Adjusted Reality

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” – Mark Twain

Month: April 2017 (Page 1 of 2)

Ironman Texas – Bike (Highway from Hell)

Pre-race and swim HERET1 continues below:

After I exited the water, all I kept thinking was “I’m not in any hurry”.  I didn’t want to trip and fall with a wonky knee.  My biggest fear was rushing and doing something stupid and ending my day.  My only goal was to make all the cutoffs, and on a normal day, that isn’t even a passing consideration on any of the three sports, so I tried to be super conservative and patient with everything knowing that it was my day if I didn’t fuck it up.

Bags bags bags bags and more bags.

I walked all the way to my bike clothes bag, and heard Zliten’s name being called out of the swim as I walked it into the tent (yay!), and took a second to breathe.  A volunteer came up and asked if I needed anything, water maybe, and I said OMG YES, and swished out my nasty ass canal mouth (yes, I swim with my mouth open no matter how hard I try, so that was pleasant), and then got to changing.

It was a little different getting super de duper butt naked in front of a hundred of my closest friends during a race, but it felt just like changing in a locker room.  A VERY FRANTIC locker room.  I got all my gear on and packed everything I needed in jersey pockets, took one look at my bagel with cream cheese and said NOPE (next time, I’d take the extra effort and buy english muffins instead of making do with what’s in the hotel breakfast) and headed out.  I walked through all sorts of mud in my bike shoes, grabbed my bike, and got to the start line.

T1: 12:56

Let’s talk about this.  I intentionally took my time, and I have zero regrets doing so, but I’m already thinking about how I could do better next time I have this opportunity.  First of all, I could totally practice this and probably cut down quite a few minutes having a purpose instead of going durrrrr the whole time.  Second, I forgot to pre-load up a bunch of stuff in my jersey pockets.  Third, THIS would be the race where it would make sense to keep my shoes on my bike.  Walking through a super long transition field in cleats was super slow and annoying.  But maybe it would be worse with mud on my socks instead of cleats?  *shrug*.  These are things to think about far, far in the future.

Bike:

Deathstar, when I dropped her off for sleepaway camp the night before.

I hit the line and pulled to the side and got on Deathstar and got going… and my left shoe wouldn’t clip in.  I tried and tried and tried and finally I just jammed it up in there and took off.  It was a magical unicorn day in terms of temperature (high of 70s in April in Texas), and it felt wonderful to be on the bike.  I got a caff gel down the hatch right away and started looking for Zliten.  He was behind me on the swim and for some reason, I couldn’t even fathom that he got out of the tent quicker than I did (but yep, he was two minutes faster there so I *just* missed him) and I kept looking backwards on the bike but he was just a teeny bit ahead.  We watched the flybys on Strava and it’s HILARIOUS how we were almost riding together but only saw each other at turn arounds.

The first hour, you wind through neighborhoods and I noticed that a) everything was feeling remarkably good except b) my stomach was definitely a little off.  I stuck to my nutrition plan with gels but I could see some trouble coming my way if it it continued.  I kept calling what was in my bottle GURPLE (which makes no sense, it was orange and grape/purple gatorade) and it started to taste gross.  Subconcious past me knew this was going to happen, and accidentally packed the cliff spearmint chews in my bike bag instead of my run vest and that turned me around.  They are magic.  I highly recommend.

When we turned onto the toll road, I was super excited to ride bikes on it.  They blocked off a whole freeway for us!  OMG!  How cool is that?  By the end of the first half of the first loop, I was excited that my speed was rockin’, but that was juxtaposed with how kind of BORING it was to be riding for 20 miles on one road with no scenery.  And this is the girl who did 33 loops of Shoal Creek for long day training – at least there were interesting things to look at, even if they were the same interesting things over and over.  This was just *highway*.

I saw Zliten at the turn around at mile 40 for the first time all race.  How did he get ahead of me? (by having a purpose at T1, duh…)  I made a note I was going to try and catch him after the U turn and then holy hell…. the wind.  It sucked the life out of me to see my speed dropping, and dropping, and dropping.  Flats felt like hills and I crawled up the few overpasses at like 6 mph since my knee was on the verge of complaining about life and I still had a long day ahead.  I was in no hurry.  Slow and steady becomes an Ironman.  However, the pace was just demotivating.

At least I wasn’t riding THIS. #teamfattirebikeguy

After an IMPOSSIBLY long time to travel 20 miles, after being convinced the turnaround would never come, that we would just have to keep biking around the globe and somehow end up back on the other side, it finally happened.  And it was relief, sweet relief, from the windy day and the growing-ever-more-frequent gusts.

Right after the turnaround was special needs, and I tried to unclip and…that wasn’t happening.  My foot (the one I jammed in there earlier) was just stuck.  I finally rolled up to a volunteer and said “please help me, my foot is stuck”, and she held my bike up just long enough so I could get my cleat out before I fell down (but it was close).

Luckily, Zliten was still there so we hung out a bit.  I sat on the ground and rolled my back and butt and legs with my $1.50 PVC pipe roller.  I downed the salt pills and my 303 muscle relaxers from my med kit and my sunbutter honey sandwich, which was life right then and almost took off right after Zliten… when I realized I still needed to deal with my cleats.  A volunteer got me a plastic knife and I spent an extra few minutes digging the dirt out.  Totally worth it not to fall on my face again.

Many times the race director had said “on race day, one of the only things you can control is your attitude”, so I made a point to enjoy the heck out of that tailwind on the second loop because I knew I’d have to pay for it on the way back.  And yeah, I had a lot of fun screaming down the toll road at 25 mph, not in aero (it was hurting like hell by then, so I figured I’d save it for when it mattered), at like 50 watts.  I saw Zliten again at the turn around (mayyyybe a mile ahead at this point) and he barked at me and I giggled and that was the last happy before the wind tunnel happened again.

And you get a bike selfie from the day before because 30$ is too much to pay for a picture of my stomach that was not feeling well hanging out on the bike….

I think the second loop up was better than the first, because I knew after this, I’d be done.  However, I realized I was getting super sunburned, I got my arms and fronts of the legs well, somehow I forgot my FACE and the back of my legs, and I stopped at the mile 95 aid station for a sunscreen refresh. Pretty happy with only two stops on the bike for this long of a ride!

I would say mile 100+ was a low point for me.  Looking at the flyby on Strava, this is really where Zliten gained on me.  After we got off the highway, we still were heading into the wind and now there were turns and my brain couldn’t fathom how slowly the last few miles were passing.  I ended up behind someone going really slow and I didn’t have the brain to pass and I think mile 103 took at least 4 miles somehow, but eventually we got there.  And I didn’t even fall getting out of my clips!

Total time: 7:21:05.  This is a lot slower than the sub-7 I wanted, and at first I was beating myself up a little bit for it because the course is so flat, and it was just a little wind… but then when I found out HOW windy it was and how many people who expected to have no trouble with the bike either DNF’d there or just barely made the cutoff, I am happy with my extra unplanned 20 minutes.

The course showed on my Garmin as two miles short but I didn’t mind at all.  Not one bit. 

T2:

I had a chapstick in my bento box I was never able to find (too many gels stuffed in there), so I asked a volunteer to hold my bike for a sec while I dug it out.  Then, I sent Death Star away with him.  I was surprised at how little I wanted to throw my bike in the trash, and happy that I had some really tough training rides this cycle.  Today was really just a) long (but I think my first century in January took as long or longer) and b) windy (and I have practice with that), and didn’t have any other major problems.

I slowly walked the whole way through T2 in my bike shoes.  I think next time it might be smarter to take them off and muddy up my socks instead, but I was still just thinking “I’m in no hurry, I have almost 8 hours to get through a marathon, don’t be stupid”.  I got my bag, got into the changing tent, and started to go about the process from a bibs/jersey to a tri suit to run in.  I made a friend named Shauna while changing (she was worried about how her hair looked, heh), and decided to put my run shoes on first because it was muddy.  Then, I realized I couldn’t get my tri shorts over my giant hokas and had to take them off and start all over again before I hit the sunscreen station one more time and then headed out under the arch to start running a marathon at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

T2 time: 15:41

While it doesn’t surprise me at 9 hours into a race that I legitimately forgot how to put on my clothes correctly, it would definitely serve me to practice it in the future.  I thought the full change from bike clothes to run clothes would be refreshing and maybe even life changing, but honestly, it just took time and brainpower.  If I could find tri shorts that I could ride 112 miles in, I would wear them all day next time.  I’m sure it’s a mix of HTFU and also trial and error with some different brands.

Either way, the 15 minutes actually served me pretty well.  I dismounted my bike thinking “well, time to walk an entire marathon because I feel like straight dog doody” to taking off at a decent clip starting mile one.

Part three, coming soon!

Ironman Texas – packing bags and #sh!tcanal swim

Since this is my first Ironman, I’m giving myself the latitude to write a really long race report.  So, enjoy/indulge me with the approximately 600 million words (not all appearing in this post) to come this week about the whole shebang.

Thursday/Friday:

There is so much to do in the days before an Ironman.  It’s unlike any other race.  We got down there early Thursday afternoon, and I figured we’d have soooo much time to fart around.  Totally not the case.  We arrived and went straight to packet pickup and it took almost no time (unlike Austin 70.3 which took foreeeever).  We got our wristbands and backpacks and all that jazz, and then spent a bunch of money on gear (you only get one first IM and if I bought the stuff I have to finish, right?).  The athlete briefing started as we walked out and we sat through some of it, and then realized that we knew everything from METICULOUSLY studying the race guide and watching the webinar so we ducked out of the hot sun and left.

Zliten was really craving pizza so we ducked into Grimaldi’s and got a caesar salad and a super amazing meat pizza called the Don.  The meatballs were to die for.  It was perfect carbs.  We finished the whole 12-inch thing.  I joked that we should go back there right after the race since it was pretty much AT the finish line.  After that we checked into the hotel, hit the pool and hot tub, and then quickly got dressed to go to the banquet.

M dots and carbs and stuff, oh my!

Usually we don’t do all the pre-race hullabaloo, but we wanted to take it all in, and Ironman does a great job about making it a full weekend event (with lots of free food, natch), not just a race. For dinner, I had tri tip in a yummy sauce, mashed potatoes, chicken pasta, salad, and this amazing strawberry cheesecake bite.  Through the whole weekend, everyone treated first-timers like royalty, and it started there when they made us stand up and cheered for us.  At dinner, we met another first timer, and someone else from Canada who was super nervous since she had only been biking on the trainer.

After that, we spent the evening packing bags.  Ironman is about a lot of things, but it’s definitely about BAGS.  You get six bags – one cool backpack to keep, and 5 plastic ones – morning clothes, bike gear, run gear, special needs (bike), and special needs (run).  I was thankful I have done Kerrville with two separate transitions and clean (bagged) transitions but this was a whole ‘nother level (see my packing list here).  After double and triple checking them we settled into bed with books for the night and slept pretty decently.

Friday morning, we got up and hit the breakfast buffet.  Biscuits and gravy might not have been on the things-I’d-normally-eat-day-before list, but it was good paired with some potatoes, sausage, and cereal for protein and carbs.  Then, we kitted up for a super serious long bike ride (not).  It was so cool to see what felt like a full town of triathletes out riding bikes!  We rode down to the swim start and back just to check it out, and all the athletes were getting out of the practice swim.  We elected to skip it because we heard the water was naaaaasty (which we validated by hearing later about a bunch of people getting sick).

After our shakeout bike, we headed up to Lake Conroe for our own practice swim.  Getting in the water, Zliten slipped and fell and bounced down the stairs.  We both watched his race flash before our eyes but he was fine on the swim and just felt a little sore.  Whew!  Always some drama race week with that one, I tell you.  The lake was a little murky and I had a muddy face after, but it definitely wasn’t toxic.  We then hit up Jason’s Deli for lunch and I got a giant salad, sandwich, and chips.  I normally try to keep my fiber a little lower pre-race but I also generally feel a little off in the gut race day going pure carb, so I gave it a try.  Spoiler: it worked out.

Because we were right across from an Academy, I asked if we could do a 20 minute shopping trip for new bathing suits for me for vacation.  Zliten agreed.  I took 30 mins (which I think is still pretty impressive) and by the end his side was really hurting.  Our next stop was back at the expo, where he hit up the chiropractor and a massage, and he was much better after.

Noms, and taking pics of anything with a M dot sign continued…

Our hotel had this free food thing every night, and we thought it might be a little dicey the night before a race, but they had rice and beans and potatoes and chips and cheese and after all that, we were full and fueled and there was no need for anything else.  We double and triple checked our special needs bags and laid everything out and laid down and tried to go to sleep.  I really thought I was going to be too nervous, but I conked out fairly quickly and got 6 or 7 really solid hours of shut eye.

Race morning:

Our alarm was for 3:40am, and we were both up by 4am.  I felt like it was super early, of course, because my whole plan for trying to shift my sleep schedule in the last few weeks was a complete fail (in fact, with my cold and other things, it may have gotten worse).  However, I got up, going, used the bathroom, and shoved as much food in my face as possible (watermelon lemonade, cliff pb pretzel bar, about half a bagel with cream cheese).  We left the hotel right at the 4:40 we had planned for, parking was a breeze, the garage was probably about a half mile from T1, and we figured we were golden.

Then, the STUFF TO DO continued.  We had to pump up our tires.  I loved how the explanation for how to do this was “well, we have a bike tech but there’s 3000 of you so the line will be long and you can’t put pumps in your bags so, uh, hand it off to a supporter”.  This was the answer for a lot of things.  Have your spectators do it.  Since it wasn’t required to have a crew for this race, we didn’t.  Long story short, I am a crankypants and completely antisocial near a long race like this, and I didn’t want to have to entertain anybody in the days before or after.  Or have to hold coherent conversations with anyone not related to triathlon.  Or burden anyone with having to drive 3 hours and stay overnight just to see me 5-ish times for a few seconds over the course of 15 hours.  I’m just perfectly happy to have random strangers that WANT to be there for the fun of it cheering me on.

Back off my tangent, we put our nutrition in on our bike and in our run bags (I might do this the night before next time, unless it was supposed to be a scorcher), hit the potties, and then headed for the first (unofficial) leg of the triathlon, the mile walk from T1 to the swim start.  We stopped on the way for a porta potty (which took about 15 minutes because there was a line and only one of them).

We finally got to the swim start with about 10 minutes to the pro start.  We dropped off our special needs bags (yep, had to drag them alllll the way from the car there) and our morning clothes bag and then I finally had to potty again myself.  Then, Zliten had to potty again and I stood in line with him and then determined that I had best go again (yep, #3 for #2!), and by the time we were out everyone else without a wetsuit was in the water already and we were running to the start.  FUCK.

Obvs from the day before because wetsuit.

Swim:

We both made the call since it was wetsuit optional, that we were going to do it as the race rules intended – no wetsuit.  When we heard them saying “last call for non wetsuit swimmers, we hightailed it through the crowd of ~800 people in wetsuits waiting to go and were the last two people to start.  So, according to the rules, we WERE the age grouper cut off.  Which was kind of cool!

What wasn’t kind of cool at all was the fact they let 800 wetsuit swimmers start all at once with no seeding immediately after we did.  So, the sub-1 hour swimmers swam directly over me about 30 seconds after I started.  And it just didn’t stop.  There was kicking and punching and pushing and shoving.  I even overheard later about proctology exams and biting and one guy even died (super tragic… Zliten said he thought that he saw him being lifted out).  This rolling start may be like 10% less brutal than a mass one, but it’s still a fucking washing machine.

The combat was frustrating.  The lake was suuuuuuuuper murky.  I felt like I could never stretch out and swim with proper form because I would get hit.  Without my wetsuit, I was missing a layer of armor that other people had and I didn’t like it.  My swim cap kept coming off.  My earplugs were being cranky because I forgot to tuck in the cord.  However, while all those things were going wrong and I was alternating screaming into the water and grinning like an idiot because it was IM day (hello mood swings!), time actually passed reasonably quickly and all of a sudden we were done with the first third of the course.

The second third was actually kind of nice.  Everyone got to spread out a little bit more and I actually did a little bilateral breathing and I only got jostled/jostled someone about 1-2 times every minute instead of every stroke.  I still had to fix my swim cap a lot, but I was definitely smiling… until out of nowhere my hip flexor on my “broken” knee side started hurting and then the knee felt tight.  I made sure to favor breathing to the other side, and it stretched out a bit, but not the best confidence boosting start to the day.

Mine wasn’t as bad as some athletes I’ve seen who have them swimming on open roads, but I’m clearly paddling on shore here…

Then we turned into the canal.  At first it was nice (what were these people talking about with how gross it was?), then there was construction run off (tastes like my pool where they’re building the restaurant right nextdoor (mmmmm sawdust…).  After that, we got to the portion where they were dumping manure in the day before (???) and it, well, tasted about how you would expect.  We just kept swimming and swimming and swimming (#justkeepswimming) and we passed a bridge and I got all excited because it was 100 yards after the bridge but then there was another bridge in the distance and it was actually that one and then there was some hydrilla right at the end (but nothing like swimming in Austin) and then I was OUT!

Swim: 1:38:26.  Not quite the sub-1:30 I was hoping but sans wetsuit and with all the combat, and the conditions in what people were calling the #sh!tcanal, I was super thrilled to be out of the water with plenty of time to spare.

Jump to part 2: the bikening…

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For those who are about to tri…

Ten years ago, I didn’t know what an Ironman was, but I did know that walking a mile to work sounded REALLY FAR and there was a hiiiilll so I never did it.  Man, if I could live a mile from work now, I’d never ever drive!

Just a little different.

Skipping ahead through a lot of things, four and a half years ago, I did my first 70.3 (man, it feels like forever…).  EVEN THEN, the thought was that it was a stepping stone to one day do an Ironman race.

I KNOW my impetus for my first marathon was that I was going to have to run one off the bike someday, so I better learn how to do that.  I’m not sure when the seed took hold.  I know Zliten wanted to do one right away after he finished his second sprint, and the goal was “before 40”.  I remember “before 40” was actually pretty far away when we said it, and now it’s… well, this year or next year.

Each year since 2012, we’ve examined the landscape, looked around, and said “nope, one more year”.  There was the year that I injured my knee.  Then the next year when Zliten fought a bear and missed two marathons because of it.  Then the next year when we made up those two marathons and I was so burnt out by the end I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take up underwater basket weaving instead.  In 2016, we examined the landscape, cleared our schedules, and hit that 1500$ registration (for both of us) button.

Possibly the first Wednesday night recovery ride with the crew.  Definitely not the last.

At that point, it was pretty much zero to Ironman.  I’d taken a gloriously long #projectspring offseason that unceremoniously ended in July when I got antsy and decided that I’d like a schedule again and to mayyyybe break the 5 hours a week mark for activity.  My first long runs were like 5-6 miles and they felt long.  Our Wednesday 17-ish mile recovery rides with BSS were difficult and due to fear and lack of fitness, I’d be willing the miles to pass and they’d take foreeeeever (now I blink and it is over *poof*).

My instinct always leans towards NOT ENOUGH TIME NEVER ENOUGH TIME, but summer and early fall training did it’s thing just fine and delivered me to a sprint PR, a really solid Olympic distance RUN (rain on the bike made me sketchy), and then a decent showing on the bike and run for Austin 70.3 69.1 on a scorcher of a day on a pretty hilly course (especially DAT RUN during the hottest parts of the day after a 3 hour delay, and even still I notched a 2nd best in a half iron).

With about six months to go, we took a mid-season break.  It wasn’t so much of an offseason as the spring, I just needed a little break from a schedule, so we did between 5-10 hours a week of whatever we felt like, and in the fall?  It was mostly biking.  This worked out great because I felt like it was the sport we needed the most work extending the distance.

First century attempt was May 2014.  Took me almost 3 years to actually DO it.

Turns out I was right.  My goal was to just go out and do a century ride already, and then during official training figure out how to make that easier/faster come race day.  I tried a couple times before January, and found out it’s really hard to do 100 miles on the bike even if 60-70 is in your comfort zone.  We’d have to spend a whole month riding bikes every single day before we pulled off our first 100 mile ride the last weekend in January.  And it was a doozy.  I still had no idea how I was going to run off a bike like that but I had a few months to figure it out.

Once I had the bike down, it was time to ramp up the run.  Oddly enough, that focused block went rather well.  Within a month, I knocked out an 18, 19, and 20 mile run.  The 18 was a little reachy because it was the first run past half marathon distance of the year (and also super steamy), but both the 19 and 20 felt oddly good and like they hadn’t tapped out everything I had in me, and I did at least 1-2 hour workouts the day after each one.

The last order of business was to stitch them together with two long days.  The first was a nice approximation of race day with some breaks – but a solid 8 hour training day with a STRONG 2 hour run at the end.  I had ZERO issues.  I didn’t feel broken at all after and after my requisite day off and taking Monday a little lighter, I was back at it Tuesday.  The second one was a little tougher – the full swim+ in the lake, the full ride, and an hour run, with less breaks.  I had nutritional issues at the end of the bike and felt yucky on the run.  I think I figured out how to solve that particular issue, but the recovery on this one took TWO full days off after and cutting that next week’s hours from 11.5 to 8.5.

This is just long day #3, right?  The first two went well, so this one should too.  Yep!

I feel like my training went really really well.  I missed some sessions but I hit the key points:

  • Two race-length swims in the lake (I wanted more, but at least I got two).  I supplemented this with plenty of 3k+ swims in the pool.
  • Two 100+ mile outdoor rides.  Most importantly, one continuous on my TT bike on a similar elevation profile to the race that also helped me get over the psychological hurdle of seeing my garmin tick over to 100 miles and still have almost an hour to go.  I also had plenty of long hours on the trainer and the six hour race in the rain and cold and almost 5k climbing… so I’m good.  Yep.  Good.
  • Three long runs similar to the pace I would like to run the IM marathon if I’m feeling good.  I didn’t emphasize the brick run this time because 1) my legs have the opposite problem typically of feeling AWESOME off the bike but I can’t sustain it after a mile or two and 2) I anticipate my transition time will be in the 10 minute range, so I won’t even be running RIGHT off the bike at the race.  However, I did do some running soon after biking on the long days, so I think I’m fine.
  • While my overall volume was more at the minimum end of spectrum (11-16 hours for each week I was ON), I still feel like I did enough volume and intensity to prepare me to COMPLETE an Ironman, and I’ll head to the start line with that confidence.  I feel ready but not overtrained.

As my cold subsides and my energy comes back, and the knees still complain about tapering but feel weirdly GOOD as soon as I warm, I think I can actually say without cringing that I think my BODY is prepared.

Something is not completely right up there… but that’s nothing new…

Now, about the mind.

The mind wants to convince me that it’s been too long since all that happened.  The mind wants to tell me that running a marathon after an already long day on the swim and the bike is going to break me.  The mind says “maybe you were ready three weeks ago, but now you’ve lost so much fitness you’re barely going to be able to do a sprint triathlon this weekend”.

Fuck you, brain.

Here’s where I remind brain exactly what this means to me.

For YEARS, Zliten and I would watch random Ironman videos on Youtube as inspiration.  I would imagine what it would be like to actually be out there doing that stuff, having our big dance, our big long awesome IM day after months of training… and it seemed so awesome, but so far away.  Even a year ago, heck, even six months ago, it was like… how the fuck and I going to do that?  Now I’m actually going to go do that.  In like, a few days!

Experiment of two, reporting for duty. 

Normal people would hire a coach, but instead, I wanted to hoard all the knowledge for myself, so I set out to become one (results after certification? I think I want to try working with a coach for a cycle soon… but that’s a whole ‘nother post).  Honestly, it really just showed me I had most of it to begin with, and coaching is really just a long series of experiments that get more precise with experience, so this is just sample #1 and #2 of Ironman training.

Somehow, I fought through a bunch of burnout by training for this race.  Not just battled against it, but cleared it away.  I feel re-energized, having gone through a completely new type of training, completely new experiences, and my body just feels… different.  I’m not at my lowest weight (by far), I’m not fast (my peak power and fast mile run right now would be laughable), but I am sturdy and solid and I can go forever at a reasonable speed and not quit.  That’s a fun place to be.

I guess the hard part is really over.  I can (hopefully) do anything for one day.  Even if it might be a really really really long one.  In a few days, barring natural disasters, I’ll have shoveled myself to the start line with at least the hope, at least the feigned confidence that me, standing on top of the last 10 months of training, will be able to make it 140.6 miles in 17 hours or less.

Of course, I’ll do the dorky things like buy the all the Ironman gear and wear my stupid medal for a week and probably say “Quix, you are AN IRONMAN!!!” in my best Mike Reilly voice about twenty seven hundred and fifty-nine times.  I’ll use that for an excuse to sit on my butt for a week and give my bike the side eye for as long as I need (honestly, I give it a week before I’m back on the cruiser, but still…).  I will giggle at my running shoes beckoning until my legs no longer remember the abuse of running a marathon after a full workday on the swim/bike beforehand (pretty short memory these days – two weeks? three?).

And then soon vacation, where my swim training will look more like this…

But beyond the superficial stuff, I guess what really resonates in my soul is the follow through of it all.  How often do you actually have a big scary dream that you actually get a chance to face?  How often do you get to make a big check mark on the ol’ bucket list?  How many times do you get to live the thing that you’ve been dreaming about constantly for years?  How often do you discard those things because they are too scary, too hard, and you convince yourself that you can live without?  I’m about to toe the line and find out a lot about myself on Saturday, and see what things I can and can’t live without.

This truly is a mad pursuit.  Literally no sane person would ever refer to a marathon as a cooldown after 114.4 miles of swimming and biking.  No one would pass the 100 mile mark on a bike and go, y’know what?  I think I should just ride another 12 mile for the fun of it.  The swim gets you almost halfway between two of the Hawaiian islands and that’s just the warmup.  I think that’s why we do these things though… because they are crazy.  Because they seem impossible and we are the kind of people that don’t like being told what we can do, even especially when its our brain telling us NO and our heart instead says FUCK YOU, I’m going to give it a try.

If I can do this completely insane thing that seemed like a “can’t” a year ago, what else can I do in the future that seems crazy to me right now?

This is about proving that indeed, anything is possible.

If you want to follow my day, head HERE and look for bib #1056.  I’ll see you on the other side.

Race week and the taper tantrums

Well, here we are.  Race week.  Race week?  What?!?! Yeah, race week.

Much more of this last week than #swimbikerun.

I had hoped to be almost fully packed, feeling super rested and excited and springy, and rarin’ to go, feeling confident about my training.

Here I am *cue the dramatics* with my whole little world falling the hell apart.

  • Last week was probably one of the most stressful work weeks ever, and I had two 11-hour days to boot.
  • On Wednesday, I came down with a head cold (that I was hoping was allergies for a few days but it was not).  I’m still getting over it – I’m feeling better than I was late last week but still low energy and that’s exaaaaaactly how we want to be on race week, right?
  • I clocked 3.25 hours last week, and ZERO swimming, which is what I really wanted to focus on in taper, so obviously I’ve completely forgotten how to endurance.
  • Because sick me = snoring me – all the nicely laid out gear on the guest bed is now on piles on the floor (so we could both get some sleep) and I haven’t had the energy to do any more packing since Friday and I keep thinking about ONE MORE THING I need to go get and it’s just SO MUCH STUFF.
  • Let’s also focus on the fact that for no reason, my knee is literally broken and has been for over a week now.  I’m convinced I have a tendon just flapping around in there somehow disconnected without any actual trauma.
  • One more thing to pile on – during all this came that awesome time of the month – which I am SUPER thankful we’re getting out of the way now – but definitely adds to the fatigue.

Sigh…. I guess I wrote this for myself before I needed it, when things were going actually super well.  This taper has been SUPER FRUSTRATING.  I’m at the point where I want to be excited for the race.  I should be excited for the race.  But I just can’t even think about it that way yet.  All I can do is plead with the race week divinity to help me get through all this shit in time to deliver me to Saturday morning in one piece.

Dear protector of the bikes, please give me 112 smiley miles on Saturday…

Logical, coach me, is stepping in to provide freaking out athlete with some facts:

  • You have swam close to and past race distance 8 times this cycle, twice in open water.  Maybe you wanted more practice this week for your confidence, but you didn’t need it for your fitness.  You’re fine, fish.
  • We ramped long bikes early in the cycle.  Yes, there has been an absence of riding bikes for 4-7 hours in a row lately.  That doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten how to do it.  You can’t do all the things all the time.  That 112 miles on Long Day #2 felt pretty darn good, and you’ll be SO MUCH MORE RESTED after taper.  Also, in the last 6 months, you’ve ridden: 112, 100, 87, 80, and 75 miles outside.  You’ve done: 5, 4.75, 4.5, and 3.75 hours on the trainer as well.  The legs do not forget.
  • 5 weeks ago (6 weeks out from the race), you ran a fairly effortless 20 miles.  This was proceeded by a really nice 19, and a rough 18 (but you made it).  More importantly, you ran 11 miles off a 5 hour bike ride and 1 hour off a 7 hour bike. You don’t have much top speed, but who cares?  You can run forever.  You didn’t build this by smashing your legs with a bunch of long runs, but with overall volume and your legs have responded well and were RELATIVELY pain free during training.
  • This cold couldn’t really be coming at a better time (unless it didn’t come at all).  You’re not missing important training (yeah, this taper week was sparse, but if it had to happen THIS IS THE WEEK FOR IT), and it’s forcing you to rest like a mother effer.  No crazy partying or stupid “let’s cram this training” has occurred.  This is a benefit to feeling like crap.
  • The knee is not really broken.  Both knees feel weirdly cranky and while anything in the knees is scary, it REALLY IS just muscle tightness and your rational brain knows it.  The chiropractor even checked it out.  Stretch, roll, ice, massage, boots, do all the good things and it will go away by race day.  Have the faith, this one happens all the damn time.

So, here we are.  Sniffles, broken knees, feeling barely ready for a sprint triathlon, head a mess, but y’know what?  Going out for a nice, relaxed, 4 mile run made me realize that everything is probably going to be alright and I just need to relax and go along with the ride.  Hopefully by the middle of the week I’ll be all bouncy and excited like I expected to be.

Such little runs, so many THINGS to pack.

Last week:  almost nada

  • Monday: off (planned)
  • Tuesday: 30 mins weights (11 hour work day, missed open water race)
  • Wednesday: off (unplanned, 11 hour work day, missed bike and run)
  • Thursday: 45 minute bike (coming down with a cold)
  • Friday: 3 mile run
  • Saturday: 1.5 hour bike
  • Sunday: off
  • 3.25 hours total of 7-ish planned

It is what it is.  And my race does not hinge on missing 3.5-ish hours one week.  I’ve trained better than that.  All we can do is move forward.  Here’s what I know about this week:

  • Monday: 4 mile run (DONE)
  • Thursday: off (travel)
  • Friday: pre-race swim and maybe a quiiiiickie spin on the TT bike before drop off.
  • Saturday: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
  • Sunday: audition for a hot dog eating contest or something….

Tomorrow and Wednesday – I would like to swim since I missed all week last week.  I would like to do a quickie 20 min/20 min brick.  I would like to do another heat-of-the-day short run.  I’ll probably do two out of those three things but I’m not committing to which yet.

#fueledbytacos.  If only tacos packed well into special needs bags…

Life stuff:

Who cares about life stuff, it’s race week!  Here’s my random to do list:

  • Decide between new shooz and old shooz on the bike and the run and rethink your life choices that lead you to this point (just kidding… sort of).
  • Cut your damn toenails.
  • Figure out if I’m going to actually get small PVC pipes from Lowes to make disposable rollers for my special needs bags (which have actually saved my life on multiple rides and runs).
  • Get tiny body glides for special needs bags.
  • Get some Imodium for my med kits.  I’ve never taken it (during a workout or also during life) so it will be absolutely only if the literal shit hits the fan, but I’ve been told by multiple multiple people it should be on my person just in case.  If I’m about to shit myself at mile 16, I’ll try just about anything to fix that.
  • Pack all the rest of the stuff (at this point, mostly clothes and toiletries for before and after) before Wednesday night at midnight (please).
  • Write goofy notes for Zliten to put in his special needs bags.
  • Grab tupperwares to bring with.  My hotel has TONS of free food at various points of the day, so I want to make sure I have options of things to eat after the race if I can’t even with things.
  • Find my bib number so I can post it all over social media so people can follow along with our crazy days.

And of course – eat the right things but don’t freak out too much about it.  No going crazy with beers and shit when you DO start to feel all-the-way better.  Stretch, roll, puffy legs, get (and give) Zliten massages and do all the smart things you know to do.  Try to be more of a lark than you normally are (early to bed, early to rise WITHOUT sacrificing sleep).

Off to do things about the things above instead of just writing about them.

Ironman Race Plan

I’m pretty sure this is going to a level of overthinking that even I’m embarrassed about but here we go!

Let the freakouts commence!

One week out:

Luckily, I get a 3-day weekend the weekend before the race.  This is fortunate because I can a) have one last night of staying up past sunset (IF I feel up to it, TBD) and still get plenty of rest b) have an extended weekend to get everything ready to go out of town and c) spend some time with my BSS peeps at the Spring Social and my family for easter without feeling all frantic.

However, the mandate will be to not go cuh-ray-zee and I’d like to be 95% packed and ready to go for The Woodlands by Sunday night.

Race week:

Workout plan will be:

  • No weights at all
  • 30-45 min *something* in the AM/lunch on Mon-Wed (no night workouts)
    • Preferrably 1-2 of these will be short lunch runs to continue the heat acclimation.
  • Stretching, rolling, legs – ALL OF THEM every day.

Life plan will be:

  • Time to be in bed = sunset
  • Normal food.  No crazy reductions or deficits or anything, but making sure my eating is in line with my activity and limit the spicy/fried/fatty/etc.
  • Excepting the possibility for gameday on Monday, no social stuff or doing anything besides going home and going to bed by sunset!

Basically, I want to be the most boring person I can be.

Thursday (Travel Day):

Agenda

  • Up as early as possible while not sacrificing a normal night of sleep.
  • Hopefully an uneventful 3-4 hour drive to The Woodlands.
  • Packet pickup and making one of the athlete briefings.
  • Enjoy the pool and hottub
  • No workouts (except my credit card buying IM stuff from the expo).

Food:

  • Normal breakfast (yogurt or breakfast taco or smoothie)
  • Lunch and dinner: carb-heavy fare.  Lunch is not as important as dinner, which is typically some sort of lower fat tomato sauce pasta, salad, and bread.
  • Snacks: fruits, veggies, pretzels, hummus, jerky, etc.

This is just another long day, right?

Friday:

Agenda:

  • Open water practice swim 8-10 am (but probably not at the specific lake we’re swimming at – it’s supposed to be REALLY gross and the last thing I want to do is have it make me sick the day of the race).  I love a day-before-the-race swim lately, and its an excuse not to sleep in (so I’m not struggling to go to bed at 8pm…).
  • Bike and bike gear bag check in just after that.
  • More pool, hot tub, and just relaxing and trying not to freak the fuck out.  Depending on the timing, maybe a movie (but not if its a hassle).
  • Reading in bed with the TV off no later than 8pm.

Food:

  • Hotel breakfast (pick decent choices of things I normally eat at home vs sugar loaded waffles and crap).
  • Sandwich for lunch
  • Chicken, potatoes, salad for (early early) dinner.
  • Snacks: fruit, sports drink, pretzels/hummus, jerky, baked chips, etc.

Saturday morning:

  • Up by 4am.
  • Breakfast: english muffin w/bacon and cream cheese, pb pretzel cliff bar, watermelon, coconut water, caff chews.  In stages.
  • Second/third/tenth check of my bike special needs, run bag, and run special needs bag.  I had a dream I forgot my change of run clothes so I had to run in either my bibs (NO) or my swimsuit.  That is NOT happening.
  • Get to transition/bag drop around 5:30.  Drop bags.  Pump up bike tires.  Stuff self into wetsuit.  Swim warmup if they let us.  Try not to freak the fuck out.

The swim can’t be nearly as bad as some days at the Pflug lately, and even if it is, I’m prepared.

Swim:

  • Wearing: regular swimsuit + sleeveless wetsuit
  • Backup: 2016 bss tri kit (if it’s not wetsuit legal)
  • Pacing goals: Hard to say.  Original goal was 1:30 or better, but that’s like… really slow compared to my pool pacing.  I’m going to need to see how my OWS develops in the next few weeks.   I’m going to say 1:25-1:30 is how I’ll seed myself, and if I end up finishing faster, fantastic.
  • Effort goals: This is more important.  I want to feel like I’m doing something, otherwise I’m going too slow, but I need to make sure that a) I’m able to bilaterally breathe and b) I keep good form and am not gasping.
  • Again, this lake is supposed to be GROSS.  I usually swim with my mouth open.  I’m going to try to not do that as much as possible so I don’t get sick.

T1:

  • Take my time.  I’m not winning this race.  Taking a moment to collect myself is fine.  Full change to be comfortable.
  • Bike bag contents
    • Wearing: BSS jersey, gore bibs, UA sports bra #1*, bike socks
      • If it’s going to be a warm day I’ll wear this under my swimsuit.  If it’s colder and I want to be fully dry I’ll have some volunteers help me wriggle into it.
    • Optional stuff: sleeves and leg sleeves depending on the weather.
    • Accessories: gloves, aero helmet, bike shoes (new or old?), crotch junk, sunscreen
    • Noms – english muffin w/cream cheese and bacon, packs of chews, gels (options), coconut water (maybe freeze these the day before?
    • First aid kit of 303s (2) and salt pills (4) and 3-4 packets of chamios cream
  • Bottles will be full of gatorade, my bento box will be as full of gels/blocks as I can (the rest in my jersey pockets)

I’ve ridden my bike a few miles to prepare for this race.  In the cold and the wind and the heat and the hills, so 112 miles on a tollway should be easy-peasy, right?

Bike:

Pacing goal: It’s a long day.  Pace yourself.  Both long day outings on this bike have been about 16-ish mph (so about 6h30-7h).  If you’re rolling above 16.5, check your effort/HR/power.  If you’re too far below 16mph average after 20-30 miles, check it as well.

Fueling goals: One gel/three blocks per 45 minutes and I should go through about a bottle an hour.  If I have real food (english muffin, pb sandwich, etc), that should last about 1.5-2 hours.  In other words, my goal is to, as evenly as possible, space out about 1100 solid calories over the ~7 hours and suppliment with gatorade (at least another ~100 calories per hour).

Caffeine: I will aim to have gel #1 or 2 be caffeinated, and a gel in hour 5-6 be caffeinated (just the 20 mg salted watermelons).

Special needs bag:

  • Snacks: Some sort of salty chips/pretzels, PB sandwich, some sort of fruit, frozen coconut water wrapped in aluminum foil (thanks internet!)
  • Another First Aid baggie of 303s and salt pills + tums and other things that calm my stomach just in case, small disposable extra sunscreen.  Plus a disposable PVC pipe to use as a roller.
  • Co2 cart and tube (I’m still butthurt about not getting this stuff back but I’ll sacrifice 10$ to potentially save my race – I can probably throw it in my jersey if I’m feeling cheap and I have room)
  • Unless the weather looks questionable, I’ll keep this one simple.

Effort goals: I dialed in the effort pretty well.  Keep some power on it (120-130-ish?  if that feels right?), but I should never be breathing hard for more than a minute or so to get up a hill.  Stand up occasionally to stretch the legs.  Stay in aero as much as possible but not at the expense of tweaking my neck too badly.

T2:

Again, take my time if I need.  I found I ran better if I gave myself a SMALL break to compose myself and didn’t rush.  I’m not winning this thing but 5 minutes in transition might mean the ability to run more regularly.

Run bag contents

  • Wearing: BSS 2017 tri top, tyr bottoms, UA sports bra #2*, run socks, Hokas, xterra vest
    • *I probably won’t change into this but just in case…
  • Accessories: aquaphor, handheld bottle (frozen w/grape gatorade)
  • Noms – some salty chips/pretzels, premade chicken broth in water bottle, maybe another pb sandwich as an option.
  • Another First Aid baggie of 303s and salt pills + tums and other things that calm my stomach just in case, small disposable extra sunscreen.

Yep, just another long day like this one, with a slightly longer run.

Run:

Pacing goal: Well, this is the huge and great unknown.  I’ve run 2 hours off a 5 hour bike at sub-11 minute miles, which would PR the fuck out of my marathon if I could keep up anything close to that (even if I slowed down to almost 12 minute miles on the second half…).  It really depends on my legs, my heart, my stomach, the weather, and how much pixie dust exists in the universe on April 22nd.  My goal is 5h30-6h but the real, ultimate goal is just getting across the line to hear my name called and my results counted.

Effort goal: I can pretty much keep up a 11:30/min per mile clip forever on your average long day if it’s not STUPID hot.  Sometimes this is best achieved by running an even 11:30/mile pace.  Sometimes it’s walking for a bit and then running 10 minute miles.  I’ll be prepared for either.  What it comes down to is that the more I concentrate on my form, the longer I can stave off that awful ache in my hammies/glutes.  So, I want to cruise as long as I can at an easy pace, and then decide if it’s kick ass, continue, walk/run, walk, limp, or crawl the later parts.

The one thing I’m greatly looking forward to is this run will generally get COOLER, not warmer, like a half or a standalone marathon.  So, I’ll have that to look forward to in the later miles.

Run special needs:

  • Snacks: Same fare as the bike with some additions: a new gatorade flavor or some packets since it’s all lemon lime on the run course (my least fave).  Also, another chicken broth water bottle rocket fuel (just in case I need it and it’s not out at the stations yet).  Yeah, sounds like a buffet.  I’d rather have options.
  • Another First Aid baggie of 303s and salt pills + tums and other things that calm my stomach just in case and some aquaphor and bandaids in case my feet are torn up.  Maybe some packets of biofreeze?  Definitely another disposable PVC roller.
  • Head lamp.  If by magic I finish before dark, I’ll just wrap this around my wrist, but I need to see where I’m going.
  • It will depend on the weather if I do this, but I’ll potentially have a long sleeve shirt and gloves if it’s looking REALLY cold at night (though cold = inspiration for me to keep running…) and mayyyyybe a change of socks (to ones I don’t care about ditching but can run 13 miles in) if it’s looking rainy.

If the day goes right, I’ll get me another one of these that DOESN’T say 70.3 on it…

Finish Line:

If I execute solidly on what I expect that day, I’ll be rolling in about 15 hours, give or take.  Hopefully at that point, I’ll be upright, smiling, and making silly faces.  I’m rarely ever in bad shape at the end of races unless I’m overheating (which is unlikely here), but we’ll see, there’s a first time for everything.

Then… it depends.  If Zliten is done or going to be a while, I will go start making a dent in the 7k calories that I will have lost.  I hope there’s crappy pizza because crappy pizza is the BEST after a race.  And also beer.  There will be beer.  If he’s close on my heels and I’m not ready to crime for a gatorade or plate of WHATEVER, I’ll wait and cheer him in.  Making myself not fall down is priority #1.

I told Zliten I would do my best to do something with the bikes if I was first in and he was significantly behind me (and he would do the same), but we’ll see depending on the car situation or if there’s a shuttle to the hotel or whatever.  Worst case, if we’re both done around midnight and completely wasted and can’t even, there’s always Uber XL or whatever to get us and our bikes and shit back to the hotel and we’ll figure out the car thing later.

Considering the late night options, it’s very likely that I’ll end up with something like this in my face after the race.

Food:

Here’s another place I feel like I need to be overprepared because I feel like I need super easy access to various types of food, and not have to count on dealing with humans to do it.

If we can people, some late night options in the area:

In case we can’t people, we’ll make sure to have a lot of food stored up at the hotel.

  • Cups of mac and cheese and potatoes and chef boyardee and soup
  • Salty snacks
  • All the coconut water and nuun (since we’ll need electrolytes but probably won’t want gatorade for weeks).
  • Some microwave/prepacked meals
  • Leftovers from other meals
  • And of course… there will be beer and champagne chilling in the fridge, whether that’s for that evening or mimosas in the morning. 🙂

Luckily we have the whole next day to lounge and relax, and we’re not heading home until Monday.  I’d love to hit up the Omega Grill and/or possibly Willie’s Icehouse but also our hotel has free breakfast and there’s a IM lunch/awards about a mile away (y’know, just in case a meteor hits the entire upper 75% of my age group and I’m first across the line, lol… just kidding.  Free food.  That’s the only reason.), and our hotel puts out a spread at 5-7pm and popcorn all afternoon and drinks and there’s other places within a mile so we may not do any of the things that involves getting in the car.

While a lot of this is indeed complete overthinking, we’re going into this with two athletes and no sherpa.  Two first time Ironman hopefuls who have NO IDEA how to expect to feel after.  I fully expect not to follow everything to the letter or have to type A the whole thing (just some things), but it’s like when I speak in public, I always write myself a full script JUST IN CASE I blank and all I can do is read from my paper.  Here is the map and the plan, should I lose my mind and all I can do is follow along.

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