Thursday, September 29, 2011

The big 3-0...

Oh My. Three more weekends of regular training before I go into taper mode. Thirty more days until I cross the line and someone announces that I am an Ironman (err, Iron Distance Finisher without the trademark…). Seriously, I wonder what they say when you cross at a non-branded iron race. I guess they just give some sort of congratulations and announce your name?

The Augusta race definitely has shielded me from too much worry about Beach2Battleship. I am thankful that it gave me a distraction from the big race looming in the not too distant future. Now that Augusta is in the books, B2B is becoming more real. I can feel some nervousness forming. I can feel that doubt about whether or not I have done enough training to make it to the end. I think that is normal though. Who hasn’t questioned whether a maximum distance training run of 20 miles was really good enough to get them to 26.2 before that first marathon? The same seems to hold true here. Triathlon is the first sport I have been involved in where you don’t really execute the whole thing (or the majority of it in practice). You swim on Tues/Thurs/Fri/Sat, bike on Tues/Wed/Sat/Sun, run on Wed/Thurs/Sat/Sun but you never string the whole thing together until race day. You just trust that the science and methodology behind the training plans will work for you.

This weekend’s training appears to be some kind of step back which is fine with me. Suprisingly enough, I am not really sore or tight from the race on Sunday which I will take as a good sign of my preparedness. I am clinging to any sign that will give me a confidence boost at this point! I have a smallish Swim/Bike/Run brick on Saturday and on Sunday I am running the 13.1 Atlanta Half Marathon, riding for an hour and then playing a tennis match. Thirteen miles was the scheduled mileage this week so I thought the half marathon would be a good way to get it done. As for the tennis, well, I missed playing so… (It should be noted that after I wrote out my weekend’s plan in the previous sentences, I realized how crazy it is that I now think of this kind of mileage as a step back week… the things an ironman will do to your thought process).

Four more weeks and I will be headed to Wilmington, NC for the race of my lifetime. Here's to four weeks of positive experiences and great training sessions!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

4All by Jofit Skort Winner...

You didn't think I would forget about picking a skort winner in all my post-Augusta delirium, did you? Fear not, we have a winner of the 4All by Jofit Side Pocket Skort!

I picked a number the old fashioned way. It went something like this...

Me: Pick a number between 1 and 25
Co-worker: Why, will I win something?
Me: No
Co-worker: OK, 6. What do I win?
Me: Still nothing.

Congratulations to Teamarcia! Look for an email from me shortly :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pre-Race Augusta 70.3...

As I mentioned in my last post, I can see why people generally split their race reports into sections. I feel like I could write a short novel on the race last weekend. Be thankful I am breaking it up for you...

Augusta is a short 2 hour drive from Atlanta. My initial plan was to be at the expo when it opened at 11:00 AM which would mean leaving my house at 9:00 AM. Clearer minds prevailed and I decided to sleep in a bit instead. I ended up arriving at the expo around 12:30 which worked out great. The line for registration was out of control. It went down a couple of hallways and around a corner or two. The first stop in the registration process was signing the waivers. You know, in case things didn’t go as planned … It took a minute or two for the volunteers to go through their speech about the waivers which is what contributed to the line.

After the waiver was signed, I basically breezed through the other registration tables. Picked up my packet with numbers in it got my t-shirt and SWAG bag and I was done. The process at the end reminded me so much of Disney in that you have to walk through the merchandise tent to exit and get to the rest of the expo. I ended up going with a t-shirt that had everyone’s name in the logo and a couple of water bottles. I also was planning ahead and purchased a cowbell for CR when we go to Beach2Battleship next month. It will give him something to do while he is waiting, waiting and waiting for all those hours. (Spectators definitely deserve their own medal, BTW…). I took a chance and opted not to attend the pre-race briefing. I will probably attend the one at B2B but I was pressed for time and the friends I was meeting had attended so I figured I could get any pearls of wisdom over dinner. The expo was surprisingly small, there were maybe 4- 5 small vendor tables and not a whole lot of interest so I headed out and went to bike drop off.

As I was pulling up to the transition area to drop my bike, I ran into my friend Jan which really was a miracle given all the people who were there. We unloaded our bikes and made the short walk to transition to drop off our bikes. The temperature reminded me a lot of my Chattanooga race at that point and I was hoping it would not be quite that hot the following day. As we were walking back to our cars, Jan and I ran into another friend of ours who was dropping off her bike.

Jan and I said our goodbyes and I headed to the hotel to check in. I had stayed at this hotel once before when my tennis team went to the state championships. One of my friends on the team had made the reservation and we gave her such crap about the hotel all weekend. The hotel wasn’t horrible, it was just an older hotel. When my friend, Wendy, and I were making reservations we decided to go with this hotel because it was cheap and it was within 1.5 miles of the finish line. I got into my room and opened the door to a wave of smoke. UGH. I know I had reserved a non-smoking room so wasn’t thrilled but knew there were no other rooms and not a lot that could be done. Smoke can give me a headache big time so I bought a can of febreze and hoped for the best. We were meeting friends for dinner at their home at 4:00 so I febreze bombed the room, shut the door and left.

A few of our friends were staying in a home in Augusta. It was built in the 1920s and had been refurbished. It was absolutely beautiful. The home owner along with Jan’s husband, Scott, pulled together a fantastic pre-race dinner for us. We had delicious pasta, salads, bread and red velvet cake. It was so much better than trying to find a place in town.

As we pulled back into the hotel, Wendy mentioned that she and her husband, Todd, were thinking that it might be a good idea to go drop the cars by the finish line that night and take a taxi back to the hotel. That would keep us from having to worry about parking and we could take the hotel shuttle to transition in the morning. Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Going into the race, I can honestly say I was not nervous about the race itself. The things that I was nervous were the logistics such as finding a place to park to drop off the bike, where to park in the morning, getting to transition and those sorts of things. This plan solved a lot of that worry. Cars tucked away in primo spots, our cocktail drinking/texting while driving taxi driver dropped us off at our hotel and we were done for the night.

I spent the next hour or so getting my gear organized while this show “Lockup” was playing in the background. The show was taped at a county jail in Tampa. One of the inmates was talking about her interests. “Some people like baseball or football. I like serial killers. They have this air of confidence that I like.” ….and we can all be thankful that she is in jail. With that, I called it a night.

The Race - Augusta 70.3...

Take a seat, this is going to be a long one...

As with most races, it was a super early start. Wendy, Todd and I decided to meet out front for the shuttle at 5:45 AM. When I got there a group was leaving so I staked my claim as first in line and waited for the shuttle to come back. Wendy and Todd came around the corner a few minutes later. At that point there were 5 people (including us waiting). As the shuttle pulls up, 3 more people get in line. Todd being the courteous person that he is helped the female driver load the gear in the back. As he was doing this everyone piles in the car not leaving a spot for Todd. The driver shouts out that Todd needed a seat and he had been helping load the car. Wendy and I said we had been first in line, that sort of thing. You could have heard crickets chirping. Not one person even acknowledged that the driver said anything or made any motion to maybe scoot over and make room. It was the strangest thing, as if they suddenly became deaf and could not hear. They all stared straight ahead silently hoping the driver would stop asking them to give up their seat for Todd. Weird. Todd ended up having to fold into the cargo area of the mini van. He is 6’4” so you can imagine…

The shuttle dropped us of at transition, we unfolded Todd and headed to set up our transition area. There were super expensive bikes everywhere. Nothing like a big race to make you feel bad about your ride. My little $300 bike I bought on ebay was feeling a little inferior this particular day. it is like having an El Camino in a group of BMWs. We got our tires pumped up, gear laid out and we hopped on the bus to the swim start. As we are waiting for the start, it starts drizzling a bit. At that point, we thought if it would just stay slightly cloudy, that would be perfect. Augusta can be brutally hot and humid and I didn’t want any part of that action. We stopped at a bench to pull on our wetsuits and headed to the starting area. We can hear the announcer sending off the first few waves. We parted ways with Todd so he could get in with his wave and we headed to drop off our morning clothes bag. As Wendy reaches in her bag, she realizes that somewhere along the way she has dropped her goggles. We retrace our steps with no luck. Wendy asks someone if they happened to see a pair of goggles on the ground. They say no but offer her their spare pair for which she was forever grateful. Crisis averted!

At that point, we needed to start finding our wave. Jan was going off first in our group followed by Wendy and then Christy and I were in the 3rd wave of our group. I felt completely calm at that point. We marched down the walkway to the dock and eased in the water. It felt good at that point since we had heated up a bit in the wetsuits. I positioned myself on the far left and somewhat to the front. We treaded water for about 60 seconds and we were off.

The churn was minimal, I never really felt like I was boxed in by other people. There were the occasional swimmers who would come shooting across diagonally and I would pause for half a beat to let them keep moving on their way. The water was murky and a little on the nasty side. When we first took off, we were swimming over the tops of trees or bushes. Very strange. Every once in a while you would grab a handful of branches or some random grass would get stuck on your goggles and face. I couldn’t help but wonder what that might look like in the race photos if I came up out of the swim with river grass all over my face.

We passed under a couple of bridges and I remember thinking that I should have studied the map a little bit better so I would know where I was on the course in relation to the finish. Shortly thereafter, I looked up and thought I saw the finish buoys. It didn’t seem like that was possible. My goggles were fogged up so I thought maybe I was not seeing that correctly. At that point I was sighting every couple of breaths until I was sure. It turns out it was the finish! I could not believe how quickly that leg went by. I kept swimming until my hands almost touched the ramp with each stroke, I stood up and made the run uphill to the wetsuit strippers and into transition.

Swim: 28:30

My plan all along was to not try to rush through transition. I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed so I wouldn’t be miserable on the ride. I could have gone faster but the time wasn’t all that important to me on this day. I was more about a positive race experience. Maneuvered my way out of T1 onto the bike course. (What is it with people clogging up the bike mount area trying to get on their bikes? Walk it over to the side and get on. You don’t need to stop dead in the middle. Just saying…)

T1: 6:09

…And we’re off. My plan for the bike was so get back to T2 with enough energy to run a half marathon. Don’t go all out, leave something in the tank. I had ridden the course twice before race day which helped. Even though I had ridden the course, I really did not have a good sense of how long it would take me to ride the course when I wasn’t with my training group. I fully expected to be passed by people in droves which is what I had experienced during my race in Chattanooga. I was pleasantly surprised to find that even though I was getting passed a lot, I was also passing other people which gave me a lot of confidence. I found myself using the aerobars for 95% of the race which is not the norm for me. I also seemed to figure out a gear that worked. It just clicked. I kept checking my MPH on my garmin and was surprised. I knew it would be quick early on but expected the number to go down as the race wore on.

Having never ridden in a race with water stops, I was a little nervous about how that might work. I had read all about how to do it but executing the hand off sort of unnerved me. I rode past the first water stop because I didn’t need anything at that point. By stop number two, one of my bottles was empty so I wanted to get some water. Worst case, I figured I would pull off the road at the stop and get a bottle. I slowed down and the volunteer kind of pushed the bottle in my hand so that it would have been hard to drop it. I put it in the bottle cage and that was that. Surprisingly easy.

The course was congested almost the entire way. There were very few stretches where you weren’t aware of getting too close to someone, needing to pass or getting passed. The only odd thing on the ride was a man standing in his driveway with a sign. At first I thought he was a friendly spectator. As I got closer I would read his sign and heard him. The sign said “go home – get off the road”. He kept saying “you are not welcome here, you are a nuisance to the locals”. All I could say was WOW. Guess he didn’t read the article about this being the worlds largest half iron and the all the business it was bringing to the local economy. He was more concerned with being unable to get to the Stop and Shop on a Sunday morning I suppose. I think for one day out of the year you could get over it. Odd.

Just like the swim, before I knew it I was approaching the end of the bike ride. I turned the corner to see Jan’s husband Scott cheering on the racers and ringing a cowbell. A few more feet and I was unclipping and making my way to my bike rack. Unbelievably happy with my ride!

Bike: 3:12:29

I don’t know if most people feel this way but once I get off the bike, for shorter distance races anyhow, you feel like you are home free. No mechanical worries, from here on out you could walk it in if you had to do so. I was riding a wave of biker’s/runner’s high at this point. I honestly thought this would be the slower of my transition times because I stopped to use the port-o-potty so was surprised when I saw that my T2 time was faster than T1.

T2: 4:57

I headed across the mat and back out onto the course. Right before you get to the main road, there were a group of volunteers pouring jugs of water on people. I opted for the impromptu shower. More due to the high and enjoying the moment than any real need to cool off at that point but it did help once I got on the road. The course is essentially two loops as you enter the loops the people on the second half of the course feed into the loop with you. Due to the double loop, you are seeing signs for mile 9 when you are on mile 2 and that kind of thing. We were told that you could not use audible beeps on your watch for pacing (i.e. setting an alarm to go off every 5 minutes so you know to walk for the next 60 seconds if you were doing a Galloway thing). This threw me a bit because that was the plan I was going to execute for B2B and what I had planned on doing for this race. I ended up walking 60 seconds at every mile marker. I didn’t get as much walking in that way but it worked out fine in the end. I never felt like I needed to walk more at any point. Even though it was a loop course, I didn’t see anyone I knew until around mile 11. I came up on my friend Wendy who I guess would have been on her mile 4 at that point. We walked together to the next water stop and chatted about our race. It felt good to see her. I had passed her early on in the bike and had been wondering how her race was going. At the water stop I started running again knowing I only had a couple of miles to the finish. Shortly after I left that water stop I started having some GI issues. There were no port a potties in sight so I gutted it out and hoped for the best.

During that last mile, I saw Joanna who was going to race with us but had to pull out due to an injury and then Dave from Tri Your Best. So exciting to finally see some people I knew in the crowd. The legs felt good and I could not believe I was around the corner from completing this race. As I turned the final corner, the first loop people split off from the final lap people and I was running down the chute to the finish! I have a history of hyperventilating from excitement when I reach milestones like this so I was trying to keep that from happening. It ends up looking like some weird ugly cry. I choked it back as best I could. As I am running, I hear my name and then I swear he said she likes McDonald’s which was weird (I might have been hallucinating). I crossed the finish line and I was done! Oh. WOW.

Run: 2:15:52

Overall Finish: 6:07:57

The finish line area was PACKED with people. It was at that point I realized that we really did not come up with a meeting place for after the race. I knew Wendy was maybe an hour or so behind me so worst case, I would watch for her. In between visits to the port-o-pottie (UGH! GI issues…), I milled about the finish area hoping to see someone I knew. I watched the finish line for about 5 minutes and happened to see Summer cross the line – so exciting! I decided I would go sit on the sidelines around mile 12 on the back side of the finish area and wait to see Wendy go by. I saw Jan and Christy shortly after their finishes and then finally saw Todd come through with his and Wendy’s bike and gear. As I was talking to him, I felt like I was going to pass out so I rambled over the medical tent to get checked out. They had me lie down with my feet up for a few minutes. My blood pressure was super low – 80/30. It is normally pretty low to begin with but that was a little excessive. A few minutes of that and I no longer felt like I was going to pass out. They had me sit up and drink some Perform.

From my vantage point on the cot I could see and hear the finish line. I knew Wendy had not crossed yet. I also saw a flash of lightening followed by an immediate announcement that the race was being shut down due to weather and the racers were being pulled off the course. I quickly told the doctor I was feeling better and rushed out to try and find Todd if not Wendy. Within 60 seconds, the tents were being pulled down and timing equipment pulled up. I rounded the corner from the finish to find Todd. I told him the course was being shut down. He had already heard and had gone to find Wendy on the course. She ran up right behind him, crossed the finish line and was given a medal and finisher’s hat. On the offical record her run time was not recorded but we saw her finish and there is even an official finish photo. I am so thankful that she was that close to the finish when all that went down or she would not have gotten anything. I can’t even imagine… There were people out there on the course that were pulled off. Just heartbreaking. I am pretty sure that was the only flash of lightening I saw too. It rained for a bit and then the sun came back out.

Todd and Wendy drove me over to transition to pick up my bike. I was so thankful because there was no way I was feeling like riding even a mile to my car. My stomach was messed up for a couple of hours after the race. Nutrition wise, I followed my plan on the bike. I followed my plan on the run as well but had some GI issues around mile 11.5 or 12 that make me think I need to really look at that over the next week and figure it out before B2B. I took GU gels at mile 4 and 8. The plan was to take another at mile 12 but my stomach could not have taken it at that point. Drink wise, I was taking in water at every other stop if not more. I took in Ironman Perform at almost every other stop (maybe not quite that often). In all honesty, I felt GREAT until that mile 11.5 or so. I still felt good enough to run it in at the end but knew I needed to find a restroom as soon as possible. (I know, TMI…).

This is the only thing that concerns me now about B2B. I am wondering if it could have been the Perform I took in on the course. I also took in 2 orange slices and 2 cups of coke along the way. In my training runs, I typically take in oranges and occasionally coke so I don’t think that was a problem. I have never had Perform before (and have never had GI issues like that before either). I am wondering if that is a coincidence or if I should come up with a better plan for B2B? Maybe I could get my electrolytes in some other manner and just rely on water. Does this sound familiar to any of you? If so, what do you suggest? I am a little over 4 weeks away from Beach 2 Battleship so really want to get this figured out.

Overall, I am OVER THE MOON about my finish time. I honestly expected a best case scenario of 6:30 if everything lined up perfectly. To come in 23 minutes ahead of that just blows my mind. Now it makes me wonder what I could have done to shave 7 minutes of the time in order to come in under 6:00 that day. There is always that next big goal, isn't there? HA HA.

I am a little over 4 weeks out from my full iron at Beach 2 Battleship. The nerves are already starting to hit me. This should be an interesting month!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The top three things I learned at Ironman Augusta...

I can see now why bloggers who post race reports often do it in segments. There were so many parts to this weekend, I don't even know where to being to tell the story. Don't you worry, I will get it done. It just won't be today. I don't want to leave you hanging so here are the top three things I learned this weekend.

1. Booty shorts for a man racing a triathlon is not a good look. Especially on the bike when I am stuck leap frogging said booty shorts for the last part of the course.

2. No amount of febreze spray in the world can transform a smoking room in a hotel into a non-smoking room.

3. Anything is possible. I am no super athlete. If I did it, you can too. Never sell yourself short. Finish time: 6:07!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Triathletes Outnumber Golfers in Augusta....

Three days. Tick. Tock. I saw this article today on the race. I had no idea Augusta was the world's largest half ironman with 3200 participants. Wow. I hope those 3,199 people don't get in between me and the food table at the finish. I think I might want something to eat right about then... I had heard there was a Mellow Mushroom Pizza at mile 12.4. Must resist temptation to stop and eat pizza :)

I have been obsessively checking the weather. At this point, I could probably get a job at The Weather Channel. Thankfully, the weather appears to be nice albeit a little hotter than what I would like but that is Augusta for you - hot and humid!

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend - hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

4All by Jofit Skort Giveaway...

Fall is here! In Atlanta, that means the kickoff of Fall ALTA. In reality, the Atlanta tennis season lasts year round. Our weather is mild enough to where we play outdoors from January through December. I have to say though Fall is the most enjoyable time to play. Summer is brutal because of the heat and Winter can be equally torturous. Yet we still play because we love it :)

To kick off the Fall tennis season 4All by Jofit has given me a Side Pocket Skort to giveaway! Don't think that this skort is just for tennis ... It is great as a running skirt as well. In fact, most of my "tennis" skirts double as running skirts. This one has cool side pockets on the outside which are great for tennis balls, GU gels or even an ipod. Check out their sweet new Cabo collection which has some great prints and colors!

To enter, just leave me a comment letting me know what you are most looking forward to this Fall. Bonus entries for liking 4All by Jofit on Facebook or following on twitter (@4allbyjofit). Contest ends Wednesday, September 28th. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Long Bike Rides for Beginners...

If you have been reading my blog for a while (or longer than a few months) you know that biking is not my strong suit. Back in May, I struggled to clip out before coming to a stop. I was concerned about how I would take in water during my 70.3 race. In my mind, I would roll into T2 fully dehydrated and a death grip on my handlebars. So what changed?

I started riding more. While I wouldn't consider myself an expert rider by any means, continuing to pile on the miles definitely made things easier. My number one tip for getting comfortable on the bike? You gotta put in some miles. Yeah, it might be scary but it gets easier. Trust me. I learned to ride as a kid but I wasn't one of those "ride my bike all over town kids". In fact, I don't remember riding all that much which is probably why it seemed so hard to take it up again as an adult.

Once you start putting in miles, your death grip on the bars begins to release. This is great because now you can drink and eat on the bike. I invested in a little $5 bento box to attach to my handlebars. It holds enough fig newtons for a ride and is easy access for a map as well.

Speaking of maps, how in the world do you go on long rides with many turns if you are unable to read a map while riding? Well, you follow someone who knows where they are going... Seriously though, in the beginning when I was in the death grip phase I wrote directions on the inside of my arm with a sharpie. If the ride was super long, sometimes the directions continued onto my legs. My riding partner used to laugh at me but we never got lost. ...and it should be noted, she always followed me because I knew where we were going. :) Some people clip or tape cue sheets to their handlebars. Once your death grip relaxes, you can store the cue sheets/map in your bento or in your jersey pocket and pull them out to see the next turn.

If you are new to biking, I know it seems like it might never become easier but it truly does. The more you ride, the easier it gets. There really is no magic formula. As for getting faster, well... I am still trying to figure that one out. Let me know if you have the magic trick for that one!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Counting down to Augusta...

Next Sunday is the big day! Ironman Augusta. Yes, it has become my "B" race but still plenty of excitment and nerves surround it. I definitely have an odd feeling of calm going into this week. I am hoping that is an indication of solid training. Talk to me on Octber 28th the night before Bech 2 Battleship ... am guessing I might not have the same sense of calm. In CR's way of trying to inspire me, he said "no person in their right mind would sign up for that kind of torture but you did - and you are woman enough to get it done". LOL Thanks, I think ...

As for Augusta, if you want to track my progress next Sunday, you can do so HERE. I am number 2568.

I don't really have any huge time goals for this race, primarily, just want to finish strong so that it gives me confidence for Beach 2 Battleship. This is my first experience at this distance and there are so many unknowns. I am not even sure how to estimate a finish time.

Swim: 35 minutes
The current is supposed to be insane so I may end up pleasantly suprised with this number.

Bike: 3 hours, 30 minutes
I have ridden the course twice but both times it was with a lot of stops so don't have a good handle on the time. Hopefully, it will hover somewhere around 3:30.

Run: 2 hours, 30 minutes
A conservative estimate. I am planning to do a run/walk like I will at Beach 2 Battleship so that will add some time. Excitement of the day or dead legs could bring this number up or down.

Transitions: Zero idea. The last race, I was super fast with transitions but I probably will take a little more time in this race just to avoid forgetting something important.

If I had to guess, I would say probably somewhere in the 6:30 to 7:00 range (hopefully closer to 6:30ish if things are going well). Again, just want to finish and not feel like I am going to die crossing the finish line. Too much to ask? :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Scenes from a Saturday Ride...

Today was my last long ride before Augusta 70.3 next weekend. It is still hard to believe how quickly time went by. It seems like just yesterday I was perched on a stool in my friend's kitchen filling out the online registration. One week to go!

I rode 85 miles today on my favorite route of all time. The route is nothing but hills without a flat road in sight but I still love it. There is almost no traffic at all and the scenery can't be beat. If you like an out in the country relaxing ride, this route is for you. The crazy part is that it is just 30 minutes or so outside of metro Atlanta. Good to know there are still pockets of undeveloped land out there that haven't been taken over by shopping centers and fast food restaurants.

We see all kinds of animals out there - rabbits, llamas, deer, cows, horses, mules, goats, chickens, assorted road kill & vultures... ick. I have also had a celebrity sighting - not once but TWICE I have seen Santa Claus running in the neighborhood (he was wearing an Atlanta Track Club singlet no less). The second time I saw him he said "ho, ho, ho" as I shouted out his name. I would not lie about these things - there is that whole naughty/nice list.

Hope you enjoy... :)