Thursday, December 17, 2009
Tired of riding alone in the basement on your trainer? Spin classes just not working for you?
Come join TRI SMART COACHING for Indoor Cycling classes this winter!
Each participant will need to bring a bike and trainer and fresh legs. Classes are designed on the principle of periodization and are created for triathletes and cyclists of all abilities. Attending regular classes will leave the athlete prepared to get out on the roads come spring!
Sign up HERE!
Not sure what to expect from an indoor trainer workout? Click HERE for a video on one of our latest classes! Participants of an indoor cycling class report that the time seems to fly by - so come on out and give it a try! Heart rate monitors are recommended, but not required. Team Tri Smart members receive discounted pricing!
Classes will run from December 20th through March 28th. NO CLASSES will be held on the following dates: 12/24, 12/31, 1/7, 1/10, 1/31, 3/21.
Sundays - arrive at 7:45am for set up - ride from 8:00am - 9:30am
Thursdays - arrive at 6:15pm for set up - ride from 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Full package (Pay for 20 sessions, get 3 free) - $309
Half-package (Pay for 10 sessions, get 1 free) - $154.50
Individual Session - $15.00
TEAM TRI SMART MEMBERS COST:
Full package (Pay for 20 sessions, get 3 free) - $206
Half-package (Pay for 10 sessions, get 1 free) - $103
Click HERE to register!
Saturday, November 14, 2009
It was chilly out. Many of the athletes were bundled up in warm-up pants, sweatshirts and some had hats on. I kept my shoes and socks on for as long as I possibly could because that sand was very cold!
The sun shining felt good as I hoped I wouldn't freeze when I got out of the water and onto the bike. I went to line up in what is now my "usual" spot at Ironman races and took a few deep breaths. I had seen a huge jellyfish prior in the week and I tried to block that out of my head and focus on the task at hand! I don't think I was quite prepared as the cannon went off and we all started running into the water.
It felt like we had to run a long time to get to water deep enough to swim in. I don't remember this from 2 years ago, but it could have been the same. I wanted to make sure I didn't get tired from trying to run through knee-deep water. The frustrating part was that the water got deep enough to start swimming, but then there was a sand bar where everyone started to get up and walk again - this was just about 30-50 yards into the water.
Once we got going, the water was very comfortable. Making the first turn, however, I noticed myself being pulled up by what felt like huge waves. We were getting rocked all over the place and I wondered how people that get seasick would handle this. I had someone draft off me the entire first loop - I just couldn't shake him or her - they continually tapped my feet every 6-8 strokes. I thought about stopping and letting that person take the lead for a while! The entire last stretch, the waves hit from the right forcing me to breath to the left the entire way. Coming out of the water at the end of the first loop, we encountered that same sandbar, deep again, then shallow - I felt like I was walking entirely too much, but it was exhausting to try and dolphin dive that whole thing! The second loop was a little easier because it had broken up a bit. However, the chop seemed to be a little bit worse. It made me wonder how windy the bike was going to be.
Out of the water, I ran through the make-shift shower and into transition. The volunteers seemed to be a bit discombobulated as they scrambled to find my bag - I yelled my number just a few times before running over and grabbing my bag myself. A quick change, I wasn't as shaky as I normally am out of the water, and I went to get my bike. Got on over to the bike exit and started riding. I was pretty surprised that there were no "packs" on this first stretch out along the ocean. Everyone complains of drafting on this course, but I was pretty much riding alone on this section, with a guy passing me here or there. It was VERY hard to contain myself - this is a very easy course to overextend early so I fought with myself to hold myself back in these early miles.
It was about an hour into the ride when I realized I WAS NOT COLD! I think the air temp was 54 when we started the race. I thought for sure I was in for some chills until I dried off and it started to warm up. I didn't even think to bring arm warmers with me, but it seems I didn't need them anyway. The ride went very well. Sure, there were a few packs of riders that came by - probably about 40-50 miles in. I also saw a huge pack of drafters when there was this little out-and-back section. Sometimes I think you just get caught up in that, sometimes I think it's done blatantly. Whatever, I'm only focusing on me. There were a lot of guys that would pass me, slow down, I'd pass, they'd go by again, etc. I just focused on my steady effort and wished I could just get away from them...they always fall back...eventually.
I enjoyed this ride. I had such a bad ride in Kona that I was a bit nervous about how this ride would go for me, but I felt great throughout. There was a section we must've had a tailwind because I was flying with minimal effort. It felt like it lasted a long time, but I was mentally preparing for the headwind we were about to face on the way back into town. Over the bridge (the only somewhat-significant hill on the course) and then a left turn. And there it was, the headwind. I didn't stress, just put my head down, tucked in and rode within my watts. Wow, the pace slowed drastically! On this section, too, I jockeyed with one guy back and forth - very frustrating. He just wouldn't go away. By now I was very uncomfortable on the seat and it was painful to stay aero, but the effort was much greater if I tried to sit up.
I rode on in, happy to be off the bike and again, confusion with the volunteers and getting bags. I ran over to get my own bag, which was a bit troublesome because there were people and bags all over the place, and into the change area. I took my time and headed out for the run. Unfortunately, almost immediately, my hamstring started to bother me. This is the same hamstring that took me out of running for about 8 months. It started acting up during Louisville and I've been playing a dangerous game ever since. It was now I realized I had a decision to make. I could push through and really try to hammer this run and possibly knock myself out for the next 6-8 months - or I could ease up, limit my damage and still put together a decent race. I argued with myself the first few miles trying to decide what to do. What would I tell my athletes? I would tell them to back off - the injury isn't worth it. And though it was tough, I did it. I started to walk.
I kept on with a run/walk for the duration of the race. I started getting cold around mile 15 but I didn't bring anything warm to put on. The sun was starting to go down and the conditions for running were ideal. I kept on with my nutrition and tried to figure out how long it was going to take me to finish. It was dark before I got to mile 20. I decided then that I was going to pick it up a little. I was ready for this race to be over. Then I ran after mile 22, skipping the last several aid stations.
All in all, it was a good race. Yes, the run was slow, but I'm OK with that. It was an end to a very good season for me. I had even considered NOT doing this race simply because I was tired and my head was no longer in the game. I don't recommend 3 Ironman events in 10 weeks. I don't think it's good for you body and I know it's not good for the head! It wasn't planned that way, it's just how it happened. It will likely never happen again, but if it does - I'll handle it better next time.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Because I had just less than 6 weeks to prepare for this event, and knowing what other things I have on my plate in the months ahead, I had no intentions of "killing" it during this race. I walked into the World Championship race with nothing more than a feeling of honor for being able to qualify and the confidence that I was ready to complete the distance. This took an enormous amount of pressure off myself - after all, I wanted to ENJOY this experience!
I didn't leave myself much time before the race to acclimate to the time change or weather - something that would prove a mistake later on. The roughly 50 degree temperature change from Chicago to Kona takes more than just a couple days to adjust to. One of the first things I did here was the "underwear run" that SO MANY people said I must do. Glad I did it, but boy was I hot. We were barely running (more like a fast walk) and sweat was just dripping from me. I was also a bit star-struck. There were pro triathletes running all over the place! Most were very cordial and friendly! The most disappointing experience was Chrissie Wellington - she seems so sweet and nice on TV. In person, not so much. Guess the true character comes out when the cameras are off.
For this race, I did something a little different than normal - I actually BOUGHT a couple of things at the "Official Ironman Store." Just a couple of things that said "Ironman World Championship" on them. Who knows if I'll ever make it back here - better get some things while I can. Went for a little swim-bike-run warm up and I realized how much I love swimming in the ocean. Many athletes complain of the salt water, but it really doesn't bother me. Sure, it gets in your mouth once in a while, but it's not revolting or anything. I could see so much! And the water was WARM! My last open water swim was in Louisville, where you couldn't see your hand right in front of your face. This was the complete opposite. I saw so many beautiful fish swimming around underneath me. Swam with this turtle for a little bit - very fun! Though I knew I wouldn't be seeing this on race day due to the thrashing about of 1800 other athletes.
The warm up bike ride was nice - hot, but the pavement has just been re-done and there are no bumps, potholes, rocks, cracks - NOTHING but smooth asphalt. What a fantastic change from what I'm used to riding! The air was thick, but as you ride, the wind cools you giving a false sense of comfort. I stashed the bike and started a short run. Now I could feel just how hot it was as was the heat coming up from the pavement. I needed to constantly remind myself to drink - I may have even gone into the race a little dehydrated because it was nearly impossible to keep up with my thirst.
Athlete check in was simple, as usual. Not much different than other races in terms of process. Friendly volunteers, but many of them were a little lost. One guy gave me 2 pink tickets. I asked what they were for. He said, "I don't know." WTF? I later found out they were to allow your family member(s) to come in the finish area - not to get on the course at the finish line, but to lounge around where the food and post-race photos were being taken.
I put a few of these comments on Facebook already, but in case you're not on Facebook, here's what I thought was pretty cool:
1. Athlete wristband was color coded by age group. Guess that's how they
handled the whole compression sock covering up the age group problem.
2. Hard, plastic number for your bike instead of a sticker (very cool!)
3. Normally, they give you a sheet of stickers to put on the various bags (T1, T2,
special needs, morning dry clothes, etc.). These stickers were already
affixed to the bags. Guess the talented athletes do not have time to do this
for themselves! ;)
Rest of it was pretty much the same. Day before the race, I went for another swim, then pretty much laid low. I was staying about a 15 minute drive from the start - which was great because Ironman athletes - especially these here in Kona - are a little uptight. I remained quite calm - I put no expectations on myself other than to try and remember everything I could about the experience.
Slept pretty good that night - race morning, I couldn't really take in the amount of calories I normally do. Transition opened at 4:45am. I think I got there around 5:15am. You must go get body marked before being allowed in transition - they stamped the numbers on your arms - fun! Tension was high, though. You could see the looks in the athlete's eyes - anxiety, nervousness, fear, excitement - all balled up into one. I got to my bike - oh yeah, you HAVE TO leave your helmet with your bike - cannot put it in your T1 bag. I think this is because there is not enough space with the way they have the bags hanging. But I didn't like it because I hate putting anything on my bike that could fall off. All you could see was aerohelmets - I think I might have seen 1 or 2 regular helmets. I put my nutrition on the bike, pumped up the tires, checked and re-checked the gears and brakes and then wanted to do a walk-through. However, you need an "escort" and it proved to be a PITA, so I just left transition. Guess I'll just follow everyone else when I get there.
Went to find a quiet place to hang out before the start - and did. It was a bit confusing how to get around there - every time you wanted to get from point A to point B, there was something blocking the most direct path. We were directed, redirected, routed and rerouted every time we went somewhere. I had no idea how long it was going to take me to get to the swim start, so I decided to head over early. The Navy Seals guys jumped out of a plane, the pros started and then there was the national anthem - no idea why they don't do this before the pros start.
I got to the water and immediately moved to the left. As strong of a swimmer as I am, with the best of the best here, I knew I'd get clobbered. I wanted to have the most peaceful swim possible to start the day. I went left. We treaded water for at least 15 minutes - many of the age groupers inching ahead of the Gatorade bottle start line. They kept yelling at them to back up, but the aggressive overachievers refused. It was frustrating. I met a friendly woman who qualified in Arizona last year - her attitude was awesome and she seemed just as happy as I was to be here. I looked back at the crowd that had lined the shoreline - amazing. I had tears in my eyes as I remembered how hard I worked to get here and how truly special it is to be able to compete in this event. Here was my pay off.
The gun went off and we started swimming! One of the most gentle Ironman starts I've ever experienced! It was great - for about 200 yards. Then the boats kept pushing us to the right - they wouldn't let me go as wide as I wanted, so I was forced to swim with the pack. It got violent. It was a very wise decision to safety pin my chip strap - even with that, I still felt it being ripped off my ankle. I was hit from both sides over and over and over again. I swam with my head out of the water to avoid being kicked in the faced. I tried to move left - blocked. I tried to move right - blocked. At one point I just stopped swimming and stuck my elbows out as far as I could to the left and the right just to create my own space. I wondered if I was going to drown. I gasped for breath and tried not to fight back. I was being pushed under by the arm strokes of other swimmers on both sides of me. I tried not to do the same thing to the other swimmers. My watch was just about pulled off my wrist (I didn't notice until the run how damaged it got). This went on for what seemed like forever and I despised that the most favorite part of my race was turning into a fight for survival.
We made the first turn and I went very, very wide. Aaahhhhh....peace. I was away from the other swimmers, so I caught my breath and found my rhythym. The water was the most amazing blue - there was not a single swimmer now on my left and I was happy again. Then I started to feel some chafing under my left arm. It really started to sting because of the salt water. I wondered how bad it was getting and I wanted to stop moving my arm so the stinging would stop. I knew I just had to suck it up - it was going to hurt until I got out of the water. I wasn't even half-way yet.
After the next turn, other swimmers started getting closer to me. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who had enough of the "fun" of getting beat up by the pack. There was this guy who was swimming all crooked - as soon as I'd pass him, he'd speed up and pass me back - only to go all crooked again and I'd pass him again. It wouldn't have bothered me except that he was swimming right in my path each time and I'd have to jockey around him. I had people CONSTANTLY hitting my feet and, try as I might, I couldn't keep from getting agitated. I kept thinking to myself "GET OFF!" and then give a couple of aggressive kicks. But the toe tapping would continue....guess I'm an easy target to draft from because I don't kick much, but people, STOP HITTING ME! I hate people touching me! GRRR!
I was near the swim finish and those stairs they have in the water are tricky - everyone seemed to be tripping up them, including myself. They had hoses hanging with fresh water running through them and I stopped just long enough to spray my face and rinse off the armpit where the chafing was - it felt so good when the stinging stopped. Here's what sucked - I was running to my bag and was being PUSHED left and right by the men. No "excuse me" or "sorry", these guys were purposely pushing me forward, left, right, whatever. I think they should put in a new rule - no TOUCHING anyone running through transition. I yelled at one guy to stop pushing me - I followed it up with, "Not like you're going to win, anyway." I got a nice finger in response - that made me laugh.
No help from volunteers in transition, but it went smoothly. Got to my bike and see that my helmet had been repositioned. Yep, someone obviously knocked it off my bike and put it back on - the very reason I never put my helmet ON my bike in races! Well, guess I was glad someone put it back. Transition seemed long - it wasn't really long, but they forced you to go the longest way possible each time you went in and out - I suppose to make it fair - but it seemed goofy. Got out on the course and - UH OH - I forgot sunscreen. Usually, they have people outside the changing tents yelling it - and ready to apply! Not here - I hoped this wasn't going to be a problem, I couldn't worry about it now.
It wasn't 5 minutes before I saw a group of 5 guys blatantly drafting off one another. Are you kidding me? This is the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP race - why the heck are you DRAFTING?? And they continued to draft for as long as I could see them ride off. I was so disappointed - there was a lot more of this in the miles and hours to come. I did see lots of officials and lots of people getting penalties, but still...draft for about 20-30 miles and get a 4 min penalty? You still have an advantage. Maybe they need to make the penalties a little more stiff. I had a lot of guys pass me and cut over just too close - why do they do that? None of the women ever seem to cut over so recklessly, but it's like the men feel like they have something to prove. It's a big road, you can wait until your back wheel passes my front wheel before you cut over, tough guy (or DB).
Bike started out fine, but it was hillier than I expected. Not like Louisville hills - but these long stretches of gradual uphill. I'd be pushing out reasonable effort and would look down just to see 8mph - FOREVER. There was a cool section of black lava rock that had all these smaller white rocks spelling out names or words of encouragement. Biggest bummer was that the water on the course was not cold. And I couldn't seem to keep myself hydrated. I was drinking and drinking, but remained very, very thirsty. I saw my shorts and compression socks COVERED with salt. Not just a few salt stains - white could have been the new color of my shorts and compression socks - not kidding. I was taking Endurolytes, but I guess not enough of them. This was the first time I'd used Endurolytes all year. Just never got hot enough this summer!
As the bike went on, it got windy. Brutal wind. No matter which way you turned, it just seemed to hinder my progress. The cross-wind was tough - I had a tough time controlling the bike in a few sections. I wondered how the tiny girls don't get blown right off their bikes. I was uncomfortable on my seat. I wondered if it had slipped again because I could not find the right position. I felt like I was up and out of the seat way too much, but I was just miserable in the aero position. As the miles ticked by, I got more and more discouraged. My shoulders were now feeling the pain of the sun, my female parts did not want to be on the seat any more and my pace was slowing drastically. I tried to enjoy the scenery, but I gotta tell ya, not much to look at. I was out there so much longer than planned, I ran out of nutrition and Endurolytes. It's one of the loneliest races I've ever done. No spectators - just aid stations. Had this not been Kona, I might've quit. It was not fun.
Happiness was getting off the bike. I now took my time in transition - very slowly, methodically taking the time to get comfortable, cool down (a volunteer put a cool towel on my back - my shoulders were in heaven!), and slapped on the sunscreen. Unfortunately, it was a bit late for that. I started running and immediately was too hot. My heartrate shot up, I felt winded even though I wasn't running fast and then I started feeling a little dizzy. I stopped to walk - I had to calm down. Sweat was pouring off my head and face - I walked to the first aid station where I got a sponge to cool off - and I was elated that the sponge was doused with COOL water! It was a tremendous relief. I took in more calories than usual - I had run out on the bike a while ago, I knew I was down on energy. I continued to walk for about another quarter of a mile and then felt OK to run/shuffle. I could feel the heat coming up off the street. This first section of the run had a few spectators - people in front of their condos, cheering on friends - LOTS and LOTS of people riding bikes next to their athlete friends, cheering them on. A few more miles and I started feeling better. I ate an orange and it was like the best orange I ever had!! I now just wanted to finish and conserve. At this point, I decided to conserve. I didn't want to come out of this race too beat up to train for the next one, so I did a little run/walk that I had been thinking about doing ever since I signed up for this race. The sponges were key in keeping me cooled off.
The course lead you back through the town - with all the spectators - then back on, um, I think it's the Queen K - a very long, lonely, hot stretch of road. It seemed to go on FOREVER. I was doing a little more running now, but not fast. It was cooling off a little and I would get goosebumps when the wind would gust. Why does my body have such a small window of comfortability?? Did I mention the course was lonely? Not only is there really not much to look at, but there are NO SPECTATORS anywhere! Just aid stations. I was moving so slowly, I felt like I was going to be one of the last people to finish. Oh, I knew I'd make the time cut-off, but I had so many cyclists pass me - and now the runners were doing the same thing. I was passing no one.
I got to the Energy Lab as the sun was setting. I turned into it and the view was amazing. Absolutely gorgeous. No one told me how pretty this was - then again, most people were done with this section WAY BEFORE the sun started going down! Later, I was told it was 104 degrees in the Energy Lab. I was almost to mile 18 and I saw the special needs section. WHAT?? OK, not a problem for me since I didn't have a special needs bag, but mile 18?? Why wouldn't they put this at mile 13 where it belongs? I'd be so bummed if I had to wait until mile 18 for my special needs stuff!
Inspiration Station was a joke. Just a couple girls giggling and talking to themselves, music playing was less than inspirational. I'm trying to remember the best Inspiration Station I ever passed - think it was Coeur d'Alene...the guy there was just cheering and yelling and playing some real upbeat music. Now I compared all Inspiration Stations to that and, unfortunately, they are all falling short! Guess I didn't realize just how good that guy was at the time. Just after that, there were the...uh...fire eater guys? They were twirling their fire sticks and then blowing huge flames from their mouths. Quite a sight, but again - if I had been faster, I'd never have seen this - so good and bad that I was able to see it.
Now the sun has set and I'm on the way back in - about 6 more miles to go. I decide to run the rest of the way. It's getting cooler now and I'm comfortable, but found a new problem. I can't see! It got SO DARK on that street - I could see little glow necklaces, but nothing else. There were still a few athletes coming the other way (cool, I'm NOT going to be last!), but I didn't see them until we almost ran into each other. It was ridiculously dark! Did I mention it was lonely? Quiet. Very quiet. At many points, I could only hear myself breathing and the shuffle of my feet on the pavement. I had a hard time reading the mile markers. I could see they were there, but I no longer could read what numbers were on them - so I had to guess. These things were just a couple feet away from me and I could not read them. Like I said, SCARY dark!
Finally, oh but finally, I got back into town and they had streetlights. There were now a few spectators - I think I was near mile 25. I saw Sally and she cheered for me, but I couldn't even muster up a smile. I so wanted this to be over. I had to concentrate hard on not tripping over my own two feet. The last mile seemed to go on and on - turn left, then right, then curve around...ok, now I knew where I was in relation to the finish. There were more spectators here and there were chalk messages on the street - though it was too dark to actually read any of them. Then I could hear the announcer...now I knew I was close. OK, don't trip down the finish chute! People held out their hands for some hi-5s and I weakly slapped their hands as I ran by. I tried to smile as I ran down the finish, but I was wiped. I just want to be done. Then I heard my name being called and was able to throw up my arms and smile as I crossed the finish line. Totally beat up, but I made it. I just completed the Ironman World Championship 2009!
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
The next day, a group of us headed down for a little swim-bike-run race warm up. I slipped on my new skinsuit and jumped in the water. Much warmer than I expected! I quickly jumped on BC's toes - and despite an expert drafter, kept hitting him because the water was so dark that even though his feet were just inches in front of me, I could not see them. This would be a critical thing to know during the swim portion of the event. Once out of the water, we did a quick run and hopped on our bikes for a very short ride. The roads in Louisville do not have a shoulder and the motorists do not seem very enthused with sharing the roads with cyclists. We were buzzed several times, including by a semi. Enough riding.
The day before the race, more spectator friends arrived but I didn't see much of them. I tried to keep to myself and be focused for the day. I felt amazingly calm and prepared for this weekend's event. Went down to drop off my bike and transition bags only to be forced to have an "escort" take me to my place on the bike rack. It was very distracting as I wanted to find the routes through the transition I would take the next day and my escort just kept chatting away. Did not like the fact that they would not let me in there to just do my thing by myself so I could focus.
All local restaurants were PACKED forcing us out of town for a dinner that ended up being a little later than planned. Back to the room, I laid out everything for the morning and went to sleep. Surprisingly, I DID sleep! Woke up at 4am, time to chow, despite not being hungry. Met BC down in the lobby and walked over to transition. Ran into more of the south side crew and we shared some laughs as we finished the walk to transition. Once inside, pumped up the bike tires, put my fuel on the bike, a quick stop for BC to drop off special needs bags and we were walking to the swim start.
Body marking was smooth and quick as they had plenty of volunteers lined up for duty. Quick stop at the porta potty and we went to find our spot in the long line of athletes lined up to get in the water. HOLY COW - this line kept going and going and going. Here we were, more than an hour before the race was to start, but all these people made it a point to get in line early for the swim. I refused to sacrifice sleep to get in line early and now I was questioning my decision. The line seemed like it went on forever. I don't think there were more than 100 athletes behind us in line - this meant 2900-ish athletes were getting in the water before me. This could be trouble. But it was too late to worry about it and there was no way I was cutting in line (even though I think it could've easily been accomplished).
We sat on the cold concrete sidewalk for about 40 minutes before the pros started and the line moved a bit. It was kind of like a marathon start, where everyone runs a few steps, then abruptly stops, then people run again, etc. It was about 7:36 when I finally crossed the mat and jumped in the water. Sighting was difficult with the angle of the sun, but I felt like I had to look a LOT because there were a lot of people in front of me and I also knew that I could easily get kicked in the face because you couldn't see anything in the water until you were right on top of it. We came to the turn at the end of the island and people were standing. That's right, STANDING. They were walking through this portion of the swim, kicking up muck from the bottom. The water turned really cold, then really warm and we rounded the turn back into the main part of the river. I went wide to avoid the traffic but found myself WAY too wide. I spent what seemed like a lot of time trying to get back closer to the shoreline. The swim felt long and when I got out of the water and hit my watch, I about panicked. This was about 9 minutes longer than any other Ironman I've ever done. What the heck happened here? I am like CLOCKWORK when it comes to the swim! Could the course be long? Strong current? Were everyone's times slow? I didn't have time to think about it. I just hoped it didn't mean I was going to have an "off" day.
I ran to transition, picked up my transition bag (volunteers were there, but not really helping anyone by handing them bags as I've experienced in the past), and ran into the tent. There were many other athletes in there, again, something I'm not used to - no volunteer help again, so I methodically put the items on in the order I pulled them out of the bag. One quick look around to make sure I left nothing behind. I then stuffed my skinsuit, cap and goggles in my bag, placed it in the pile with the others and went out to find my bike. As I ran to the mount line, I was already worried about how cold I was going to be on the bike, but I didn't even bring arm warmers, so I just needed to suck it up. Got to the line, watched athletes on both sides of me struggle to get on their bikes with shoes clipped in (WHY do athletes do this when they've not practiced it??!??), jumped on my bike and headed out on the roads of Louisville.
The right side of the road is a little rough the first few miles. The road was congested with other cyclists, but I knew once we hit some hills, this would break up. We rode through some very pretty tree-covered streets before making a left turn onto a busier street. Soon I got to the part of the course I had ridden in my training. I was constantly reminding myself to slow down, but I was feeling great. We got to the out and back (the "finger") and I prepared myself for the challenge ahead. This section of the course is pretty tough and dangerous. The hills are decent and the declines get you moving with some speed. And, as usual, there are always the guys that like to jockey with you. They'd fly by me up a hill only to have me re-pass them on the downhill or flat section. I like to count how many times we go back and forth before they fall back and stay back. It helps pass the time. This section was shady and I was pretty cold. I knew, though, once out of this section, I'd have a good amount of sun warming me up!
Smooth and relaxed I rode, keeping high cadence, focusing on taking in my nutrition at the intervals I set for myself. First pass through LaGrange, where we get the majority of the spectators, I quickly tried to scour both sides of the street to see if I could spot any familiar faces. Disappointed, I rode right through the town seeing no one I knew. The sharp left on Ballard School Road brings on some nice challenges. All the athletes got quiet and I take the opportunity while spinning up hill to get out of the aero position (not out of the saddle) and stretch out a bit.
I pass by the familiar gas station on the corner (the one that is especially nice to cyclists and even offers us free ice!) and I know I'm nearing the end of the first loop. Temperature is perfect, though now I start to notice the wind. I'm so directionally challenged, I have no idea if this will make it harder or easier for the next loop. Second pass through LaGrange, I manage to see the saint and Schabel waving to me. I smile and give them the thumbs up so they know I'm feeling good.
I was excited to get back on to the busy street that means I'm on my way back into Louisville. I am now extremely uncomfortable on my bike seat and though my legs are feeling strong, I find myself standing and coasting a lot to give myself a little relief. I was told the way back in was a slight downhill - I like slight downhill (who doesn't?), so I took advantage of this and focused on keeping steady power to the pedals. I was conserving a bit for the run because it's always been a challenge for me to hold it together in Iron distance races. Feeling pretty good, but really want to get off this bike now.
Another quick stop in transition, this time a volunteer handed me my bag and another ran into transition with me. She took my helmet and tried to help me, but there really wasn't much she could help with besides taking my helmet and cycling shoes. I packed all my nutrition in my back pocket, grabbed my visor, took a quick look around and headed out on to the run course. Immediately, something wasn't right with my right foot. It hurt every step. I think my feet got a little too cold on the bike and it went numb for a while. The feeling was coming back, but not in a good way. I wondered if I was going to be able to run. As this was happening, my legs felt heavy - heavy like they did in Arizona. When I did Ironman Arizona, the legs felt heavy from the first step of that marathon and that lasted for the whole 26.2. Thankfully, this was not the case at Louisville. After about a mile, I started to get a rhythym and it felt good. I was getting passed left and right, but tried to stay focused and slowed myself down. This time, I saw him and Ramsey yelling to me as I was running. I turned a couple corners and heard them yelling down the street. It was echoing down the street lined with tall buildings and I had to laugh at the sight of them running, yelling after me. It gave me a good little boost as I headed out on the run course.
As soon as mile 7, I started gaining on some of those runners that flew by me in the first couple of miles. I simply held my pace. I jockeyed with a woman in an age group younger than me, but she really didn't want to chat. I had a hard time trying to remember when I was supposed to take my gels. I took water at every aid station, whether I was taking a gel or not. Sometimes, they'd give me warm water and I'd have to chase down a cup of ice. Some aid stations, they seemed to just be holding out Gatorade and the people handing out water were too busy pouring more water into cups, so I'd have to run to the table to get the water. I knew I was dehydrated and it was a challenge to try and get in enough water without filling my stomach with too much fluid.
I looked for more spectator friends because I KNEW they were out there, but didn't see anyone. It was good to see BC heading out on the run but he was too far back. I was hoping he would catch me so I'd have some company. I saw Shoemaker a little after that and we exchanged a couple words. Saw some interesting things on the first loop of the run: spectator sitting in his front yard with his parrot in a cage on his lap, a dude running with a blue furry chicken on his head and then - a guy that looked like he was running in a skinsuit. Yes, the kind I had on during the swim. He was running in it. Not sure if my eyes were deceiving me, but it definitely caught my attention. What was his deal?
Came on in to finish the first loop and lots of spectators lined the course on both sides of the block we ran completely around. Just by luck, he was able to get this quick shot of me heading back out on loop two, still feeling pretty good. At this point, it was about Mile 14 and I decided I was running too fast. I knew I could not keep this pace for the rest of the run so I purposely slowed down. I saw Peck who said he felt tight, but he smiled and was determined to get this thing done. Came up on Pat who was clipping along and yelling after me, "You'll never make it!!" Laughing was using up my breath!! As I ran, I watched as I unintentionally slowed my pace even more. Now I'm starting to hurt and I'm wondering why I am killing myself out here. I forced myself to pick up the pace, though it wasn't by much.
I started counting down the miles: 8 more to go, 7 more to go, now just a 10K. I forced myself to keep running despite my legs screaming at me to stop with just 5 miles to go. My quads were aching and I was worried as I felt the onset of a cramp coming on. A guy running near me sounded like he had a metronome, but no, it was some pill or something he was carrying in a plastic container that was bouncing around with every step making a REALLY LOUD clicking noise! It was annoying, but I couldn't run fast enough to get away from him! The last time I passed by "Inspiration Station" it seemed the inspiration girls needed a little inspiring themselves. They had lost a lot of the energy and enthusiasm they had the first couple times I passed through there. Now just less than 4 miles to go - do I need to take another gel? Just do it, you have it with you and it certainly can't hurt! Besides, then you don't have to carry it any more!
Saw Mel looking strong on her run and BC giving me some much needed words of encouragement. I started coming in back to where all the spectators were gathered and I could now hear the crowd. I was checking my watch and blinking because I was sure I was seeing things. Could I really be finishing this thing in under 11 hours?? I heard Bill yell to me - I heard Anna yell to me - and then I made that turn where it was a straight few blocks into the finish. And there was Mel, yelling, cheering, running and trying to get my picture. I couldn't help but smile as I had looked for her and all my other spectator friends all day and had seen no one. It was go great to see her out there, cheering for us - and I was about to wrap the day up with a breakthrough performance. I was trying to remind myself to smile as I crossed the finish and once again, I heard it - pronounced CORRECTLY this time - "MJ SLIKAS, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Day 10: Pick up new uniforms
Day 9: Make sure to get enough sleep
Day 8: Last long-ish ride
Day 7: Purchase any last-minute race day nutritional products
Day 6: Re-read Participant Guide
Day 5: Let friends and family know race number (1771)
Day 4: Pack and re-pack all gear
Day 3: Drive to Louisville
Day 2: Swim/bike/run prep
Day 1: Wish all my friends good luck and mentally prepare for a great race
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Our wave took off, but we had to run quite a way out before we could begin actually swimming. The water was shallower than I remember and I worked hard at NOT tiring myself out trying to run out to some deeper water. Several other women ran out pretty far in front of me. Once the water was about mid-thigh level, I started to swim. It felt much easier than running! Surprisingly, I had plenty of room with about 3 swimmers on my left and 2 on my right. We clustered a little around the first buoy, but it was pretty tame and I was thankful for that. I felt smooth and strong but hit my hand a few times on the bottom of the lake. The swim was relatively shallow the entire time, but in a couple of sections, it was extremely shallow. About three quarters of the way into the swim, people began to stand up and they became little obstacles for me to swim around.
Around the last buoy, I began mentally preparing for that long, uphill beach run. It made my heart rate go up just thinking about it. Out of the water, I began running up the beach. The little containers of water to rinse your feet of sand were empty of water by this point, so I skipped them and just ran into transition. A quick look at my watch revealed yet another short swim - probably about 7-8 minutes short of my usual half ironman time. Trying to get the heart rate in check, I quickly stripped off the westuit and the booties (man, I love those booties!). Transition was a little slow, I felt a bit shaky, and though it was chilly by my standards, I opted to NOT put on the armwarmers I carefully laid out.
Out of transition, there is a decent climb. I passed a few riders right there simply because they were not in the right gear for this. Out onto the road, it was just like last year, very narrow street, difficult to pass. Some sketchy areas of road made it hard for cyclists to stay to the right, so they were riding in the middle of the street. I remember telling myself to be patient - the roads do open up if you just wait for it. Racine is also known for having new USAT officials on site, therefore the penalties are plentiful.
I have to say, I don't really remember the course from last year. I think it was mostly the same, but I can't really remember what happened last week, let alone last year. I was a little chilly but I was focused in on steady cadence and power output. I got agitated with a couple of guys who were zig zagging through other cyclists, passing on the right and across the yellow, but I figured the officials would catch this - besides, I didn't want to waste my energy with it.
The temperature was comfortable and there seemed to be some wind, but nothing too significant. I was happy that my hands and feet stayed warm enough, but I did notice I wasn't really sweating. I witnessed a 4 bike accident around one corner and it freaked me out a little. Two guys turned at the same time, one held his line, the other went wide and ran right into him. The two other cyclists that were following (probably too closely) then crashed trying to avoid the first two. Scraping of metal, yelling, a wheel flying across the street - it was scary, but I believe they were all OK. Did I mention the yelling?
And, of course, yes, I saw a few packs of cyclists go by. I don't know why they do this, but it happens. I didn't see a whole lot, but that might be because I was one of the later waves. Some riders seemed to be blatant, others just seemed to be caught up in it for a bit. I myself was caught up in a pack that came up on me and hung there, so I just sat up out of the bars, frustrated. But I really want to race my own race and besides, these guys seemed a bit squirrley for me!
I realized I wasn't drinking enough due to the cool weather and I missed one of the bottle hand offs. I skipped two aid stations completely on the bike because they seemed so crowded with other cyclists who, with one bottle in hand, seemed to be all over the road. I jockeyed with some girl who I assumed was in my age group for a while - I'd pass her on the straights, but as soon as we'd get to a hill or a turn, she'd fly right by, looking as smooth and comfortable as ever.
This was one of the most comfortable half iron rides I've done - in terms of a certain body part. I think this largely has to do with a new riding position I've been fitted in. The new position has also seemed to help me keep the power output coming for a longer period of time - so finally, after 7 years of racing, I think I found my position!
My power meter said the bike course was a little short and based on my time, I'd have to say that was true. I was now heading into T2 hoping I didn't just overextend on that ride!
My legs didn't seem to feel too bad and I seemed to sail right through T2 and on to the run. I heard BZ and her daughter cheering me on and I put on a big smile and thanked them for coming. I was struggling to catch my breath and I know there are 2 uphills there in the first mile. I had no idea what pace I was running as I missed the first mile mark - it must've been near the aid station and I was paying too much attention trying to get something to drink and missed the mark. But when I got to mile 2, I was surprised at my time and focused on keeping steady.
The thing about the Racine run is that it's 2 loops and you get to see all your friends on the out and back more than a couple times, if you're lucky. It can be a big boost to see someone you know, or you can be that person providing the boost to someone else who is struggling in the run. Most everyone I saw looked great out there. Must have been due to the weather - though I was a little cold when a strong wind would whip through. It obviously wasn't affecting my run negatively as I was putting forth a very strong run for me.
Just after the half way point, I started to feel it a bit. I thought, "Oh no, here we go - I pushed too hard for the first half of this run." And then I quickly tried not to think about how hard it was getting and tried to focus on what was going right. At this point, I could slow down my run and still turn in a strong performance, but I wanted to push. What could I really do if I leave it all out there?
And thanks to all my racer friends out on the course who cheered me on - I am sorry I had no breath to respond, but in my mind, I was cheering you back! It was a great day for the participants of Racine. Weather conditions were the best I think the race has seen in years and the finishing times showed it. My race went well, though, in my mind, I still think I'm tacking on about 8 minutes to make up for the short swim. ;)
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
If you ever want to feel like a professional triathlete, then sign up for the Hy-Vee triathlon. Who knew such a top notch event was being held right over in Des Moines, IA? From start to finish, this race was one of the best experiences an athlete can have.
Driving to Des Moines took about twice as long as expected. I just figured, "Hey, it's Iowa, how far could it be?" Big mistake. All athletes were forced to attend a mandatory race meeting being held at the top of each hour. Unfortunately, we arrived exactly at 5:07pm and had to wait around for the next meeting. We hung around the race expo (which was surprisingly small) to wait for 6pm to roll around.
The meeting was held in the gymnasium of a school, so we all sat in the bleachers. They showed us a short collection of photos from last year's race then went over some race information. None of it was particularly earthshattering and I didn't really think there needed to be a "mandatory" meeting for this. There were no special rules or anything out of the ordinary.
Picking up the packet went smoothly and quickly. By far, the best, most comprehensive, valuable swag I've ever gotten from a race! We not only got a cycling jersey, but a backpack to fit all the other cool little goodies we received. Not even sure you can see everything from this picture, but it was like Christmas!
Dropping off the bike the night before in the 6-10pm timeframe was chaos. It moved very, very slowly and I was getting hungry and impatient. The line of cars with athletes trying to drop off their bikes was at a standstill and this normally easy process ended up taking close to 90 minutes! We headed to a nice little Italian place for dinner where we saw many other athletes wearing the bright yellow wristbands. Service was poor but the food was excellent.
The morning of the race transition opened at 4am! Trying not to be psycho about the whole thing, my plan was to get there around 4:45am - transition was to close at 5:45am. Thankfully, the parking situation was much better than the night before and we were able to get a spot and get to transition in just about 15 minutes. A few quick run throughs to make sure I knew where my bike was racked among all the other, most expensive looking bikes I've ever seen, and then it was time to hit the porta potties a few times.
The water was a balmy 81 degrees. I lined up at the front of the wave and within minutes of the start, I was warm. I was happy there were no wetsuits today. Pretty aggressive group and I fought for position. I then decided it was much more comfortable to just fall behind a good draft I was getting. Each time I tried to pull around her, I got caught up in another swimmer from a previous wave. I just tucked in and enjoyed the draft. This ended up being a slow, but comfortable swim for me.
Going out from transition on to the bike course, you get to feel like a professional triathlete riding down the bike course with the banners waving on both sides with blue fencing lining the course on both sides. The one thing that was blatantly missing was the spectators - not very many for such a high profile event. The bike course was hilly. No major climbs, but lots of long rollers. I felt like I was crawling but I was trying to focus on watts vs. mph. The bike course was very well marked and they even coned off the driveways of the people who lived on the course! Each turn was properly staffed with volunteers and, for the most part, a very clean race. I saw little drafting, though there were several competitors who were not riding on the right as they should. The hills seemed to separate any would-be packs from forming.
The wind didn't seem an issue for the ride, but the hills made this a difficult course. The trickiest part is toward the end when they direct you on to a running path. Many sharp turns - left, then right, then left - on a very narrow path. I had another athlete pass me - around a turn - on the RIGHT HAND SIDE! People, please do not do this! I almost took both of us out. Besides the fact that this was a designated NO PASSING area. To top it off, the guy was only in a relay. How frustrating!
A quick transition and I headed out on the run. My legs were feeling a bit fatigued, but not wiped, so I pushed a bit. Here we go again with the hills. Someone forgot to tell me that Iowa is hilly!! I had a hard time keeping my heart rate in check going up the hills. It was quiet out on the course - no spectators and the athletes were working hard to get up the hills. I kept thinking, "Who is that person BREATHING SO HARD??" And then I realized, "Aw, shoot, that's me!" My legs were feeling heavy, but I pushed on.
Nearing the finish, the blue fence lining and flags greet you with open arms. And though you can't see it as a competitor, as you are nearing the finish, they have each athlete on a jumbotron for the would-be fans to get a better view! It is very similar to what they have at Ironman races. I ended up finishing the run with a little left in the tank.
I then met up with some fellow Mideast Team Elite peeps for a quick photo. Both of them had great races and I feel very lucky to know them.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
INTRODUCTION TO CYCLING
Whether you are new to cycling or triathlon, or if you’re an experienced athlete just looking to improve your skills and technique on the bike, please join us for a two-part workshop designed to help you be more knowledgeable and comfortable in your cycling endeavors!
This workshop will cover the following:
- Group Riding Etiquette
- Paceline riding
- Skills and Drills
Bring your bike, shoes, helmet and dress appropriately for the ride. Each workshop will include a short informational session followed by a ride for hands on practice of the material discussed.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
After struggling with the cold in Memphis last month, I decided that it would be worth the extra time in transition to throw on armwarmers, a buff to keep my head and ears covered and long-fingered gloves. I even considered a cycling jacket. Transition times aren't quite as important as in a Half Ironman and I wanted to be comfortable for that 56 mile ride. I also made sure to put my run shoes and nutrition in a plastic bag for they were surely to be soaked before I made it to the run.
Once in the water, I was pretty cold but I knew I'd warm up once we got going. This guy in the clown suit on the right in this photo is the race director. That way you knew who the "Clown in Charge" was for the day. I'd heard about this before, but it's one of those things you have to see it to believe it!
I scooted my way to the front. This race was a bit unique in that all half iron competitors started at once. It was a small enough field that this shouldn't be too crazy and the space was nice and wide. A few second countdown and we were off! Within 10 seconds, I something was hitting my face. "Weeds!" I thought. I had been warned from friends who did this race last year that it was very weedy. I shook my head and dipped it lower than usual a few times to get this weed off my face. It wouldn't go away. So on my next stroke, I took my left hand and grabbed the weed and yanked it away from my face. AAAAAGGGHHH!!! It was my goggle strap! Now I start hyperventilating and my goggles are around my neck. Those of you who wear Swedish goggles know you have one strap that loops twice behind your head. Apparently, one of my straps snapped. I know using just one strap won't keep the goggles on securely enough and I can't swim without them because of my contacts. I panic for a second because I'm gasping for air, trying to tread water and tie the goggles on and there are swimmers flying by me left and right.
I regain some composure, turn around to face the oncoming swimmers (pretty interesting sight) and do an egg beater kick while tying my goggles back together. I'm struggling for breath and think about quitting. Here I was screwing up the best part of my race! I thought about swimming over toward shore where at least I could stand up and do this and decide this would take too much time. After what felt like an eternity, I got the goggles secured and turned on to chase everyone. But by this time, my heart rate was through the roof and I could not get my breathing under control. I swam very slowly and methodically to get back under control. It took maybe 200 yards and then I had to swim just a bit harder than normal to get out of the pack of swimmers and try to make up for lost ground.
Out of the water, I was feeling a bit exhausted. That little goggle fiasco played with my mind and I thought my race would be a disaster. I got to my bike and it was already raining. I tried to quickly pull on my armwarmers (impossible), put on the buff and struggled to get the long-fingered gloves over my half-numb hand. Put the rest of my things on and ran out to the mount line - which was way past where you exit transition. It was a decent uphill, so I guess they didn't want people trying to get on their bikes on the uphill.
As soon as I was on the bike and moving at a decent clip, I wished I had opted for the cycling jersey. The rain coming down and the frigid temperature made me question why I was even doing this race. But I kept going, being overly cautious on the wet pavement. A few significant hills in the beginning helped keep me warm, but then I would shiver on the fast downhill. A couple of uncontrolled intersections with no volunteer to stop traffic caused me to get off my bike once to let a car go by. This was an out and back - at the aid station furthest from transition, I was handed a bottle of water. I filled my aerobottle and took a swig before tossing the bottle aside - well water! YUCK! Nothing I could do, I needed water. I tried pushing hard on the straight sections, but the pavement was slick so I slowed down considerably at each turn. I knew this was costing me time, but I just wanted to stay upright!
Disappointed with my bike split, I ran in transition, struggled again with those stupid gloves, ripped off the arm warmers and buff, grabbed my things and headed out to the run. There was no one in front of me and no one really pointing anyone in any direction. I just had to hope I was going the right way.
Almost immediately, the hills came flying at me. I was breathing hard and wondering where the aid station was. I felt like I was running forever, so I glanced behind me....was I even going in the right direction? Surely I should have passed mile 1 by now, right? I did have a runner behind me, but how do I know I wasn't leading this guy off course? Well, I just kept going and FINALLY I saw a mile marker - 2. Sweet! But where is the aid station? I needed to take in a gel. Get to an aid station, take in my gel and continue on. The hills were some of the toughest I've run, but my legs felt pretty good due to having taken it easy on the bike. Unfortunately, there was not one other mile marker on the entire run course. I don't run with my Garmin, so I have no idea what kind of pace I'm running. I just tried to keep the heart rate under control and slow down on the hills. Several out and back sections gave me an opportunity to see some of my friends out there on the run. I thoroughly enjoyed running on the paths through this state park, just wished I had mile markers.
On the way out of the last out and back section, several runners asked, "when is there water"? The aid stations were few and far between on the course. When I got off that path and back on to the road, I asked a volunteer, "How many miles left?" I wanted this over! I had 1.5 miles to go and it got really hilly again. There was one part, up hill, turn left, that felt so steep, I thought I could have walked it faster than run it. I focused on staying upright and finishing strong. Soon I recognized turning on to the street toward transition. A few spectators were there and I saw a few friends. They chose to take pictures on yet another long, slow uphill section so I look like I'm moving so slowly...and I was! That hill seemed to never end! When I got to the parking lot near the finish, no arrows, no volunteers pointing you where to go. I just hoped the guy I could see up in front of me was doing it right! We had to run all the way around the parking lot to get to the finish. I was able to finish the run strong, with still a little left in the tank. Not a strong performance for me, but feels good to have my first half iron distance done for the season.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
TRANSITIONS: The 4th Discipline
Whether you are new to triathlon or you’re an experienced athlete looking to gain some time on your competition, please join us for a hands-on demonstration designed to help you be efficient, smooth and fast during your transitions.
June 4, 2009
6801S. Main Street
Downers Grove, IL 60515
6:30pm - 8:00pm
Early Registration $20.00 before May 29th, 2009. Registration after May 29th is $25.00.
Goody Bags: Registrations before June 3rd include goody bags
Items you should bring to this event include:
- Bike shoes (if you use them)
- Race belt (if you own one)
- Running shoes
- Visor and/or hat for run
- Socks (if you plan to use them)
- Wetsuit (optional)
All participants must complete a participant waiver. Registrations will be accepted on day of the workshop (cash or check only).
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Friday, May 01, 2009
I started my Twitter account many months ago, but I'm still learning how to use it. I've started "following" (because that's what you do, people aren't your friends on Twitter, they're your followers) a few triathlon-related people and/or companies. I check in every few days to see what new posts are up and catch up on the latest triathlon talk.
One day, I saw a "Tweet" (that's a status update) that the Des Moines Register was giving away 10 free entries to the Hy-Vee Triathlon. You just had to be willing to blog about your training up to the race and submit an article explaining WHY you want to participate in the event. Considering as I already blog about my training and Hy-Vee is a top-notch event that is on my "races that must be done" list, I figured I'd give it a shot. Two weeks later, I received an email that I have been accepted on to the "Des Moines Register Triathlon Team" and qualify for a free entry to this year's race!
This link here will take you to last year's team. I'm not sure how soon the profiles and blogs for this year's team will be posted, but I'm guessing it will be within the next couple of weeks. The content on that blog will be dedicated solely to my training for that race. I'll add a link to it when it's active in case you'd like to follow that also.
Anyone want to go to Iowa in June??