just screwed up my race. I am no longer comfortable in the aero position. I had to get off the saddle and re-adjust every 10 minutes or so. One of my projects for next year is to find SOME WAY to remain comfortable for the duration of one of these rides! Now I'm at mile 90 or so and out of nowhere, both legs cramped up. OWWW!!! I quickly stood up on the pedals, stretching out the calves. This happened to me briefly, once, in Ironman Wisconsin. I think - OK, what does this mean? Salt. I whip out the Endurolytes Sally so graciously gave me in the minutes before the race started. Worked like a charm - thank you Sally!!
I pushed a little bit on the last 5-6 miles, just because I could. I now started to think about my run and wondered if the legs were going to hold up. Up to the dismount line, a nice volunteer grabbed my bike and I ran over to find my other transition bag. Again, I grabbed it myself (soooo glad I memorized where my bags were) and headed to the changing tent yet again. Full wardrobe change, including throwing on my really cool compression socks and I was off and running.

Almost immediately, my legs feel heavy. Uh oh. What did I do? Bike too aggressively? Not really, I stuck to the plan. Well, let's just go with a comfortable pace. About 1 mile in, my feet start burning. I think they were first NOW thawing out!! I take a minute to take off my sunglasses to rub my eye to get the contact back in place, but something is still off. I put the sunglasses back on and just kept blinking. The Saint was there at the second water station (close to our hotel) with my brother on the scooter cooler. It was a pick-me-up to see them both. I managed a thumbs-up, but I was already bumming with the lack of pep in my step.

The run is another 3 loop course and it was really, really difficult (mentally) to see the mile markers for all the loops on your first time around. So, you'd see mile 2...and then you'd see the mile 11 sign or something right after that and you wished you were on that second loop! It especially hit in when I saw “Mile 23” and I was on mile 6. Now I was getting passed left and right, by just about everyone. I knew I was slow, but I just kept moving. I thought about all the people who said they'd be watching online (damn you, Parello!) and it kept me going. Once again, this was a spectator-less course aside from the area near transition, which was also near the finish. Even "inspiration station" wasn't very inspiring. It was just one woman with a megaphone, yelling "Go runners" every minute or so. Very weak compared to what I’ve experienced in the past.

Heading around for lap 2, I now know what is in store for me. There are more hills than I realized. There were a couple sections of gravel – one with big, loose rocks. It was a very short section, but it was on a steep downhill and because I could only see with one eye, I slowed a lot for fear of tripping over a rock. On this second loop, the Saint and my brother were joined by Sally’s crew and they were all cheering me on. It was another little boost for me, but I knew I was slowing down. My face was covered with salt. I’d take a sponge every few aid stations to wipe off my face, but then I saw them recycling sponges. That ended that little ritual. There wasn’t much music along the course and I didn’t care for much of what I heard. I played my favorite iPod playlist over and over in my head to pass the time.

Third loop – right contact is beyond irritating, so I just ripped it out. I’m almost done, anyway. The sun is setting and I wondered if I should’ve put a long-sleeved shirt in a special needs bag for this (I didn’t even do special needs bags). The last pass I see my “fan club”, I smiled and said, “Only 8 more miles to go!” I felt better on the last loop than I did on the second loop. My legs are still heavy, but my pace is staying constant. With 10K left to go, I realize I could break 11:30 if I didn’t walk. I started skipping aid stations just to make sure I didn’t run out of time!

Somehow, I missed the mile 25 marker, but I knew I was close because I was getting near the group of spectators. There is one point on the course that has 2 signs. One said “Laps 1, 2 and 3” with an arrow. The other sign said “To Finish” with an arrow. I was DELIGHTED to be on the path “To Finish”!!! The fans are cheering and I am trying to pick up my pace. My legs hurt but I am so close now. A quick little detour through a parking lot, back out on the street and then one sharp left turn to see the finish line. There it is! I cannot help but smile. I am going to break the 11:30 mark! And for the very first time, I actually heard the announcer say my name and call me an IRONMAN.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ironman Arizona 2008

Is now in the books. I wrote a full race report on the way home, and looking over it this morning, it's much too long to post. I have been accused of putting in "every excrutiating detail", so I'm going to spend some time condensing my first draft and will get something up shortly.

THANKS SO MUCH TO EVERYONE FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT. I cannot believe how many people either wished me luck, followed me online, or congratulated me afterwards. I appreciate each and every one of your kind words.

Report will be up in the next day or two...stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Compression Tights

Yes, Peeps, you've heard me rave about the compression socks I invested in a couple of months ago. Well, now that the temperature has dropped below 32 degrees here in good ol' Chicago, I've moved on to compression tights.

These are the CW-X Insulator Stabilyx Tights. You've probably seen the advertisement...some guy has a piece of sidewalk with the mailbox attached and it says something about the speed of his run....or another one has a guy holding (on one arm, mind you) a pile of people he passed during his run because of these tights. Well, I can't say I've ripped out a piece of road or passed a ton of people wearing these tights, but what I can tell you is - WOW - do my legs feel energetic while wearing these tights! The key is to get the right size - they are compression tights, so you will be squeezing into these a bit - and then you need to make sure the diamond part in the stitching is over your kneecap. This gets the compression part over the right places in your leg.

These fantastic little tights have this "wind proof panel" covering your thighs so they will be warm in the chilliest conditions. (wish they'd put a little of that over the butt cheeks!!) They seem to support your legs exactly where you need it and they are just so comfortable, you'll want to lounge around your house in them (okay, maybe not).

They're a little pricey, but I've found that with technical apparel, you get what you pay for. I had to shell out just over $100 for them, but the comfort they'll bring me in the upcoming chilly months will far outweigh the cost.

I'm still not happy about it being so cold out here. It seems every year around this time, I wonder why the heck I live here. If I wasn't able to dress warmly enough to run comfortably outside, I'm thoroughly convinced I would no longer live in the midwest.

Keep warm!

Friday, November 07, 2008

AZ Training Trip

When I say this outloud, I almost can't believe it, but I went to Arizona last weekend just to train. Sounds like I belong on the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous or something, but the cost of the trip really wasn't all that much. When I planned the trip several months ago, I figured long bike rides were going to be brutal this time of year here in Chicago and I wasn't really that far off. The weather prediction for this weekend isn't making me look forward to my last long ride in preparation for this race. Sure, there's always the trainer, but....

Of course having someone to share the experience with makes it all that much better, so another fellow IMAZ competitor (SH) flew down to AZ for the weekend also. We arrived on Friday night and, trying to keep expenses to a minimum, we opted not to rent a car and decided to walk to dinner. This was Halloween night and I am now convinced that girls in college use Halloween to get away with dressing like hoochies. We also had some drunk college student talking to us as we walked past and actually burped as he was speaking. It was impossible not to laugh.

The two hour time difference screwed with us a little, but it allowed us to get a good night's sleep before the ride on Saturday. We headed down the street to get some bagels, bananas and peanut butter to fuel for the long ride. After clearing out the couple of ice machines the hotel had, our Camelbacks and water bottles were full and we were ready to go. It was already warm by Chicago standards - a balmy 68 degrees or so.

I'm not going to give a long, detailed description of the entire ride, but know these important parts:
  • The Beeline highway has a very deceiving incline
  • You get hot even in a dry heat
  • Wind and desert can make for a nasty combination

Though the ride was not brutal, it was tough. The drastic temperature change from the 32 of Chicago to the 97 of Tempe was hard to deal with...and I love the heat. At each stop, we filled up the water bottles and Camelbacks with ice, but our fluids never really seemed to stay cold. Biggest disappointment: I don't even have any tan lines after being out there all day.

Had my brother come and pick us up for some dinner. It was great to see him and AZ seems to be treating him well. Dinner was fabulous and we ate every bite. It was our first real meal of the day. Another early bed time.

Got a little confused because now the time had changed. But it doesn't change in AZ. So weird, I walked around the rest of the day not really being sure of what time it was. We ran 1 loop of the 2 loop run course (or something close to it). No real challenging hills, but definitely some ramps that will probably not be all that fun come race day. It was fun to see so many other people out there - on what was Nov. 2 - outside enjoying the day. There was an Autism walk this day and had an amazing turnout! We thought about snatching some water from some of the sponsors, but decided to head over and grab some recovery food at the Einstein's on the way back to the hotel.

Sunday night brought us right back home. It was not as cold back home as I expected. Of course, I was hoping for freezing, sleeting conditions here while I was away!! This time, my bike and box made it back safe and sound (huge sigh of relief!) and now my hardest training weekend for IMAZ is complete.