Tuesday, November 29, 2011

zoom, zoom, zoom-a, zoom...

We're going to zooma zooma zooma zoom. Anyone old enough to remember Zoom from the 70s? It was kind of like Electric Company but for slightly older kids.

I don't remember the bare feet but I do remember trying to emulate Bernadette's little arm trick there. Oh to be cool like those kids.

Speaking of random shows from the 70s, anyone remember the cartoon that was full on cartoon but the characters had real lips? Now THAT one was a classic. Go Clutch Cargo!

So Clutch Cargo has zero to do with this post but who can really get enough of cartoon characters with real lips?

This weekend, I ran in the Zooma Atlanta Half Marathon. I was back at Chateau Elan for more hilly fun with friends. I thikn this was Zooma's 4th race in Atlanta and I think they are still trying to find their niche. The first two races were in downtown Atlanta and the last two were about an hour north of Atlanta. Next year they are going to try out April at Lake Lanier. I think the timing of the race may be bad as Atlanta has a pretty popular half marathon on Thanksgiving Day. I am guessing that race pulls away some of their potential participants. Hopefully holding the race in April will help them get a bigger crowd!

I don't know what has been going on lately but I seem to have picked up some speed. I read somewhere recently that the leg strength you gain from biking helps with running speed so maybe that is what is going on. I always thought biking worked opposing muscles but maybe it still helps somehow? I know I haven't really been doing any speedwork which is why it is puzzling.

I managed to pull off a PR by a little less than a minute on Saturday (1:54:49) and got 3rd in my age group (something which NEVER happens at larger races). I actually didnt think I would even come close to placing so my friends and I weren't paying any attention whatsoever to the awards ceremony. We walked in the event hall where everything was taking place and as we were walking up they announced my name. I was completely shocked. I am kind of proud of that award since it was in a larger group, as opposed to my usual 3rd place out of a total of 4 people.

I also ran the full 13 miles which is something I have only done a couple of times this year. I had gotten into the habit of run/walking earier in the year when I did the Goofy Challenge and continued it in my longer races right on through B2B. It was kind of nice to prove to myself that I could run the entire distance and not feel beaten down at the end.

At the end of the race, they had champagne and necklaces for a finishers award. For the food, they gave out pre-filled snack bags which I think is a good idea so you can kind of ration things out and make sure there is something left for the runners at the end. The interesting thing was the contents of the bag. There was a bagel, apple, small thing of peanut butter, a boiled egg and a piece of american cheese. I can't say that I have ever been given an egg or american cheese post race. Points for trying to cover all the bases with protein and carbs!

Have you ever received anything odd as a post race food item? I don't know why but I love interesting post-race snacks. To me, that can make or break my race experience. The jingle jog I am doing in a couple of weeks has insane post race festivities and I cannot wait!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Give Thanks ...

"Be thankful for what you have, you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never have enough." Oprah

Lots to be thankful for this year! I hope you all have a great week.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Of hills, runners and red velvet bingles...

This morning was the Vineyard Run for Hope 10k. The last 10k I ran was the Peachtree Road Race in July. Over the past couple of months, I have been focusing more on finishing longer distances and less on the speed in which I finished those distances which makes you question if you can still pick up the speed in races of a shorter distance. One of my goals for 2012 involves getting a decent qualifying time for the Peachtree Road Race so I was kind of using this race as a benchmark to see how far I would have to go to get that qualifying time.

The race was held at Chateau Elan which is about an hour northeast of Atlanta. It was a small race so I wasn't too worried about traffic and parking which is one of my favorite features of small races. There is nothing much better than not having to worry about catching shuttles or walking a mile from your car to the start.

There was an awesome event room to hang out in while we waited for the start. It was about 42 degrees this morning so having a warm area to wait in was a huge bonus!

We finally got the call to head out to the start and with a brief announcement and not much fanfare, we were off! There weren't all that many people at the race so didn't have to do a lot of bobbing and weaving to find some room to run. Somehow I found myself oddly close to the front of the field. I am not sure I even know how to act in that position! Not to worry, it did not last long. :)

No exaggeration, the route was nothing but hills. If you weren't going up a hill, you were going down one. In retrospect, it was kind of nice because I normally wouldn't push myself to that extent on hills. While we were were hiking up and down the hills, I also tried to focus on running the tangents. That summer I spent racing cars must have helped with my tangent tracking because I ended up with 6.18 on the garmin (It also makes me wonder if the course was short. Is it possible to run the tangents too good? Don't know).

My final time was 54:24 which was great for me! My goal for the qualifying race is 52:00 and it is on a course known for being "fast" so after this morning's race, I feel really good about being able to get to that 52:00 by February.

We were joking prior to the race that we had a good chance at awards due to the low number of participants. I definitely thrive in these type of races :) I came away with 2nd in my age group (and was the 4th overall female). WOO HOO!

For a small race, they really had quite a lot to offer foodwise at the end. In addition to fruit and water, they had a huge assortment of granola bars, large bags of granola and blue bird snack cakes. I have never heard of a "blue bird" snack cake but they seemed to be like hostess or little debbies. I picked up a bag of granola and a Red Velvet "bingle" (think twinkie in red velvet form). I can't resist much of anything that is red velvet even if it is in the world's most processed form...

I really enjoyed this race. It was well organized, they had some nice post race goodies and it went to a good cause (The Gwinnett Children's Shelter). I would definitely do this next year. Post race we had an awesome brunch at Wendy's house. Mimosas, spinach quiche and other goodies for everyone!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

There is a little more to it than a gift with purchase...

One iron distance and a grand total of 7 triathlons does not an expert make and I am certainly no expert. You all know I did not ease into the iron distance but rather took the cannonball approach and just went for it, sprint to iron in six months. I am definitely an impulsive person. You know, “oh that sounds fun AND I get a free shirt too?”. I never stand a chance against a gift with purchase. I always make it seem rational in my head. Kind of like I did with Beach 2 Battleship. “Well, I am already training for the 70.3 plus a marathon a few weeks later, how hard can it be to add on a few more miles of biking?” Yeah. I can justify anything.

If you prefer to mull things over before you act, here are some things I came to realize over the past few months of training and some things that might give you food for thought if you are considering tossing your name into the hat for an iron distance race. (Honestly, you could use most of these same thoughts if you are considering a triathlon of any distance).

1. You have to BELIEVE somewhere deep down inside that YOU CAN DO IT. You may not be able to do it tomorrow but you have the confidence that with the right training it is possible. Confidence is key. If you have any inkling in your head that you might be able to finish an ironman, then you absolutely can. Do not allow fear (or even – God forbid – rational thinking) hold you back. If you can dream it, you can do it (for the most part…. See bullet 2).

2. BE REALISTIC. Even if you believe with all your heart that you have iron running through your veins, you still have to make the time cutoffs. They vary from race to race, if that is a concern for you check before you sign up. You don’t have to be an olympic superstar but you don’t want to get picked up by the sag wagon or pulled off the course after putting in 9 months of training. I can’t think of anything much more heartbreaking. Generally speaking, if you have a decent base of overall fitness and after training can make the swim in 2 hours, the bike in 8 hours (~ 14 mph) and the run in 5.5 hours ( ~ 13 min / mile), you theoretically should be able to do it. Keep in mind this leaves very little cushion for a flat tire or other unplanned emergencies. Obviously, the more time cushion the better. (Disclaimer, these times are just MY line in the sand, see sentence #1 – I am not a trained expert).

If you have done a half-iron distance, the general rule of thumb is to multiple your finish time by two and add an hour. In my case, that theory was just about spot on. My half time was 6:07, my full was 13:25.

3. If you are worried about cutting it close to the finish, there are courses that lend themselves better to PRs and thus might help you make cutoffs. If you can shave some time with a current assisted swim or a flat ride and run, why not seek out those situations? B2B is known for its fast swims. The bike ride is advertised as pancake flat. My pancake had some lumps in the batter and a whole lot of wind. The run is anything but flat. Do some race recon and FIND A RACE THAT FEELS LIKE A GOOD FIT FOR YOU. I am a strong swimmer and train on hills when I run so my concern was finding a race with a bike leg that appealed to me. If the swim and run were fast too, well that was a bonus.

Keep in mind that the weather on any given day can change the “speed” of a course dramatically. Set yourself up for success as much as you can with the ideal course but realize that weather always plays a factor.

Outside of the course itself, if having cheering family and friends will help you on race day, you might want to consider a race closer to home that would be easy to get to for family and friends. Giving up a flat bike course for a little moral support on the course might be worth it.

4. Find a training plan and STICK TO IT. You can’t phone this training in. I am obsessive about sticking to my training schedules. Probably 90% of my training for past races has been done on my own. If you are someone who needs another person to keep you motivated, talk a friend into racing with you, hire a coach to give you that accountability factor or try to find a tri group in your area. Even if you have to make a bit of a drive to get to the group training sessions, it might help you stick with the plan.

You can move training days around on your training plan. Mondays were the best day for me to be off so I rearranged my training plan to make that happen. Rearranging is OK. Skipping workouts, generally not.. Your best chance for completing the race and experiencing an easy post race recovery has everything to do with how you trained. Make it happen.

5. It is a HUGE time commitment. Training plans can begin as many as 9 months out from race day. Very early on in the plan, you will be doing either 2+ hour workouts or two a day workouts. I work a Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 type job. My training schedule was generally 12 to 15 hours a week (which is on the low end as far as these things go). My typical training week was something like this: Tuesday – swim/bike, Wednesday – Bike/run, Thursday – Swim/bike, Friday – Swim, Saturday – Bike/run/swim, Sunday – Run/Bike.

Up until the last few months, the weekend sessions are essentially half day or even morning sessions. The last couple of months, training tends to take up most of your days. You leave the house at 6 AM and get home at 4 PM. The last six weeks will test your mental willpower. You will desperately wish for a morning to sleep in. Fig newtons, GU gels, gatorade or your race nutrition of choice will become like another food group for you. By the time taper rolls around the thought of logging one more mile may make you want to cry.

6. It can be quite the FINANCIAL COMMITMENT. The registration fee for Ironman is around $600. If you go with an off brand race (Rev 3, Set Up Events, HITS, Great Floridian), expect to pay about half that amount. The cost does not end there. If you are planning to fly to the race, you will have travel expenses not only for yourself but also your bike. You should also factor in coaching (if you go that route), gym or pool membership, tires, bike tune up, wetsuit, and other random expenses right down to GU Gels or other nutrition. It all adds up.

7. Find some MENTAL TOUGHNESS. Things may not go your way on race day. You may have a flat tire, you may bonk on the run, you may want to give up. You need to be able to self motivate enough to keep moving forward. Do you have that little voice inside of you that helps you to regroup and keep going? I have said it before and I will say it again. I am no triathlon or running superstar. I only podium finish in races with low participation (if that). I have the ability to push myself and the ability to endure which goes a long way in a sport in which you are primarily racing yourself. How bad do you want it?

8. Have FAITH. When you get to the end of your training, you may question how this will all come together. If you are a runner, you generally run 20 or 22 miles before a marathon. Mentally, you have basically done the race at that point. With this race, you won’t get that close to replicating the full 140.6 miles prior to the big day. If you put in the time in training, it all comes together in the most amazing way on race day. Race day, I focused on one leg at a time. While I was swimming, I just focused on swimming. Once I clipped in to the bike pedals, it was all about the bike for 112 miles. As I stepped off the bike and laced up my running shoes, I just counted down to the finish.

Yes, it is hard. Yes, you will wonder at one point or another if you are actually going to finish this thing. Once it is all over, you will have a runner’s high that lasts for a couple of weeks. It still seems surreal to me and it has been over two weeks.

If all that sounds good to you, I say shake off the fear and hesitation and go click that REGISTER button! I am pretty sure they will give you a shirt and a medal with purchase :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

One Can Ride...

Today was my first real ride post-Beach2Battleship. The ride was a charity ride for a local food co-op and was hosted by one of the bike shops I frequent in the area. Apalachee Cycle is pretty convenient to where I work and they have treated me so well when I was trying to get a bike fit, aerobars and the like I wanted to support them in any way I could. There were 2 rides on the agenda, a 30 miler and a metric century. Although I feel basically "recovered" from B2B, mentally I wasn't interested in sitting on a bike for 62 miles. I guess there is some mental recovery to be done... :)

I was a little nervous about the ride only because I didn't know anyone else that was participating. I didn't want to be the slow one in the group. (I guess that feeling never goes away). I got over that feeling real quick when I thought about how far I have come in the last six months. If I can do a century ride and an ironman by myself, I am pretty sure I should be able to do a 30 mile ride by myself, right? I even manage to annoy myself with the lack of confidence sometimes.

I unloaded my bike and rode over to the starting area in front of the store where everyone was gathered. One woman on a hybrid bike said something about her friend not being there to ride with her. The woman looked familiar to me and I realized it was a woman who had talked to me one day in the parking lot at Stone Mountain. She was just getting back on the bike and couldn't remember the hand signals for turns and had asked me to show her. I asked her if she was doing the 30 miler or the 62 miler. She said she was doing the 30 miler and then quickly added that she was capable of doing the 62 miler but had just run a half marathon last week. Another man said he was only riding 30 miles because he had to run 11 miles later that day. I thought it was interesting that they both felt the need to explain why they didn't go for the longer route. As if someone was judging them for not going for the metric century. I told them I was doing the 30 miler because I just didn't want to ride 62 miles, plain and simple. :)

I knew the ride was probably going to be hilly. It had been a couple of months since I had ridden many hills which is quite the trick living in Atlanta. If you want to ride flats you have to go out of your way to find them. In my case, I had been going to the Silver Comet Trail for the 4 weeks leading up to B2B. It is about a 45 minute drive from my house. If you want to just step out of your house and ride, you should expect to navigate quite a few hills.

I rode off and on with the man who had the 11 mile run later today. I asked him what he was training for (because most people don't do a 30 mile ride and follow it up with an 11 mile run for fun) and he said IM Florida. He said he was registered for 2012. I was kind of puzzled by the training that was already in progress; I guess he just wants to be REALLY prepared since the race is November 3, 2012.

The rest of the ride was kind of uneventful. Except for the hills. There were plenty of them. I even had to pull it into the granny gear on one particularly steep hill towards the end. Judge me if you want... HA HA.

Post ride, I headed to the gym to get some weight training in. I am trying to do that three times a week now. It can be initimidating with all the boys up there doing their thing but I just throw down my ironman water bottle and they know what's what. Ironman water bottle = instant credibility :)

In other news... I joined the sticker club today. Finally!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A beautiful day for a run...

What a great day for a run! I headed off to Stone Mountain to do the five mile loop and loved every moment of it. The weather was about 65 degrees, sunny and just beautiful!

Lately, I have become a fan of the silent run. You know, no ipod. This is something new for me as I was formerly in the ipod club. I couldn't imagine running without one. I still like them on 15-20 mile runs but really have come to enjoy just running in silence lately on the shorter runs. Listening to my feet hit the pavement and my lungs gasping for air on the hills... Seriously, give it a try one time. You might like it :)

Before I went out running, I put the makings for chicken noodle soup in the crock pot. CR loves this soup. If you are looking for a good recipe to try, give this one a whirl as it is so easy.

Easy Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

In a crock pot, layer in the following:

one onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 t thyme
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
12 oz bag of frozen peas and carrots

On top of this add:
3 uncooked chicken breasts
6 cups of water

Cook on low for 8 hours (or high for 4). Pull the chicken breasts out, shred the meat and add back to the pot. Add 3 cups of noodles (uncooked - I use elbow noodles but you can use whatever you have on hand - I won't judge). I also add another 2-3 cups of water at this point. Cook for another 30-45 minutes on low or until noodles are tender. Enjoy :)

Hope everyone has a nice weekend. I am getting back on the bike tomorrow. There is a charity ride / cookout at a bike shop in Dacula. Hope they have a nice turnout!

Friday, November 4, 2011

So what is next...

The big question from everyone this week has been "how are you feeling?". It seems so strange to me but I feel just about 100%. I fully expected to be walking like frankenstein for the better part of the week but it just never happened. My muscles were pretty tight on Sunday and I didn't look forward to shoving my toes into work shoes on Monday but other than that nothing. I mean NOTHING. I know... I can't believe it either.

I am told the quick recovery is a good indication that I must have done a decent job of following the training plan. Had someone not brought it up, I probably would not have put two and two together on that one but it does make sense. I follow training plans like nobody's business. I have a fear of not following the training plan so am extremely OCD where it is concerned. The only workouts I skimped on were the 2 or 3 in the final week before the race. You know, the ones that are usually run 20 minutes or swim 10 minutes just to keep loose. I skipped those. *gasp*

Wednesday, I went to the pool and then this morning I played tennis for about three hours but that has been the extent of my activity this week. My plan is to catch up on sleep this weekend and then get back to some sort of regular workout schedule on Monday. I had initially planned on doing the Savannah Rock n Roll Half Marathon tomorrow but ended up not being able to make the trip. It probably was for the best. I could definitely use some chillin' at home time.

The other question was "did you put the sticker on your car?". Can you believe I did not even think to buy a sticker? Never even crossed my mind. I guess I had too many things rolling through my head at the expo to think about it. I did get a sweet deal on a swimsuit and some BBQ sauce though... I'll have to hit up the next expo for a sticker so I can join the sticker club. :)

I went into B2B thinking this would in all likelihood be the “one and only” iron distance I would ever participate in. As I got closer to race day, I had a thought in the back of my head that if things went well I might be interested in trying out IM Florida but who knew what last Saturday would hold for me. It could have been a DNF, I could have crawled across the line at the last second vowing to never do this again or could have wound up in the medical tent afraid to give it another go. Amazingly enough, I had a great experience at B2B which made me want to do it again – and by again, I mean not just any iron distance but B2B. After last weekend, that race has a special place in my heart.

What is even funnier to me is that for weeks leading up to this race, CR kept making remarks about this being my only time to race this distance. Not in an “I don’t want you to do this again” sort of way but more because he worries about me crashing on the bike and getting hurt. Realistically the distance does seem more like something you cross off your bucket list and you are done with it. It would be interesting to see what percentage of people do this distance more than one time. Once I crossed that finish line, all the talk from CR changed to “next time” this and “next time” that. He said things like *we* need to figure out how to get you faster on the bike. Funny how things change. I think we both had a good time in our own way that day.

Right now, I am putting together my plan for 2012. I have my eye on a small local marathon in January and then another in March. After that, I will likely focus on triathlons beginning with a sprint in May continuing with Augusta 70.3 in September and ending with Beach 2 Battleship again in November. It would seem as if I just got bitten by the triathlon bug.

Side note - I do want to sign up for an IM branded race at some point just to have that experience but it is not in the cards this year, possibly 2013. The whole branded versus nonbranded race is a whole other post, wouldn't you agree? While the distance is the same 140.6 no matter what company puts on the race, there is definitely a marketing machine behind IM.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Beach 2 Battleship - the run...

When we last saw CR, he was standing at the bike finish with his neck craned to the right anxiously awaiting my arrival. Since he had not seen me coming in, I snuck up on him as I was leaving for the run. We chatted for a quick second and took a picture or two. I told him I would be back in a couple of hours and headed off.

The run course was two 13.1 mile loops. I LOVE looped courses. Mentally, it makes it easier to break up the length of the race into smaller portions. You know what to expect. We all know my love for the 5 mile loop around Stone Mountain.

You might think that since the bike course is flat that the run would be as well. You would be wrong. There were plenty of flat sections but there were also quite a few hills here and there. Two of the hills are drawbridges. I am not talking tiny little drawbridges either. These bridges were no joke especially with that 20+ mph wind.

After seeing CR, I headed off on the run. Within the first mile, you hit the largest bridge. The wind was howling; I had to hold on to my hat to keep it from blowing off. I made the executive decision to walk up the bridge. Once I reached the top of the bridge, I went flying down the other side then shortly thereafter started the ascent up the next bridge. After the bridges, I made the turn into the riverfront area of Wilmington. There were crowds of spectators and volunteers cheering and yelling out my name as I passed. Around mile 5, there was a train headed towards the crossing, the gates came down and the volunteers were trying to stop the runners. The train was far enough away that a few of us shot across the tracks to avoid stopping.

At mile 6.5 I crossed the first timing mat and headed back to the bridge. This time I was not so lucky with the train. It was making its way across the track and I stood there and watched it go along with 20 or 30 other runners. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a second train coming through or the same train I narrowly missed on the way out. I stood there for about 5 minutes waiting on the train. I have heard reports that it was 10 minutes if you were unlucky enough to get stopped by it at the beginning.

After the train I continued on. My method was to run a mile, walk 60 seconds, and take a GU gel every 4 miles. After the issues at Augusta I was scared to try anything new; however, I did go for some chicken broth and Pepsi a few times. The sun was setting and it was getting colder. I couldn’t wait to get to the battleship and to special needs so I could put on a long sleeved shirt. I tend to get hotter than most when I run so had opted for knee pants and a tank in the beginning. Not a bad choice but was looking forward to some extra coverage towards the end of the first loop. I grabbed a tub of Pringles out of my bag, stopped to give CR the rest of my chips and headed out for the final lap.

I was still feeling surprisingly good at this point. Honestly, I was shocked. We have all read the blogs and heard the stories. This distance can be brutal. I could not believe I was feeling so good. I just kept doing what I was doing and counted down the miles. At one of the aid stations, I was given a glow necklace so I could be seen in the dark. I also had a little clip light on my hat to light up the road in places where it was dark. It was hard to see other runners coming towards you even with the glow lights. I was glad I had my extra light.

I crossed the train tracks (no train this time) and headed to the turn around at mile 6.5. My legs were getting tired but I was still maintaining a good pace. Several of the spectators even commented on how my pace looked good as I went by (of course, they probably say that to every one…) :) I made the turn at 6.5 and thought “this is it, I am headed to the finish line”. Along the way, I would chat with runners on their final loop and shout words of encouragement to those that passed in the opposite direction. I met a lot of first timers, a couple who were doing their 9th IM race together and a few people hobbling in along the way.

In the last half mile, one of the guys I had talked to at mile 21 or so ran up behind me and said “come on, let’s finish this strong”. I told him to go on so he could have his moment on his own and watched him round the corner into the finisher’s chute. I took a right turn by special needs and there was about a 50 yard chute to run before you turn into the finish line area. I had the chute all to myself and the volunteers and spectators were cheering me on. The announcer at the corner starting calling out “40 yards to go” and “one more turn”. As I turned into the final chute to the finish the crowd went insane as they announced my name and I ran with my arms waving in the air from the start of that stretch to the finish.

I looked over to the left and caught a glimpse of CR ringing the cowbell with all his heart. I didn’t see the time as I crossed so didn’t find out my time until later. As I crossed I was given a medal and wrapped in a heat sheet. It was as if I had a personal concierge there at the finish. They asked me what size shirt I wanted and showed me where the warming tents and food were and then gave me a bottle of water. I kept looking around to where I had seen CR last and a volunteer asked me if I was OK. I said I was just looking for my husband. I turned around and there he was smiling from ear to ear!

I cannot express to you how much I loved this race! The organization was top notch. All my changing bags were magically grouped together at the end when I went to pick them up. The volunteers were ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. These were no ordinary volunteers. Every single volunteer I passed along the way was cheering for me as if they were my own personal cheerleader. These volunteers were like nothing I have ever seen before. Truly outstanding. They were scattered throughout the course which helped because it gave you very few stretches where you could get bored. You were either making turns on the course or coming up on an aid station. There was enough distraction to keep you motivated.

It was all very surreal (and still is to some extent). For me, it was one of those things that I really thought I would never be capable of doing. I am middle of the pack Jane, iron distances are for hard core people, right? If I can do it ANYONE can. I wasn’t an athlete in school. I just started to run 5ks a few years ago. You all know my struggles with biking. Yeah, training is hard and time consuming. The last month of training will test your mental toughness. You get to the point where you can’t imagine logging one more mile but somehow you persevere and you get it done. In the end you are glad you did because you accomplished something you never thought possible.

Run time: 4:55:58

Finish: 13:25:05

I would highly recommend Beach2Battleship if you are thinking of dipping your toe into the iron water. The race set up was well organized, the course was great. The volunteers were beyond enthusiastic and helpful. Every single volunteer I passed along the way was cheering for the racers. You will not be disappointed!

Beach 2 Battleship - the bike...

As I reached the mount line to start my journey on the bike, I hear CR call my name. I gave him a quick wave and a smile and I was off. It was cold, windy and overcast. I was glad I opted for my jacket instead of just arm warmers. I later saw people wearing trash bags and heard of others who were given clothes by spectators along the course to wear. I kept reasonably warm in the jacket, Had I gone with my sleeveless jersey and arm warmers, it would have been a different story.

Within the first mile was the "dreaded bridge grating". We were warned at the pre-race meeting about the grating on one of the drawbridges. If it was raining we were going to be asked to get off the bike and walk it across. Luckily, it was not raining so we rode across. In the online forums I had been following prior to the race, there was a lot of concern about the grating on the various online forums so it made me a little nervous. Thankfully, it turned out to be no big deal. We made a few turns and finally made it out to a main road leading to the highway. Something told me to check and make sure the GPS tracking was on. I looked down and realized it had fallen out of its holster somewhere between the changing tent and now. UGH. I was hoping it would not throw CR off in his ability to know when to be at the various checkpoints. I felt so bad...

Shortly afterwards, I looked ahead to see a white Honda stopped in a line of traffic at a red light. It looked a lot like my car. I got closer and realized the passenger window was rolled down. All I could hear was a cowbell and CR cheering for me. Loved that! Nothing strange about starting to cry at mile three, is there?

About 400 yards later and we were rolling onto the highway. The winds were brutal. I am told the official observation from the weather service in Wilmington was that the winds were 12-18 mph with gusts to at least 23 mph for the morning and peaked at 25 mph sustained, with 33 mph gusts. I would say my observations were about the same as those winds were either in my face or coming at me from the side for all of the first 76 miles. It was overcast and cold. It drizzled for maybe 2 hours early on in the ride. When I looked back at my Garmin stats, you can see where we made the turn and got out of the headwind. I was hovering around the 15 mph gridline for the first 76 miles then there is a 5 mph jump to around the 20 mph gridline for the remaining miles.

Since this day was all about finishing and completing in a particular time wasn't a huge concern for me, I opted to treat this leg like a century ride meaning that I would stop at aid stations as needed even if to do nothing other than stand up for a second. I didn’t plan to take a leisurely stroll while I was there but spend maybe 60 seconds at each one. I stopped at the first aid station at mile 21 to use the port o john. Plenty of other people had the same plan and I ended up waiting in line for quite a while. Since I spent so much time at the first stop, I decided to bypass the stop at mile 36. I ended up regretting that decision. The split second to stop and stand up was a huge help in getting through the 112 miles.

Special needs was at mile 51. I wasn’t sure what to expect here. Mostly I had pictured people grabbing their bag pulling out whatever their stash was and moving on quickly. There probably was some of that but there were people just sitting in the grass eating sandwiches and snacks almost like they were at a picnic. I think we were all glad to be out of the constant wind at that point. I ate an uncrustable sandwich, a few pringles and followed it with a couple of ibuprofen for good measure. This was the only solids I had taken in thus far on the bike. I will say I *sort of* broke the cardinal rule of racing as I switched from my fig newton plan to GU gels and chomps. My issues at Augusta scared me in terms of nutrition so I tested out the gels on my last training ride and decided to go that route. I had one of just about every flavor of GU they make and it seemed to work. I HIGHLY recommend the 2012 holiday flavor of peppermint stick. It is a sweet mint flavor. LOVE IT.

I left special needs and headed out into the wind. Somewhere around mile 60 my right knee decided it was not enjoying the race as much as I was and started to revolt. It hurt to pedal. I looked at my watch and I had slowed quite a bit. I was already slower than I should be due to the wind. Not a good feeling. It wasn’t like I could stop right there and give up so I kept going. I knew I had just taken some ibuprofen so was hoping that would kick in and help. In the meantime, I did the heavy lifting with my left leg, let the right one spin along and said a prayer. I was getting discouraged about my time due to the wind and now my leg but then I remembered that we all started this race at the same time. There are people 12 feet in front of me that are in the same boat. I just kept pedaling and by the time I reached the aid station around mile 76, my knee had started cooperating again.

At that particular aid station, there was a flag blowing. I thought to myself “goodbye headwind/crosswind, hello tailwind”! As we made that right turn, you could instantly feel the change. My speed went up to 22 and 24 mph which is not something that is my bag of skills. It was all wind assisted. That wind was instant energy. I started counting down the miles. I initially started thinking “only 2 more hours to go” but that didn’t seem to help mentally. It was much better to count off miles. At the aid station around mile 90, I stopped, ate some peanut butter pretzels for about a minute and moved on. I ended up bypassing the final aid station because I was making such good time.

As we approached Wilmington, the traffic was bumper to bumper headed over the bridge towards the battleship. We were riding in the bike lane for maybe a half mile before heading up and over the bridge. Let me say this bridge at mile 111 was no joke. Clearly that was the only way to get us to the battleship but – oh my – who wants to climb like that after 111 miles of riding. The excitement of reaching the battleship made it totally worth it.

We made the turn into the battleship area and there were wall to wall spectators and cheering. I looked for CR but wasn’t sure I would be able to spot him. Right before the dismount line, I saw him in the corner looking to right searching the incoming bikers for me. I yelled his name a couple of times but was so fixated on the bikes, he didn’t hear me or see me. As I was getting off the bike and a volunteer took it away to be racked, they shouted my number out so a volunteer could grab my changing bag. By the time I got to that area, the volunteer was waiting on me and I headed into the changing tent.

The changing tent this time was much less congested. There were probably 6 other ladies in there with me along with a handful of volunteers. Inside the tent there were chairs around the perimeter and a table with a wide variety of snacks and drinks. After I changed, I drank some coke, made a pit stop at the port o john and headed out on the run.

Bike time: 7:17:10

T2: 9:22

Beach 2 Battleship - the swim...

As I walked across the sand towards the start line, I could hear them playing the national anthem. As I made it to the archway of the start they announced that everyone who was racing needed to get into the corral. I can't remember the song they were playing at that point. I adjusted my goggles and tried to keep my cool. I positioned myself along the left side of the crowd about halfway back. Although in certain circles I might be considered a fast swimmer, I felt like in this crowd I was probably about the same speed as most everyone else. No need to rush to the front as my plan was to swim this leg fairly easy.

The next song played was Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”.

The horn went off in the middle of the song and all 800 of us started walking forward and under the starting arch. Although this was my first ocean swim and only the second time for a start that was not in the water, I honestly had not given much thought to getting from the beach to the water. Would I run until it got too deep, dolphin dive, or what? It had not even occurred to me to think about it. I just did what came naturally. I stayed to the left waded in until it was a little over knee deep, took a dive and I was off. The first few strokes felt so easy, at some point I think I was barely even kicking just kind of saving my legs and pulling along. I almost had to remind myself to kick once in a while.

This was my first experience with a mass start so I was a little nervous about it beforehand. I must have gotten extremely lucky because I had hardly any kicking, pulling, or people swimming over the top of me. I got caught up in a group of people 2 or 3 times but I was in and out of the group quickly. The women’s sprint triathlon I did in August was 100 times worse in terms of congestion than this mass swim start.

The course takes you out a short distance and then you turn right around a buoy and into the channel. Your only other turn is a left hand turn in front of a hotel then it is a straight shot to the ladders to get out. Race day was overcast, our swim caps were a dark gray and my goggles were fogged up which made it hard to sight. Every time I looked, all I could see was gray. Once or twice I stopped and cleared my goggles just so I could see where I was going. When I looked around as far as I could see were swimmers. It was a pretty cool sight. I just kept plugging away headed in the same basic direction as the other swimmers.

There was some chop, nothing too horrible. Every once in a while I would get a mouth full of salt water and I would try my best not to swallow it. I could occasionally feel a small wave as it moved forward and me with it. The race is known for its fast swim because of the current. Some years the current is stronger than others. This year was supposed to be one of the strongest yet. To give you an idea, the fastest swim time this year was 36:07. I am not complaining.

Right about the time I was wondering how far along I was, I came on the turn buoy at the hotel. I knew this was about 1.2 miles as this was where the half-iron swimmers start their race. On facebook prior the race, someone had posted a picture of the building that was behind the ladders so we would know what we were swimming towards. In the distance, not long after I made the turn I could see the building and knew I was close to the end. As I approached the ladders, I really began to feel the current. I knew I needed to aim for the first ladder so as not to overshoot the finish and have to fight the current back. I could feel the current pushing me to the left. I made it to the ladder and stepped up on the dock.

I made my way over to the wetsuit strippers. A quick yank and I had my wetsuit in hand. At some point, I remember passing a clock that read 51 minutes. I thought “no way…” even with the current that was faster than I had hoped. I made a pass through the freshwater showers and took off on the run to T1.

T1 was across the street from the dock and that was where all the cheering spectators were gathered. I ran across the timing mat and headed to get my changing bag. My bag was not where it was supposed to be so a volunteer helped me locate it and I dashed into the tent to change. I had ordered a special GPS tracking for the day because I wanted CR and other family to be able to track me along the way. I turned the GPS and my Garmin on and changed into my biking clothes. My original plan was a sleeveless jersey with arm warmers. I had stashed a jacket in the bag just in case. I decided to leave the arm warmers and take the jacket since it was overcast. This turned out to be a winning decision. All dressed I put everything in the changing bag and headed to my bike.

Swim Time: 51:34

T1: 11:03

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beach 2 Battleship - the pre-race run down...

You all know how this goes. This will be waaaaaaaaaay longer than most of you probably want to read but I wanted to capture most everything. Read on if you think you have the mental fortitude :)

I essentially spent most of Thursday making the seven hour drive to Wilmington. I was anxious to get my bib number and check out the swag so I stopped at the expo before heading to my hotel.

After picking up my number, I checked in at the hotel and unloaded the car. The amount of things you need for this race is ridiculous. Had CR come with me, he probably would have had bags in his lap the whole time. I am sure he was thankful to miss that experience! I took my chances and parked next to honey badgers. I have heard they can be fierce so I kept alert, especially since these weren't average honey badgers. These were the Bad A@@ kind.

After the 18,001 bags were carted up to the room, I headed to Wrightsville Beach. I wanted to get a look at the beach before race morning. As I was driving along the 2+ miles I would be swimming on Saturday, it felt like the longest distance ever. When you are swimming those laps in the pool, you don’t get a real sense of the distance. When you see it all laid out like that it starts to seem a little daunting.

I found a parking spot and headed onto the beach to check it out. Nothing was set up yet so it was kind of hard to tell where the start was. I followed a couple of other racers around and we eventually saw the first turn buoy and kind of put things together from there. There were quite a few swimmers testing out the water. On my way back to the car, I grabbed a couple of shells as a momento of the weekend.

Thursday night was the pre-race dinner. There were not a lot of people there but was glad I went. It was the typical buffet of pasta, chicken and salad and gave us the chance to talk to other racers. There were quite a few first timers there; B2B seems to be a magnet for them. Fast swim, mostly flat bike course, lower entry fee – can’t go wrong with any of those things. It certainly appealed to me for those very same reasons. Everyone I talked to was so friendly which was par for the course for this race from the racers to the volunteers. They gave a few speeches and played a video about the PPD heroes, cancer survivors who were running the race. Pretty inspiring stuff.

After dinner, I went back to the hotel and put together my transition bags. I had the foresight to assemble everything in groups before I left the house so it was pretty much just a matter of making a few last minutes changes based on the weather and transferring the items from one bag to another. I HIGHLY recommend packing your transition bags at home if you ever do an ironman, it saves so much time when you get to the hotel. At that point, wouldn’t you rather be relaxing than worrying about your bags?

The transition bags were white Hefty bags. No expense was spared.

I joke only because for the IM branded races you get these fancy color coded bags for each transition. In all seriousness, these bags had much more room than the bags at Augusta and who needs fancy logo printed bags that you just throw away anyhow? I will say the drawstring made it easier to carry especially at the end when you have 5 bags plus a bike to get back to the car.

Friday’s plan was to sleep in, go the athlete meeting and then drop off my bike. On paper that seemed to add up to a whole lot of free time at the hotel but it didn’t seem to work out that way somehow. I was wide awake at 6:00 AM. Sigh…. I ended up watching TV and looking at facebook before deciding to head out and eat breakfast. I somehow overlooked the event merchandise area the prior day so wanted to go back there and at least get a shirt. Can I say these event merch people were thinking. There wasn't a lot to choose from but there were two ladies shirts. One was a bright pink and one was a gray with pink trim. Very few ladies can resist the call of pink. Smart marketing right there.

By the time I did all that it was time for the athlete meeting. I did not attend the meeting in Augusta and my friends who did came away with some good information so I thought that it probably would be to my benefit to attend this one. I could use all the help I could get… The main thing I remember from the meeting was that you could float a Dorito bag from the start to the finish in less than 2 hours so we all should be guaranteed a good swim time. Good to know.

As I was heading over to drop my bike, I got a text from CR. He was on his way! He was able to get someone to cover the shop for the weekend and would be in Wilmington by 9:00 PM. Hooray! It sounded as though he had tossed some clothes together and didn’t think to ask him if he brought anything warm so I made a pit stop at Wal Mart to get him a sweatshirt and gloves just in case. I knew it would be in the 30s and wasn't quite sure he realized how much standing around he would be doing on Saturday.

Finally, around 4:00 I made it to bike drop off to rack my bike and deposit my various transition bags. I ate an early dinner with the senior citizens at Olive Garden and then stopped at Panera for a sandwich to take back to the hotel for later. Before I went to sleep, I wrote out notes and addresses for CR to use the next day. Since he was arriving so late, I would have to go over the spectating particulars in the car.

CR got the hotel right around 9:00 and got settled in. I remember waking up a lot that night. Not from noises or anything, just excitement and nerves I suppose. I finally got up around 3:30 and started getting ready. It was a little earlier than planned, it felt a little like a Disney race with the crazy wake up times. I ate an uncrustable sandwich and a banana and drank some powerade. At 5:00 we headed out to T1.

We got parked and I gave CR the run down on where the various transitions were, how to get to the battleship (finish line) and information on how to pick up my bike if needed. Being a spectator at this thing really is an event all on its own. T1 is in Wrightsville Beach so once you leave there on the bike, spectators have some time to kill before they need to head to downtown Wilmington. There is no parking at the finish so you have to take a water taxi, trolley or bus over to the battleship to get there. Once there, you can either stay there and watch your family and friends when they come through there or you can be super ambitious and watch them come through T2 then hop on the water taxi and back across to spot them again around mile 4, 10, 16 and 23. It was definitely more information than I could impart on CR in a 5 minute conversation in the car at 5 in the morning. I had the addresses programmed into the GPS in the car so he took it from there.

I put some air in my tires, dropped off my swim to bike bag and gave CR one last hug goodbye. He was happily chugging hot chocolate as we walked to the trolley that would take me to the start line.

The trolley dropped us off just in front of the beach which at that point was pitch black. Everyone was sitting on the curbs along the street waiting for the sun to start coming up before they put on their wetsuits. It was pretty chilly and I wished I had socks on my feet instead of flip flops. I chatted with other racers and waited. Finally the sun started coming up so we put on our wetsuits. I waved goodbye to them and headed to drop off my bag and make my way to the beach.