Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chelanman 70.3 - My "A" Race

Chelanman Half Ironman didn't start out as my "A" race this year. That was supposed to be Pacific Crest Olympic. But, I get excited about triathlon (and shoes), and I am easily talked into things that sound fun. So on a whim a few months ago, I filled out the online form and hit that brightly colored "submit" button. Bang! Suddenly the olympic distance didn't sound very daunting and I had an extra few hours of training tacked onto each week. I trained hard and earned every single one of those 70.3 miles!

The distances, with some perspective:
Swim = 1.2 miles. Think NW 23rd down Burnside to the Portland waterfront (except the swim is not downhill).
Bike = 56 miles with 4200 feet of climbing. The distance = Portland to Hood River; the climbing = Timberline Lodge to the summit of Mt. Hood.
Run = 13.1 miles. If you've been on the Clackamas River, this is equal to the drive between Carver and Estacada.

Now onto the race report...

If you've ever tried herding a dozen monkeys into one vehicle before sunrise, then you might have an idea of what it takes to get a van full of Headhunters to the race site early in the morning. We arrived with just enough time to set up transition, lube up body bits that might chaffe, and struggle into the wetsuit. I downed a GU as I walked over the swim start, kissed Ken goodbye, and stood in line on the shore waiting for the gun to go off.

Time = 38:51, pace = 2:02/100m

This was a mass start from the beach. That means that everyone doing the half ironman lines up in a big crowd on shore and then tries to dive into the water all at once and head towards the buoy line. I was somewhere in the middle of the pack starting off. It was a total washing machine. I was not taking full strokes with my arm because I often couldn't push my hand all the way to my waist without it getting yanked off. And instead of having a nice long glide, my leading arm was in front of my face, protecting my goggles and nose. This only lasted about 5 minutes until I was able to make my way towards the front of the pack. Only...I didn't realize that I was in the front of the pack...

We were lucky and had an underwater buoy line to follow for the entire swim out. But once we hit the first turn buoy it disappeared. I wasn't quite sure where to go from here since the sun was now directly in my eyes and I couldn't see another buoy anywhere. So I sighted a couple of other swimmers and followed them. But I just couldn't shake the feeling that I was cutting the course, so I kept stopping and treading water trying to make sense of where I should go. I finally spotted the next turn buoy and swam like mad to it. It turns out I was on-course the whole time and wasted some serious time by doubting myself. Oy.

As we got closer to the beach I was able to breathe on my right side and look at the spectators. I actually spotted Ken walking away from me (he wasn't expecting me to be finishing the swim yet), so I popped up and hollered at him. More time wasted, but at least I have pictures now! I kept swimming until my hand touched sand and then ran the rest of the way in.


I had a pretty sweet transition spot. It was at the exact opposite end of where I came in from the swim, but that meant that I didn't have to run very far with me bike. As I came out of the water, I had difficulty finding my wetsuit pull cord. When I did finally get the top half off, I sat down to pull it off my legs. I have NO idea why I did that. I never sit down in transition. Huh. Oh well, I had the 13th fastest transition time out of 101 athletes. I sometimes wonder what takes everyone else so long. Are they brushing their teeth? Combing their hair? What?

Time = 3:41:16, pace = 15.19 mph

Many times in the weeks leading up to the race I was asked "what are you most nervous for?" My answer - "the bike". People were always surprised since I have been making tremendous gains on my biking lately. I'm not a timid rider. I'm not a weak rider. I'm not an especially slow rider. Unless of course, there are...HILLS. And this course had it's fair share of them. I was convinced that I would be slow on the bike that there would be no way for me to make up the time on the run. Because, you see, I'm an even slower runner.

This course starts out with an out-and-back along Lake Chelan. Absolutely beautiful at 7:45 in the morning. There are some nice rolling hills -- nothing too difficult and just enough to get the legs and lungs warmed up. I enjoyed myself on this section, which lasted about 32 miles. As we approached town again, the course veered off south on Hwy 97 and directly into the first long climb. Up, up, up, up. And then...up, up, up. At the tippy-top there was an aid station and a porta-potty. I grabbed a water bottle as I rode by and thought for a split second about the porta-potty. However, Jon had to buy me 2 beers if I peed on the bike, so I kept going. Straight into a spectacular downhill! It was straight and steep and we had a view of the Columbia river on our left the entire time. I shifted the hardest gear I had and pedaled until I was spinning out. And then I peed. 2 beers for me!

The end of the descent led right into the next long uphill on Hwy 971. Twice as long as the last one. And considerably steeper. I think this was the hardest part of the course. It was beginning to get hot, there wern't many people to talk to, and my legs were building up some heavy doses of lactic acid. I gave myself a few pep talks and made myself keep turning my feet in circles. I would count to 10 and then repeat. I would pick a tree and when I made it to that one I would pick another tree. I looked at my watch compulsively to make sure I kept to my nutrition plan. I also committed the cardinal sin of looking at my speed on the bike computer. 4 mph??? Really, I could push my bike faster than that. DON'T YOU DARE!

Finally I made it to the top. Only to be met by a couple miles of false flats. But at least it was easier. And then...the final climb! I had been dreading this climb all week. It's all I could think about. I was certain that I would have to walk it. Or at least stand out of the saddle to make it up. But as I rode, I found myself further and further up the beast. Hey, this isn't so bad! After a little corner I could see the summit. Yay!!!! And then the descent. It was STEEP and FAST. And CURVY. I wasn't expecting the curvy part and thankfully I didn't skid out on that one.

As I turned back onto Hwy 97 I looked again at my bike computer. Holy schmatoly, I was going to finish the bike leg in under 4 hours!!!!! It was that exact moment that I knew I was going to finish the race. Before the cutoff time. I let out a huge WHOOP WHOOP and pedaled my ass off into town.


I took my feet out of my bike shoes and dismounted pretty well. As I ran my bike down the steep embankment into transition I could hear all of the Headhunters cheering me on. (They had all finished the Oly distance; Kev, Tom, and I were doing the Half.) What a treat to have them all inside transition talking to me. I didn't need any assistance, but it was cool to have them there asking if I needed anything. I took my fuel belt out of the cooler, threw my runners on, grabbed my visor, and was off. Not a bad transition time considering I just climbed for almost 4 hours and had a few extras (like the fuel belt) to deal with.

As a side note, I had decided to use the fuel belt because I wasn't sure if the aid stations would still be stocked that late into the day. However, I ended up not needing it because this race is TOP NOTCH.

Time = 2:39:00, pace = 12:08/mile

My legs felt surprisingly fresh coming off the bike. And I felt hydrated and strong. The first few miles ranged from 11:10 pace to 12:10 pace. Too fast for me to maintain. And then...I had to pee. There were no porta-potties and not really any trees to speak of. So my options were (1) hold it for the next 10 miles, (2) go in someone's driveway or yard, or (3) just let it go dude. Haha, if you could smell my shoes you would know exactly which option I chose... I totally hadn't thought through the whole "wet feet for 10 miles" part. Oh well, the blisters will heal.

The pace started to slow down a bit, and as it got hotter and my HR started spiking, I stopped at the aid stations and allowed myself to walk up hills. This slowed my pace to the 12:30-13:00 range. But I didn't care, because I KNEW that I was going to finish! Around mile 9 I started to fall apart a bit. My fuel reserves were running low and it was becoming difficult to not overheat too much. I was also approaching the max distance I had done in training, so my body hurt.

And then...with 2.5 miles to go the Headhunter van comes rolling by. Coach Denise hopped out and ran with me! I don't think that this is really "legal" but I was one of the last ones left on the course and no one cared. At mile 12, Nadine was waiting for us to help run me in. I have the most awesome friends! With 1 mile left to go we could see the park and I knew I was soooo close. Denise said "if you have anything left in the tank, now is the time to leave it on the course." So I picked it up. Big time. My last mile was 8:01! I have never run a mile that fast. Even a single mile. Wow!

Crossing the finish line was amazing and had I not been so anaerobic, I probably would have choked up a bit. After getting my chip removed and getting the medal, I beelined it straight for the lake and laid down in the water. So refreshing! All of the Headhunters followed me down there and we had a fun time congratulating each other. And the best part - kisses from Ken. :-)

After listening to awards -- I got second place by default -- we hung around to watch the last people roll through the finish line and cheer on one more member of our group.

Some Important Notes:
* Special thanks to Ken for supporting me through all of this. And my Mom who was subjected to daily phone calls talking nothing about triathlon. Haha, just wait until Ironman!
* Also many thanks to my many training partners who helped me along the way and kept me motivated.
* My Auntie Anne and Uncle Gordy came all the way out from Puyallup to cheer me on. That was awesome!
* Congrats to all of the Headhunters! Everyone did so great. Nadine and Brian finished their first olympic distance tri. Denise got FIRST in her age group. Bob got second!

Monday, July 21, 2008


The weekend was too long and fun to try and condense into one race report, so I'll start with the days leading up to the race...

After one last chiro appointment, Ken and I drove over the club to load up the trailer/van and head up to Lake Chelan with the Headhunter group. I was horribly naseous. To the extent that people were wondering if I even wanted to attempt the race. Thankfully it passed quickly. I think it was a combination of carsickness and too much coffee on an empty stomach. And, you know, maybe some nerves.

What do you get when you put 7 overhyrdated nervous athletes into one vehicle for a long road trip? Lots of stops! One of the best was at Java Jigglers. Hee hee.

After an entertaining handful of hours in the van, we arrived at our camp for the first night. It was a 1,000 Trails campground just outside of Leavenworth, WA. Thank you, Mikey's Dad for us being able to stay there!!! For those who can afford a membership to 1,000 Trails, it's totally worth it. Nice place. Upon arrival, we all noticed the plentiful "Bear Warning" signs posted all over the property. We didn't really pay much attention to them since almost all campgrounds have similar signage. After unloading the van and setting up camp, Brian cooked us up some yummy meat and we stuffed our faces before crawling into bed. I didn't realize how disturbed Nadine was by the bear signs until it was time to go to sleep and she began asking questions like "do we have any weapons in here?" I convinced her that the warnings were simply to persuade campers to keep their areas nice and tidy. That seemed to help.

Thump, thump, whack. I woke up to some strange noises outside. I assumed that people from the trailer were up and about. Then Brian whispered to me, "there's a bear on the picnic table." He also pointed to Nadine and gave me the universal "shhhh" signal. Eventually the bear plodded off in search of messier camps. So we did what most people would NOT do...we followed it with a camera. The next hour or so was spent snapping photos and trying to startle it enough to get a better shot. Some funny stuff ensued, but to avoid embarassment of certain people, we'll just leave it at that.

After breakfast (if you haven't noticed, this group is all about the food!) we mosied on over to the campground pool. It turned out to be a pretty nice facility and we all hopped in for a few laps and some horsing around. We decided to do a sprint race from one end to the other...and Ken won! By a body length! Here we are -- mostly seasoned triathletes. Numerous ironman. Swim coach. Ex-swim team people. And the dude who doesn't work out and hasn't swam in like 10 years schools us? That was dumb of him though, because Denise is giving us swim lessons as a wedding gift and now he has to get up at 4:30 am two days a week. Haha!

We packed up camp and spent a few hours in the super cute town of Leavenworth. I could have done without all of the walking prior to race day, but it really was a scenic place worth stopping at. And I even scored a cute leather handbag at a little shop in town.

We arrived in Chelan (after driving on some of the steep bike course) and went through packet pick-up and bike check-in. I had a few moments of "holy crap, I'm really going to do this." And then I sort of fell into my mental hell-hole for the next 12 hours. You know, that dark place where you don't want to talk. Or eat. Or sleep. Or sit still. Or do anything. It's a tortuous place, really. But I suppose all part of the fun.
You would have to be there to understand this. But it's K-Dawg in his true form:As we started getting ready to call it a night, we couldn't help but notice the strong winds that had picked up. They didn't show any sign of relenting soon, so we crawled into bed hoping we would wake up to calmer conditions. About an hour passed and we were all still laying there awake listening to the tent get pushed around by Mother Nature. Another hour passed and yes, we were still awake. Then another few hours passed and I think I might have slept for 10 or 15 minutes. A few laughs and sighs were exchanged as it became apparant we were in for a long night.
Saturday - RACE DAY!!!
Camp began to stir around 4:30am. Not many words were exchanged as people changed into tri clothes, filled water bottles, and tried to choke down breakfast. I knew I needed the calories, but it was so hard to swallow anything. I just concentrated on keeping the food down and hydrating as much as possible.

Around 5:50am we filed silently into the van and drove over to the race, for what was about to become a truly amazing day.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I'm a Half-Ironman!

Yay! I did it! I finished my first half ironman. Within the cutoff time. Feeling strong. Yippee!!!
I'll post a full race report in my usual long-winded fashion as soon as I get a chance. The final results:
Overall time - 7:01:46.9 (71 out of 79 finishers, 71 out of 101 if you count DNF and DNS)
Swim - 00:38:51 (31st)
T1 - 01:26 (13th)
Bike - 3:41:16 (69th)
T2 - 01:12 (26th)
Run - 02:39:00 (72nd)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

We're Getting Married

Ken and I are engaged!!! We've made the obligatory phone calls to our families, so I can now post about it. Yay, we are so excited! I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have fallen in love with my best friend. For those of you who don't know me, Ken and I were best friends for over a year before we started dating. The romantic side of our relationship was a total surprise for both of us, but obviously it worked out.

It has become more apparant to me over the past year that he is the best partner I could ever hope for. Throughout my quest to lose weight and become a healthier person, he has stood by me 100%. I went from couch potato, to gym rat, to aspiring Ironman. I get up almost every morning before 5am and he has not once complained or asked me to stay in bed. In fact, he sometimes gets up to make me coffee while I'm packing my gym bag. When I come home late from a workout, he has dinner ready. And then does the dishes. When I konk out on the couch at 7pm, he wakes me up (usually feeds me a second dinner) and then puts me to bed. I know my path to triathlons has been mainly a selfish one, and I only hope that I can find a way to return all of his amazing support.

Me with Jerry Garcia after Ken proposed:

The Ring! Isn't it gorgeous?!?! Ken had it custom made from an artist in Portland. The carvings on the side of the stone are inspired from a Maori design, similar to our matching pendants.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Less Than Four Days...

...until my first half ironman.

It's been an emotional couple of weeks. Last week, I has hit with a dose of reality as THE race date drew nearer. As in, the race that I have been working towards all year. THE big one. Unexpectedly, some serious self-doubt set in. I'm typically a pretty positive person, but I found myself asking: am I ready?, did I do enough?, why didn't I train harder?, what happens if I don't finish in the cutoff time??? And for some reason I was telling myself: no you're not ready, no you didn't do enough, shouldn't have skipped those couple of long runs, you're not gonna finish in 8 hours. And I began voicing those thoughts to Ken and a few training partners. They all gave me quizzical looks like I had totally fallen off my rocker.

Well, I've been plagued with injuries since I started training harder. And I'm a slow runner. Really slow. I did what any engineer would do -- entered my best case, worst case, and expected case scenarios into a spreadsheet to calculate the range of my predicted finishing time. The numbers didn't seem to add up and every case put me over 8 hours, or dangerously close to it. Not much room for error.

And then...I went out for a good run towards the end of last week. I was able to shut my mind off and just run. My legs felt great and my body felt free to do its thing. I had my fatest run ever. And then...I got out on my last hard ride this past weekend. I climbed steadily up the hills. Slowly, but steady. Surprise! My legs didn't burn up! And then...I had my first full relaxing rest day in a really long time. My mind started to unwind and my attitude changed. It became unimportant what happens on Saturday. The big thing is that I'M TRYING IT. And dammit, I'm going to finish the dang course. It might not be in 8 hours, but I'll finish it.

Lake Stevens 70.3 - Relay

I've been a bit behind on updating my blog. Training for a half ironman has kept me a tad bit busy...

A couple of weekends ago I headed up to Lake Stevens, WA with a few members of my gym for a 70.3 relay. I did the swim, Kevin (also known as K-Dawg, Pappy, K-Pa) biked, and Julie ran. We knew going into it that we had a kick ass team. Also, Jeff, Natalie, and Jon accompanied us for support. Super fun weekend!

Oh, I should mention that our team name was "Five Boobs". This is important as you read the details of the weekend. The story behind the name -- I have 2 of them, Julie has 2 of them, Kev IS one. Haha.

Kev & I headed up in one vehicle, while Natalie and Jeff rode up in another. Along the way we got lost in one of the towns outside of Seattle and stopped at a fireworks stand for directions. I of course had to BUY some fireworks. Since we were there, you know. Roman candles! And some poppits for the sole purpose of annoying everyone through out the weekend.

After getting checked into the hotel (and throwing poppits at unsuspecting people), we sat through the mandatory...and boring...athlete briefing. We also picked up packets and browsed the horrendously horrendous expo. Geesh, for an Ironman branded event, this is the worst expo I've ever seen. Actually, as far as any event goes, it was the worst.

On the way to find a place for dinner, we stumbled across a quaint little coffee stand down by the river. T - N - A LATTES!!! On the reader board below the sign, they clarified that T-N-A actually stood for "tasteful - n - appropriate". Um, yeah.

After dinner and a short play time in the pool/jacuzzi, we went off to bed.

After some tasteful-n-appropriate coffee, we drove over the race site. Jeff, Natalie, and I rode the entire 56 mile course as a training day while K-Dawg got his bike checked in and tried to recover from the cold that was knocking him down. When Jon & Julie rolled into town we gathered in the lobby for some beers (yes, before race day) and then headed to Seattle to Pike Brewpub for dinner. This is when reasonable behavior took a nose dive for the evening... I'll give the condensed version.

Several pints at dinner. Rude waitress, so pint glasses went in our bags and purses. Souveniers, you know. Shots at the bar with the cool bartender chic. Left with a 6-pack and growler. Jon, Julie, K-Dawg, and I in same vehicle. Poppits at unsuspecting strangers on sidewalks. A little rearranging of the readerboard at T-N-A. Possibly some T-N-A of our own. Roman candles out the hotel window. Security banging on our door. Sweet talking our way out of trouble & didn't get kicked out of the hotel. Went to bed way to late and listened to "someone" snore for several hours before it was time to get up. Not the ideal night before a race, but eh, we were relaying it!
I have no idea how this happened...

Kev and I drove over ahead of everyone since I had to get ready first. We got our chip, milled about transition, and made our way to the swim start. I suited up and got in the procession on the dock. I was in the last wave, so there was a lot of waiting around. Finally it was my turn to jump off the dock and get ready for the count down. I inadvertantly placed myself right next to a blind guy and his guide. They were tethered together with medical tubing so that the blind man would stay on course. Very cool. Until I found myself tangled up in the tubing about 100 meters later. I felt horrible, but was told that they probably train for that sort of thing. But still. 38 minutes later (dead on 2 min pace like always) I shot out of the water and ran through transition to our spot. Um, where's Kevin? Okay, there is his bike...where's Kevin? Where in the boondoggle is Kevin??? I stood there for about 20 seconds, then took of my timing chip, ready to slap it on his ankle whenever he decided to meander over. Then I spotted him COMING OUT OF THE PORTA POTTY!!!! Got him on his way fairly quickly though, and we didn't lose too much time.

Kev came in from the bike right on schedule. He did fantastic! Passed the timing chip off to Julie, and she took off for the 13.1 mile run. We were able to hang out on the course at a location where we could see her several times. Lots of cheering! She crossed the finish line in a smokin' time. Our final time was just over 5 hours (we started about 40 minutes after the first wave). Good enough for 2nd in the mixed division. 3rd overall out of about 30 teams. Woohoo!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

To the "Anonymous" A-Hole...

...who felt the need to post a rude comment in my blog:
Congratulations on riding faster than me. You are now a member of an elite crowd of 10 billion. You still ride like a dill-hole.