Monday, September 22, 2014

sh!t just got real, IMMD training camp, and Xena's maiden voyage

And just with that, a click of a button, shit. just. got. real.
Yikes!  I've been thinking and talking about Ironman for years... as in one day, before I'm 40, but always in the abstract, never any solid plans.  At some point, I stumbled upon a race report, the story of a women I have never met, and suddenly I wanted it, Ironman Cozumel.  It's what I set my mind on... what a great place to do Ironman!  Then the years passed, I went to grad school and took a break from racing, and then joined Team Z last spring.  Unfortunately [for me], the team is racing Ironman Cozumel *this* year, and that just isn't in the cards for me.  I also know that if I am going to do Ironman, I am going to want [and need] the support of the team.  The team selected two races for 2015, neither of which I originally put my support behind (I think I voted for Florida and Arizona).  So, I set about choosing between the two venues... and at the end of the day, it came down to logistics, and my best chance of becoming an Ironman in 2015.
And with that, I made the commitment to myself to race Ironman in 2015.  Things started happening quickily after that decision was made.  On June 19, I signed up to volunteer at this year's race with the anticipation of getting early registration on-site the day after.  Then, I registered for Eagleman 70.3, the natural warm-up race, sharing the same course as IMMD.  I got my Vo2Max test done on the bike (maps out your heart rate zones, which is how we train), and scheduled one for my run.  Hell, I even booked my place to stay over Ironman weekend 2015!!  Trust me, Cambridge is tight on lodging options... the time I did Eagleman (AquaBike in preparation for Redman 70.3 in 2008) I had to stay all the way in Salisbury.  This time, I am getting on top of things!  Besides, one less thing for me to worry about later...
Xena: Warrior Princess; Strong Fighter
(aka, EXACTLY what I'm going to need to become IRONMAN... my inspiration for
the name came from a sweet little puppy who overcame all odds, Xena the Warrior Puppy)
On Labor Day weekend, I went bike shopping with my dad.  Andrea had recently bought a new tri bike for her upcoming Ironman this year, and made the point that when else would she be riding her bike so much.  I thought about it, and she was absolutely right.  And, for me, if there was ever time to buy a tri bike, it was now, for this race and this specific course.  Furthermore, this was the time of year to buy, when there were previous year closeouts available.  I completely lucked out!  After a day in Baltimore getting fitted and testing a few bikes, I made a few phone calls and found a bike (2013 closeout Cervelo P3) that fit me perfectly at local Bonzai!  And with that, I welcomed Xena into my life.

Then, with a stroke of luck, they gave priority registration to everyone who had already signed up for Eagleman, and on Sep 16, a full 382 days prior to race date, I signed up for Ironman Maryland 2015!  Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap!
First road trip in the new car -- amazing weather to drive with the roof down!
It's with nervous excitement that I packed up Xena and the car and headed to Cambridge to experience Ironman for the first time, including volunteering in the women's changing tent, and train with my team and everyone who's getting ready for Ironman Cozumel in a few months.
The house was amazing, and I only wish there was more time to enjoy it.
That's the view from the long road/driveway leading up to the house, the back of the house
from the water's edge, and the view from the widow's tower.
I drove directly to the rental house that I was sharing with some other Zers who were volunteering, which was about 30 minutes past the race site, but necessary as I don't have a lock on my new bike rack yet.  I was in a bedroom with 4 twin beds, but in the end, 2 of the ladies didn't show up (they made a day trip out of it, I think), so it ended up just being me and Tricia (who, unlike reported earlier, is not signing up for IMMD 2015 which disappoints me, but good for her for making a decision that is best for her!).  From there, I drove to Great Marsh Park with my swim gear, 30 minutes late for when some teammates were meeting to swim.  I thought I had time to get in a small swim anyway, except when I got there, people were getting out and describing their experience as a washing machine, and probably inadvisable for me to get in.  I heeded their advice and made my way over to the team dinner before going back to the house and relaxing with some wine.
Holy choppy, the Choptank river lives up to its name!
No swimming for me!
I was awake bright and early on Saturday morning, got dressed and made my way back to the race site.  I wanted to get there early enough to get a parking spot, and be sure to get a good view to watch the swim start.  Not a problem, and I soon found some Zers as I just took in all the excitement of racers setting up their nutrition and last minute adjustments to their gear bags.  I felt the energy and tried to imagine what everyone was feeling, if they were doing their first or their 10th Ironman, if they were nervous about the swim, or bike cutoff times, or were hopeful for a personal best time.
I got caught up watching the swim so much that once again, I found myself late for the team workout.  Oh well, I had nothing but time on my hands, and I was not doing 16 miles like many teammates who are training for Ironman Cozumel, so I could do my measly 3(ish) miles whenever.  I walked over to the Team Z tent that was set up on the run course, and did my run along the first part of the bike course (opposite side of the road and mostly in the grass to stay out of the way).  It was nice watching all the bikers go by and even got to see Mary and Val as they passed me.  Then it was just relaxing at the Team Z tent and eating lunch until it was time for me to head to my volunteer shift.  I will say that the saddest part of my day was when I wandered to the edge of the water [to hide behind a car and change out of my run clothes] just in time to see the swim cut-off, and all the people working so hard to reach the beach as the announcer counted down from 5 minutes... and people being SO close (seriously, there were people who had just stood up and were heading out of the water) and not making it.  I felt terrible for those people.
Look at the difference in the river from the choppiness the day before...
What do you think is the net value of bikes here is?!!!
Volunteering was an amazing experience!  I worked the women's changing tent and got to see every single racer, from the eventual winner to the very last person who just barely made the cut-off at 5:29 PM.  This was probably a lesser-desired shift to take - lots of nakedness and helping people rub vaseline in places inside a very stuffy tent - but I picked up on a lot of tips and how-to's that I will surely be thankful for:  disposable toothbrush to get the gel taste out of your mouth, bring your own baby wipes, body glide, blister repair kit, advil.  Some people came in and sat down.. for awhile.. some people did full wardrobe changes, and some (the leaders) simply changed their shoes and headed out.  There were 2 women who came in - separately - who had crashed on the bike, couldn't move their arm at all, needed help putting their running shoes on, but refused medical attention and wanted to go ahead with the run.  I also got to see both Mary and Val again!  There really were just some amazing women and amazing stories, so the changing tent was a great place for me to be.  I was absolutely EXHAUSTED after my shift, but Deb tells me that means I did a good job and will be good mojo for me next year... I'll go with that!
That's actually a Zer (Jordan A.) crossing the finish line!
Then, it was back to the Team Z tent for 6 more hours of cheering - so many racers, so many incredible people!  And then... the finish line!  Contrary to what I've heard from other racers, this finish line was not crowded, there was plenty of spaces in the bleachers.. but the lights and music and watching those finishers dance their way down the chute, it was just as amazing as I had imagined.  I'm sure there were a bunch of people pulled from the run course for not making earlier cutoffs (there is a time limit for each of the 3 loops) as I did not see some of the people I'd helped change and was watching for... but every single person who made it onto the 3rd loop crossed the finish line with time to spare!  It would have been hard to watch someone get all that way and miss it by only a few minutes (which, by the way, is a position I might find myself in next year... train! train! train!).
Xena's maiden voyage... on the Ironman course!
Check out those splits for the out and back ride... can you tell which way the wind was going?!
I was simply exhausted for the drive back to the house after midnight, but woke up early again on Sunday, and for once made it to the team workout on time!  I started out with a group of riders, and for the first time, was able to keep up without trying too hard!  We stayed in a group and I was happy to hear that Jen F. and Sherri were also only doing 20 miles (most people were going long, 50-100 miles, but I'm not training for anything and just wanted to get out on the new bike and give her a whirl).  I did practice riding in the aero position on the back half (don't worry, I separated myself from the ladies until I was comfortable) and realized I'm going to have to work on my neck and shoulder muscles!  The 3 of us finished together, concluding the long, exhausting, but totally-worth-it weekend.  I stopped at Sonic for a breakfast sandwich and milkshake on my way home, took a long-overdue shower and curled up on the couch for the rest of the day.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Nations Triathlon [and a new bike PR!]

Nailed it.

I specifically wanted to start out with that phrase after my last race report that started with "bust".  This is the first time in a long time that I am really, really happy with my race.
Racked and ready to go!! (photo credit: Tommy)
But let's back up... On Saturday, I met Tommy and we went over to the Expo and down to transition to rack bikes before a long lunch with Paula, Andrea and Nancy.  Then it was home to put some stuff together and get ready for my final triathlon of the season.  The storms started moving in and we all started wondering about our poor bikes getting wet, but it soon dried up and brought in cooler weather, a good change from the 90+ temperatures.
After a fairly sleepless night (thanks, dogs), I woke up at 4am on Sunday to a text from Andrea referring me to a post on the Nations Triathlon facebook page.  Son of a bitch!!  Swim canceled?!!  Phooey, phooey, phooey!!!  Swimming is my best event, and given that all the team pools have been closed for the last few weeks, this was one of my few opportunities to get in the water.  I even considered just skipping the whole thing, why even bother?  But, alas, my bike was already racked, so I'd have to trek into DC at some point anyway to retrieve that.  Besides, I was meeting friends for a post-race brunch, so I got out of bed, put on my race suit, and was on my way into the city.
I set up transition and found fellow Zer, Rachel and then Andrea.  Even though there was no swim, we still had to set up for our swim to bike transition, as we would be starting at the swim exit (no helmets or shoes allowed), and would run into transition to start the race, as though we just got out of the water.  Compared to the other Team Z races I've done, our presence was considerably smaller here, maybe 30 teammates out of 2500 athletes.  Race logistics prevented the normal team setup (tents, grills, chairs, etc), but we were provided a small tent, and so I spent the long time waiting for wave 27 with my teammates.  At about 8:00 I walked over to the starting area to try to find Andrea and get ready to go.  Finally, my wave started lining up around 8:30.  They started us in groups of 9 every 20 seconds(ish), and with the blow of a whistle, I was off.
Getting ready to line up in my wave start! (photo credit: my teammate, Catherine)
It was actually a long run into transition, and then my bike was at the far end.  I'd say it was about quarter mile from the start to my bike, which I ran most of because everyone else was running and I didn't want to be the one fool left behind!  I was already wearing my sunglasses and gloves, threw on my helmet and bike shoes and I was ready to go.  Official T1 time = 3:24.  There were a TON of people all around me for the entire duration of this bike course.  Seriously, people riding 5 bikes across, passing on the left, passing on the right, cutting in front of you.  There were just that many people.  For the first mile or so, I wondered how bad the hills were going to be, with Rock Creek parkway being the first test.  It wasn't bad!  I was even passing some people!  And I kept passing people -- I never pass people! 
This was a really complicated bike course with so many turns -
here's the full version of the course!
My watch is set to lap every 5 miles, and when it alerted me on the first lap, I checked my pace: 15.8 mph.  Could that be right??  My goal was 14.5 mph.  OK, that was a fluke, but I knew I needed to keep working at it so that it didn't drop down too much.  Second lap?  16.1 mph.  Holy crap, is this for real??  Now I was determined to see if I could keep this up for the entire 25 miles.  My mind said no way, but I kept pedaling and taking in nutrition [and determined that my body does NOT like eating solid foods on the bike... my stomach can handle it fine, but I just have no appetite for it].  I saw Andrea a couple times as she flew by me on her new bike, and then Rachel passed me also.  It's always great seeing familiar faces on the course!  Actually, a lot of people passed me... but I'm OK with that, I was going a fantastic pace for myself, and that's what counts.  I really couldn't believe it as I kept checking my watch.  I was getting tired, but really pushed myself to see if I could maintain this pace until the end.  I did drop a little on the last 5 mile segment, the long out and back stretch over the 14th St bridge, but finished 15.6 mph overall, a new bike personal record for me -- YIPPEE!!!  Official bike time: 1:35:42 (Garmin was spot-on).
Look at those bike splits!!!  Never in my entire life have I done splits like that, even on
the flattest of courses... maybe the training is starting to pay off???
I walked my bike through transition, took off my bike equipment, threw on my running shoes and off I went.  Except, it was so hard to run.  My calf was starting to cramp and I felt a shin splint coming on.  I really struggled for that first mile, thinking there was no way in hell I was going to meet my 14:30/mile pace goal (thanks to my lack of appetite for solid foods, I was thinking I was under-nutritioned from the bike).  Sure enough, mile one came in close to 15:30 and I thought to myself, ah who cares, I rocked the bike, it's not the end of the world if I don't hit my run goal also.
Terrible quality, but I refuse to fork over $25 for a digital print when they couldn't
even get ONE photo of me on the bike (and there were a TON of photographers)
As I turned into Haines Point, I started a run/walk routine, switching up at every light post.  I think it probably equated to less than 30s of each, but it was consistent.  Mile two came in at 14:20, and I started thinking hmm, OK, maybe we forget that first mile and just see if I can come in around my goal for the rest.  Then mile 4 came in at 14:15 and I got the idea that perhaps I could make up for that first mile in the long run.  I kept trudging along, light post to light post.  I was getting tired and at one point thought abut giving myself permission to just walk a little and take it easy.  Then reality set in, you are in a RACE, you don't get to take it easy!!!  So I didn't.  Run, walk, run, walk, and suddenly I'm at mile 6 and am almost finished.  Doing some quick calculations, I'm realizing that my overall pace is right around my goal, maybe just a few seconds more.  I ran over the finish line and collected my well-earned medal and realized that yes, I did meet my goal.  14:19/mile overall!!!  Official T2 time, 3:02.  Official run time, 1:29:19.
Look at how I got faster and faster during this run - this isn't my best 10K time (even in a tri),
but I think I've never pushed myself this hard before.
I met up with Andrea and Nancy, grabbed some water from the Team Z tent and then headed over to transition where Joann was waiting for me.  I collected all of my things, saw Rachel and took a finisher picture, and then started the long walk back to my car.  Seriously, the mile back to my car was the hardest part of the morning!!  And then, when we got there, they weren't letting any cars out of the lots yet because the roads had not yet opened up to traffic.  Luckily, because the swim was canceled, the time line was moved up a bit and we didn't have to wait too long to get out.  Off to the Hamilton for brunch with Sweeney, Joann, Heidi, Andrea, Nancy, Paula and Tommy!
My teammate, Rachel, and me post-race (photo credit: Joann)
Not sure why I never thought to get a picture with Andrea and Tommy, d'oh!
I am now so bummed that the swim was canceled.  Even with an average swim for me, I would have totally PR'ed the Olympic distance!!  Logistically, this race was obnoxious, and I swore that I'd never do it again, but now I kind of want to go back to see what I can do with all three events.  The hot shower and quick nap were a bad idea when I got home, as I started to get really sore.  Luckily I had the good sense to pop some Advil, put ice on my back and use my foam roller extensively, and was already feeling better by bedtime.  It's been awhile since I've been able to say I really gave it 100% in a race, and pushed myself this hard... and I got the results to show for it!  I went to bed feeling very pleased with myself.  This was a win.