Friday, December 2, 2011

Race Report: 2011 Ironman Arizona

Grab a pot of coffee or a bottle of wine, kick your feet up, and settle on in.  It's a long one, folks...

The executive summary:
I swam, biked, and ran for a really long time.  Then I crossed an awesome finish line.
Swim - 1:25:54 (2:15/100m)
T1 - 0:05:56
Bike - 6:44:14 (16.62 mph)
T2 - 0:04:11
Run - 6:35:03 (15:04/mi)
Total = 14:55:18

The race numbers have finally faded from my arms and legs, the post-race bloat is getting under control (although it has been replaced by holiday bloat), and the twinges and aches from race day have worked themselves out.  The tan lines and chafe marks might take a little longer to disappear.  But the awesome memories of another successful Ironman are clear as day.  I don't think you ever forget the emotions of anticipation, fear, excitement, pain, bliss, despair, gratitude, and elation that overwhelm you during training and during race week.

I'm going to start my race report by giving an enormous THANK YOU to my family, friends, and coworkers.  I would not have even made it to the start line without my support system.  And none of this would mean anything without all of you.

Race week began with a furious all-night packing extravaganza and a very early morning arrival to the airport.  The 6am flight seemed like a good idea at the time.  It always does.  Minus a furious transferring of items to stay under the baggage weight limits, the travel to Tempe went flawlessly.  However, the first hour of our arrival didn't go quite as well.  The condo that we checked into was a total NIGHTMARE and we were left with needing to find lodging during one of the busiest weekends of the year.  Thankfully, Mia at Westbrook Vacation Rentals hooked us up with a comfortable condo close to the race site, and near the rest of my Ironman crew.  More on all of that later.

The days leading up to Sunday were the typical pre-Ironman hubbub.  Unpack, athlete check-in, pack and repack transition bags, drive/ride the course, spend hundreds of $$ in the expo tent, practice swim, bike check-in, bag check-in, freak out, hydrate, freak out, and get plenty of chemically assisted rest.  I also tried a new anti-blister tactic this year, and covered both feet and heels with 3 coats of Nu-Skin (a process stolen from my coach and slightly modified for those of us without access to surgical grade glue).

Wake-up time was a little after 3am on race morning.  I think this is the first big race that I was dead asleep when the alarm sounded.  It took me a little while to shake off the grogginess, but I managed through my normal routine of Ensure, light breakfast #1, shower, light breakfast #2, facebooking, and coffee.  Ken dropped Mom and I off at transition right around 5am.  It was already a hub of activity despite the early hour.
Since Mom was volunteering in the change tent, she had access inside the transition area and was able to hang out with me while I went through my race prep.  Load up bike, air up tires, porta potty, body marking, porta potty, lube up, porta potty, and then finally wiggle into the wetsuit and...wait.  Oh, the waiting.  Sitting silently, shivering in the November desert air, watching thousands of athletes nervously walk through their routines.

Finally it was time to head towards the water.  I did a cannon-ball off the dock into Tempe Town Lake, took a couple of shocked gasps, and then swam just past the Mill Avenue Bridge, all up in the middle of the chaos.  I had the perfect view of the hundreds of spectators overhead, and of Mike Reilly on the podium.  He spoke the words I've come to recognize now.  "Today is a great day to become an IRONMAN.  You WILL cross that finish line!"  The national anthem was sung, and once again I floated with my hand over my heart, trying to keep my nerves from spilling out as tears into my goggles.
Without much warning, the swim had started.  The still waters of the Salt River turned into a frothy cauldron of tangled bodies.  I had a strange calm come over me that I haven't experienced at the other Ironmans.  I suddenly wasn't scared or anxious or nervous.  The kicking and clobbering and dunking didn't bother me.  I rolled with the punches (literally) and soaked it all in, not knowing when I would get to experience this again.  The rest of the swim was uneventful.  I made it through the turnaround relatively unscathed, took a few beatings on the way back, and found myself on the exit stairs within 60 seconds of my prior Ironman-distance swims.  Predictable and reliable.  And I'm totally okay with that.

For me, time seems to stand still in transition.  It feels like it takes forever, and I can replay it all back in my memory.  But in reality I was in there for less than 6 minutes.  This was longer than previous transitions, but I took a little extra time to lube up my feet again, lube up "other" areas, put on socks, and chat with my Mom (best part of T1!).  Soon I was on the bike and heading out for 6-7 hours of quiet time in the Salt River Indian Community.  My last long ride of the year.
I was determined to enjoy and be thankful for the experience, rather than wish away the hours.  That lasted for about 80 miles.  And then I just wanted OFF THIS DAMN BIKE!  Loop 1 was a cake walk.  I took it easy on the way out and ignored the head wind.  The way back was fast and furious, downhill with a tail wind.  I foolishly let myself believe the entire ride would be like this.  Loop 2 threw us a curve ball.  The way out felt easier than Loop 1.  Fantastic!  Until I turned around at Shea Blvd and the wind just about bitch slapped me off my bike.  And continued beating me while I watched my average speed drop.  Lower lower lower.  I was preparing myself for a horrendous Loop 3.  Yes, it was bad, but not horrendous.  I remembered the advice from the Tempe Mayor at the athlete dinner, telling us to let the spirits of the sacred land we were riding on carry us through the course.  It might sound hokey, but I swear, there is something incredibly special about that land.  112 miles later I was slipping my feet out of the shoes and handing my bike off to a volunteer, feeling very blessed to make it through without a flat tire, a crash, or medical troubles.

I changed my shirt and socks in T2, but only after generously lubing up my feet yet again.  I let the volunteer pack up the nastiness of my gear (I should have just thrown away those socks!) and headed out for the last 26.2 miles of the season.  I had no idea what to expect here, but I was mentally ready for an 8 hour walk.  I don't have a good track record at these things.  I was pleasantly surprised to ward off the demons until about mile 12, which is about 6 miles longer than in the past.
I had the most AMAZING support out on that run course.  My friends and family were out there for every single loop through town, despite being on their feet since 5am that morning.  One of my best girlfriends and her family surprised me (all the way from Portland!) and were out there cheering.  I knew the crew back home was checking in on the live feeds.  And the volunteers were phenomenal.

I don't know that I ever entered the mindfuck black hole of doom in this race.  Yes, the pain was unreal.  Yes, I questioned why the hell I was out there at all.  But I didn't have to make bargains with myself for each footstep just to keep moving forward.  While this makes for a much less dramatic experience, it certainly makes for a more enjoyable one.  For once, I smiled more during the marathon than I grimaced or cried.  And even though my time was slower, I consider it a huge improvement.
As I began the last half mile to the finish line, I was overcome with so much emotion.  The spectators lined the sidewalks and carried you along the lake, past the Mill Avenue bridge, and into the final turn through the dark parking lot.  My friends were waiting here to give me one last hug before sending me into the finishers chute.  I have learned to slow down through here, scan through the crowds, slap hands, and listen to the music.  I actually heard Mike Reilly this time.  And I spotted my team in the bleachers just before I crossed under the arch.  After a very difficult year, I was an Ironman again.  And for those of you wondering, yes, it was all worth it.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Weekend Inspiration

After just finishing my second Ironman of the year (yes, yes, race report coming soon), my weekend inspiration is a little different this week...
1) Confidence is always a good thing.
2) Mmmm, pie...
3) Mmmm, wine...  Sterling Vineyards is my favorite.
4) I won't be feeling a bit guilty about trading in the pool for the bathtub.
5) It's snowshoeing season!!!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekend Inspiration

Some favorite Kona Ironman finishes.

1) Back when no one knew who Chrissie Wellington was.  This was my first year watching the live feeds, and I was blown away by the girl with the crazy huge smile.
 2) Jon Blais crossing the line in 2005, the same year he was diagnosed with ALS.
3) Remember this?
4) Scott Rigsby was the first double amputee to complete an Ironman.
5) Craig Alexander, winning Kona for a third time this year, and setting a course record.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


It's that time again.  Taper, also known as "get-as-much-shit-done-as-you-can-in-3-weeks" time.  After a long couple of peak training weeks, it's time to rest up for the big show.  I've gotten my usual taper illness out of the way (it came early this time and fell at the end of my peak week), and I'm starting to feel randy and restless and ready to get this thing done.  I think that means that I'm ready.

How strange to not have the days filled up with hours of swim/bike/run.  This past weekend I was incredibly productive - I did my workouts, enjoyed a handful of visits with friends, hit up no less than 10 stores during an afternoon errand extravaganza, cleaned house, decorated for Thanksgiving, finished organizing the house after the move, cooked, and even snuck in some extra sleep.  Oh, and I handmade our Christmas cards, labeled, and signed them.  My taper list is still a mile long (organize garage, winterize flower beds, tune up bike, oh, and pack !!!).  I have a little over a week before we leave for Tempe, and at this rate, I'll have burned through the list by Friday.  Good stuff, this taper.  It's like crack.  I wish I could bottle it up and sell it.

Some photos from the last few weeks.  Fall + running = love.  Fall + biking = suck it.

The view from my neighborhood during a morning run.

Beginning of a 5.5 hour trainer ride.  Sleepy, but happy.  That under-eye luggage is courtesy of peak Ironman training during the biggest work week of the year.

End of a 5.5 hour trainer ride.  Not so happy anymore.  Eye baggage still in tact.
Beautiful fall colors.

Jon, happy to be warming up, riding 5 hours in sub-40 degrees.
Macey, happy to be warming up, riding 5 hours in sub-40 degrees.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weekend Inspirations

1. Remember, it's not [always] about how fast you are.

2. J Mac's story.

3. Check out these amazing open water swim locations around the world.

4. How many of you have the image of Julie Moss crawling to the finish line as your first Ironman memory?  The scene has been played over and over again from the Wide World of Sports broadcast of the 1982 Ironman World Championships in Kona.

5.  Spoken by Jon "Blazeman" Blais:
Live, more than your neighbors.
Unleash yourself upon the world and go places.
Go now.  Giggle.  No, laugh.
And bark at the moon like the wild dog that you are.
Understand that this is not a dress rehearsal.
This is it.  Your life.
Face your fears and live your dreams.
Take it all in.  Yes, every chance you get.
Come close.  And by all means, whatever you do, get it on film.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Great Prophecy

Tempe Town Lake perhaps?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Weekend Inspirations

Five inspirations for your weekend.

1. Chrissie Wellington's race report from Kona.

2.  Team Hoyt.

3.  A great post from my coach, Liz, on being still.

4.  The Lululemon Manifesto.
5.  A shirt I've been wanting all year.

Race Report: Girlfriends Half Marathon

Sometime back in 2010 my registration-happy index finger pulled the trigger on signing up for the 2011 Girlfriends Half Marathon.  There's nothing really unusual about that.  However, what was very unusual - I had zero recollection of ever doing it.  Flash forward to a couple of months ago, sitting on the couch with my dear friend Jenn, I thought "hmmm, you know, I wonder why I didn't sign up for it this year".   A quick search through my email files showed that I had, indeed, actually signed up.  What is my world coming to when a half marathon is so normal that it's not even a blip on the memory radar?

Race week was also not the typical race week.  Instead of tapering for the event, I logged over 15 hours of swim/bike/run.  The day before the race, which is usually a day of rest and relaxation, included 90 miles of riding on the trainer.  Followed by a run through the neighborhood alps.  My normal pre-race morning routine of coffee and chilling out to music was replaced with 2 miles of running.  And I delayed my post-race bloody mary (fo shame!) so that I could knock out another 2 miles of running.  So, yeah, this whole thing was just not right.

But back to the race.  I think there's something to getting a good warm-up in.  I'm lazy, and typically under trained, and therefore usually sit around and conserve as much energy as possible before starting a race.  But I was warm and peppy and ready to go when the gun went off.  The 13.1 miles in between the start and finish lines is actually kind of boring, so I'll spare you the play-by-play.  I chatted with the ladies, hugged Julie's daughter Lilli (they came out to cheer), listened to some Eminem and Nicki Minaj, and planned out my grocery list for the week.  Nothing worth reporting out on.

What is worth reporting out on though ----  PR BABY!!!!!

Seriously, I shaved 4 minutes off my previous best half marathon time.  Despite the masochistic week devised by Coach Liz.  :-)

Time = 2:21:32
Pace = 10:48/mile
Position = still back of the pack...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Race Report: Augusta 70.3

This is another delayed race report, the details long faded into the irretrievable depths of my overfilled memory.  Only the highlights (long-winded as they are) are easily accessible.  I suppose that's a good thing - too many awesome memories taking up space.
The main purpose of this race was as a tune-up before Ironman Arizona.  Two guys from my company, also doing Arizona, talked me into it.  Being 8 weeks out, the timing was perfect.  But being located in the southeastern portion of the country, while I reside in the northwest, was a tad less than ideal.  Since my registration-happy trigger finger doesn't know the difference, we made the trek to Georgia a few weekends back.

After a semi-stressful packing of the bike into the bike box, we loaded up, and made our way through 12 hours of airport travel.  My procrastination in purchasing plane tickets resulted in some hefty fares, as well as a random route and lengthy layovers.  We ended up in Atlanta, stayed the night there, and then finished up the trip with a 3 hour drive to Augusta the next morning.  Pre-race day was packed full of standing in line, tracking down CO2 cartridges (can't take those on the plane), driving the course, and navigating the crowded town.  I think it was the most exhausting pre-race day I've had to date.  By 9:30pm we were finally checked into the hotel, bellies full, and settling in for a well-earned night of rest.

After a restless sleep, the alarm sounded around 5am.  I don't know if I'll ever get used to that.  Shower, eat, hydrate, and load up to head to transition.  Every single race in the last 5 years has been cold at the start.  So out of habit I dressed in long pants over my tri shorts, a jacket over my tri top, and a knit hat.  I even had gloves packed in my tri bag.  And arm warmers for the bike.  And sweats for post-race.  Hot cup of coffee gripped between my hand, we stepped out of the hotel... 70 degrees.  80% humidity.  And only 6am.  That probably tells you how equipped I was to deal with the impending heat facing us that day.

The logistics of Augusta are challenging, and frankly, quite annoying.  Especially when you are of the mindset to get in, do what you came for, get out, go home.  This venue is the largest Half Ironman on the circuit, with over 3000 athletes.  The swim is down-current, and while that makes for some really fast swim splits, it means that the start line and transition are a mile apart.  So add in shuttle buses and confused spectators to the huge quantity of people and small town roads.  They do a decent job managing the chaos, but there seemed to be a background noise of frustration for me the entire weekend.

I'll skip through all the admin stuff of the morning.  After watching all 21 other waves go before me, it was finally time for my age group to file into the water.  I jumped off the dock cannon-ball style (would you expect anything less?) and swam up towards the front of the group.  A few people back, smack in the middle.  I like to be all up in the business for the swim start.
The horn blew, I swam, I finished.  Nothing really interesting happened in between.  The quality of the Savannah river leaves a lot to be desired, but it was down current and wicked fast.  And I didn't get eaten by alligators.

If you're new to this blog, you should know that of all the triathlon events, I don't mess around in transition.  I take my T1 and T2 times very seriously.  It might not be the most glamorous of the events, and certainly not one that is going to get me on the podium, but I take pride in it nonetheless.  The Augusta swim-to-bike transition includes a run up a steep hill out of the water, a long run around the transition area, and then through the other side.  It's long, but it's also carpeted and grassy and well stocked with porta-potties (should you need them).  They also had wet suit strippers.  Everything went well for me here.

The bike course is described as "a one-loop, hilly bike course through Georgia and into South Carolina".  It wasn't exactly flat, but it wasn't necessarily hilly either.  One thing it DEFINITELY wasn't?  Cold.  I swear, it felt like I had a hot, wet blanket over my head the entire day.  I stuck to my plan, managed my pace, kept on top of my nutrition and hydration plan, and sucked down the salt tabs like candy.  I came into T2 feeling like I nailed the bike, but I was very much overheated.

Nothing special to report here either.  Rack bike, helmet off, socks on, shoes on, grab everything else and get the heck out of there.

By now it was close to 90 degrees and 90% humidity.  I was told by other athletes that this was mild weather and I'm lucky it wasn't hot this year.  I tip my visor to you folks.  I don't know how you train/race in that climate.  Unless we move to that region, I think this is my last time signing up for a race in the southeast.  Do you hear that, Mr. Pointer Finger???
But back to the run.  The first half was a suffer-fest.  My method was to run the sunny sections and walk through the shade to maximize my time out of the sun.  Those streets are lined with trees, but in the middle of the day there isn't much shade.  Only hundreds of 3-4' sections of shade.  So I would "run" for about 30 seconds and then walk for 3 seconds over and over again.  No doubt this annoyed the hell out of everyone around me.  And while it wasn't the fastest way to get from point A to point B, it still got me to point B.  I guzzled water at each aid station, stuffed sponges under my bra straps, and dumped ice into my sports bra and down my shorts.  I knew that calories weren't going to stay down, so took coke and Perform when I could.  Want to know how to cool off quickly?  Smoosh about 5 ice cubes against your bits.
And then the most glorious thing happened.  Thunder and lightning rolled in.  And it started RAINING!  With the drop in temperature and constant cool moisture hitting my body, I was able to start running again and didn't stop until I crossed the finish line.  I ended up with a decent negative split and finished strong.

After navigating back through the chaos to pack-up and get out of town, we made the drive back to Atlanta.  And the next morning repeated the process of connections and layovers to get back to Portland.  Overall, this is a great venue and good course.  It fit the bill for what I needed, and while the weekend was certainly better than I expected it to be, I'm not sure I would sign up for it again.  We really are spoiled out here in the west.  Sometimes you just need a little reminder to appreciate what you have.

Swim - 0:31:33 (1:40/100m)
T1 - 0:03:47
Bike - 3:17:53 (16.98 mph)
T2 - 0:02:00
Run - 2:58:08 (13:36/mi)
TOTAL = 6:53:21