Thursday, October 1, 2015

2015: Ironman Wisconsin


IM Race Report and Training/Racing within the First Year of My Child's Life

This past year just flew by.  I can honestly say that it was amazing to watch my body go from top form at IM Hawaii in 2013, to being pregnant, to having a baby, and then back to top form again for IM WI (with a  few exceptions given that I was still breastfeeding).  Training was definitely more difficult this time than it ever has before.  Not because of the level of effort or type of workouts, but how to squeeze it into my day and not take time away from my family...

For those not familiar with what has been going on in my life since IM Hawaii 2013, here's a quick update:

                                    Raced IM Hawaii Oct. 2013
                                    Pregnant Dec. 2013
                                    Ran a 10k snow shoe race Feb. 2014
                                    Ran a 1/2 marathon April 2014
                                    Ran a 10k trail run May 2014

     No more racing for me, but continued to try to run 3x/week, bike 3-4x/week, and swim 3x/week throughout the entire pregnancy.  Had to stop running around 35-36 weeks because it became uncomfortable and my right groin area started to ache after running.  Switched to hiking up hills, elliptical, and water running.  Was able to bike and run up until the day I went into labor!

     Had baby girl 9/8/14 and husband signed me up for IM WI 2015 while in labor.  (At that point I had no idea how much less sleep and time I would have with a new baby!)

     Walked for the first 8 weeks after delivery and got on my bike 1-2x (on the trainer) for 30 mins during this time period, riding very easy.  I started back running, swimming, and biking on the trainer at about 8 weeks.  I was slow and sluggish, especially at running and swimming.  Gradually, I got in better shape and by around January/February I was able to run 8-8:30 pace for about an hour, (although it was a good effort for me).

     Thanks to Mike Pierson, I gradually got in better and better shape.  I missed more workouts than I ever have before in my IM training (most of them being swim workouts--just because it was logistically harder for me to get to the pool with Matt traveling and taking care of a baby).  I also had to move my workouts around in order to get them in; sometimes doing 2 harder workouts in a row or doing easier ones back to back.  Timing of my workouts was also very different.  Most of them were done between 7:30pm and midnight.  Many of my long bike rides were done by biking home from work (with my breast pump and cooler in a backpack), then switching to my tri bike and doing the TriWisconsin group ride out of Wheel and Sprocket, and then getting on the trainer to finish off the ride (since it was dark).  I'd then get off and run outside to finish off the brick workout.  Unfortunately until about 7-10 days before IM, my daughter didn't start sleeping through the night and still got up every 3-4 hours to eat.  This contributed to fatigue that normally sets in from IM training.  It also impacted my ability to get up and do morning workouts as I didn't really know what time she'd wake up wanting to eat. 

     The best thing that I did with my training this year, was to take 3 consecutive Tuesdays off in the month of August during the heaviest training load.  This allowed me to sleep in a little bit more and then do either my long brick workout or a double workout in (which allowed me to get to the pool) while my daughter was at daycare.

     Going into IM I had several goals: 1.) to stay positive during the race and keep perspective--I had a very tough time mentally at the Door County HIM.  It was my first race back after having a baby and I felt a lot of "mommy guilt" out on the course.  I felt guilty taking the time for myself rather than spending those 5 hours on a Saturday with my family after being at work and training all week.  It was really tough.  Unfortunately I gave into "the dark side" and allowed my emotions to control me during the race rather than the other way around.  My performance reflected it.  2.) finish the race 3. ) enjoy participating in IM WI.

     The days leading up to the race were also very different for me this time.  There was no time to stress/worry or have a taper tantrum about things like I had in the past.  I did not have any opportunity to take naps or put my feet up to recover.  I was chasing after a now one year old, planning and celebrating a one year old birthday party, and dealing with other family challenges.  I also managed to tweak my back 3-4 days before the race when picking up my daughter to feed her in the middle of the night.  The day before the race was a bit hectic trying to check my bike in and get everything set up for the next day. 

     The night  before the race I had about 1 cup of whole wheat pasta with a light amount of spaghetti sauce and some Vitamin Water for dinner.  I then took Salt Stick salt tablets to preload before going to bed.  I set my alarm for 3:30am so that I'd have time to eat and digest my food before starting the day.  I woke up to the alarm and ate 3 Clif Bars.  I took 3 more salt tablets and drank a cup of coffee on the way down to the race.  I felt ready and excited for the day.  The only minor hiccough that occurred with bike set up that morning was that I had to use a different bike bag on the back of my bike as the Speed Concept aero box did not fit with the race wheels that I rented.  Thanks to my sister watching Elliot and allowing Matt some free hands to help me fasten the bike bag on, we were able to get it attached.  I finished setting everything up in transition, put on my wetsuit, and headed off to the starting line.  I positioned myself close to the inside buoy, about 2-3 rows from the front.  When the cannon went off, it was a little rough with everyone jostling for position, but eventually I was able to find some space to swim.  I was able to stay in the draft well and not drift off course.  There was congestion around the buoys and I took a few hits--one time getting kicked in the mouth, but felt like I was swimming fairly easily.  I repeated a mantra the whole time ("swim smart"), and eventually rounded the last buoy to come into the swim finish.  I was surprised later to see that I had swum my fastest IM swim ever, 58 mins 11 secs; especially since I swam less than ever before (distance and number of times per week). 

     I ran up the helix and into T1.  I ran with my bike shoes in my hands to my bike.  When I got there the volunteers weren't ready.  I ran to my bike and got it off the rack.  As I turned the corner to run with my bike down the main isle, I somehow either tripped or lost my balance.  The bike went down and I had to jump over it to avoid crashing myself.  In the process I managed to scrape up my right ankle.  The volunteers sprung into action and checked my bike for me.  I put my shoes on while they did this.   They determined that all the necessary functions (e.g., brakes, etc.) were working.  I ran the bike to the mount line and got on.  Just before heading down the helix I heard someone yell, "Watch the chain!"  I looked down to see that my chain was only partially on my big ring.  As I rode down the helix, I was able to shift a bit to get the chain all the way on the bike. 

     I reminded myself to ride easy and thought about my nutrition plan.  I checked my power meter to make sure that I was within my target watts range.  All was going well until a little ways out on the stick when I was surrounded by a pack of guys.  They went ahead of me, but not enough to the point where I would have been outside of the draft zone.  I knew that I was within the draft zone (especially since the distance had been changed from 3 bike lengths to 5 this year), but figured that everyone in that pack was drafting and hoped that they would just pull away from me eventually.  Unfortunately a course marshal was behind the group.  Just then, the marshal pulled up along side me and gave me a drafting penalty.  This was a first for me.  I decided there was no point in getting upset and just took it in stride.  I expected there to be a large group at the penalty tent when I hit Verona, but I was the only one (even though the rest of the group had been drafting too).  I stayed positive during my 5 minute penalty, and watched the cyclists go by.  The remainder of the bike went well and I felt strong for the entire ride.  This was surprising because I have never felt this good.  My legs felt ready to run as I headed back into town and into T2.

     When I got into T2, I grabbed my bag and hunkered down for my planned 4 minutes of time with the breast pump.  I got a couple of surprised looks from the volunteers, but they were eager to help in any way that they could.  I was able to multi-task (thank you inventers of the hands free pumping bra!), and put on my socks and shoes while I pumped.  After taking the edge off, I was out on the run. 

     Unfortunately, my stomach decided not to cooperate with me from the start.  I had to stop at the first port-a-potty on the square.  Then I stopped again at mile 4.  Felt a little bit better after that and was able to run a more "normal" pace.  I was doing fair/good with running until I hit around mile 14.  Then my GI system decided to take a turn for the worse (again).  I battled issues for the remainder of the run, hitting port-a-potties 4-5 more times, with minimal success.  For a while I wished I could just puke because it seemed like nothing was moving through my body.  When I was shuffling/walking along and feeling really nauseous, another athlete gave me a mint to help.  I didn't know of this trick before, and it was helpful, although I still had the other end of the GI system acting up.  I was able to walk/shuffle my way to the finish line, and was still able to finish in my goal range. 

      Overall, I was happy with my performance.  I felt it was amazing to be able to complete an ironman just after having a baby 1 year and 5 days earlier.  I was on track for a PR given that I had clocked my fastest swim and performed equally on the bike compared to previous years (including the drafting penalty--would have been a PR without the penalty).  My legs felt fine on the run and were only minimally sore for about 2 days after the race.  I am certain that I could have equaled my 2012 IM WI time if not have gone faster without the GI issues.  My only thoughts about the GI issues are that maybe I took too much salt and this may have thrown my body out of whack a bit?  For me, digestion and nutrition have been a delicate balance that I have still not yet fully mastered after 6 IMs.  It's tempting to sign up again and give it another try, but I feel strongly that IM will always be there for me, and that it's important to spend this time with my new family.

Now, for the most important part!  The THANK YOU'S:

Mike Pierson (Your Training Zone)--I could not have achieved such a great performance.  You are a great coach and friend.  Although I will be stepping away from Triathlon for a while, I plan to keep in touch with you and cheer you on at your future endeavors.

Matt Amman--Thank you for your time and support this year.  I could not have trained without you encouraging me to get my workouts in, taking care of Elliot, and being supportive of this goal.  I realize that it was tough for you to juggle things at home while I was out training.  You are amazing.

My parents--Thank you for baby sitting and spending time with Elliot so that Matt and I could get a chance to swim or ride bikes together occasionally and also to help me get some workouts in.  We really appreciated you joining us for the Door County HIM and all of your help over the past year.

TriWisconsin--Thank you for the group rides and swims.  It was great to have others to work out with and encourage me along on the workouts.  The IM recon rides were especially helpful.  It was also wonderful to see you guys out cheering on the course.  You guys are great!

     From the beginning (when I signed up for this IM), my plan was to "retire" from IM for a while.  Overall, I was happy with my race and really enjoyed the process of training and being out on the race course.  I have mixed feelings about my plan to "retire" from IM, but really feel that it's the best decision for me and my family at this time.  I plan to stay active and do some running races, snow shoe racing, and cyclocross, but at a more relaxed/social pace.  I look forward to running, biking, and swimming with people socially in the future and maybe even exploring some new activities, such as XC skiing and mountain biking.  (If anyone would like to help me learn how to do either of these things, I am very open to help!)

Total Time: 11:06

Sunday, November 17, 2013

IM Hawaii


I'm not sure what to make of it. Somewhere deep inside of me I thought I'd be closer to ten flat. A few weeks prior to the race I was out on a run with Matt and we were just flying. Running sub 7 wasn't a problem. So when I got on the run and plugged along at 7:45-8:00 pace I thought I would hold up. It didn't happen.  I suffered a bunch and made a few mistakes like walking the aid stations to find myself crossing the finish with a 3:46. That might seem fast but when you're in Kona with all the other local heroes it's average. 

The week after the race was disorientating. Even though I got 23rd in my age group, a significant improvement over my prior Kona race plus a ironman finishing time PR, knowing that it wasn't a "nearly perfect" race gave me a sour stomach -- literally. After a week on the beach, I came to grips with reality.  

See you at the races!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

National Age Group Championships

This was a fun race.  I was very impressed with the race venu and how well the race was run.  Especially for the number of participants entered.  For me, this race was like asking a marathoner to do a 5k.  I had a lot of fun, but had trouble accessing the top end of my speed zones. 

I started near the front of the swim pack.  I wanted to have a good swim race and work on my speed/drafting/swimming in the pack.  I had a side stitch a couple times during the swim and had to back off on the speed a bit.  I also drank a good gulp of water 1-2 times, but managed to come out of the water ok. 

Transition was slow for an olympic race, but fairly good for me.  I got on my bike and started do so some work.  The bike course was fast and mostly flat, so I was done before I knew it and running back into transition.  T2 was also not fast for an olympic distance race, but I got it done and ran onto the run course. 

I ran to the best of my abilities, but it was clear that I had not done a lot of speed work.  I huffed and puffed my way through the run (and yet another side stitch) to the finish line.  Boy, was I happy to be done!

Those shorter distances are shorter in time, but man are they hard when you try to push the pace!  All in all, it was a great race and I look forward to doing it again in the future.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Racine 70.3

I had my sights set high on this race as I had done well here in the past.  I was looking forward to a nice hot day; as has been typical for this race in the past.  Race day ended up being much cooler than normal--low to mid 70s.  There was no reason not to have a good race, but....

The swim was fairly choppy.  I watched the pro men and women start off and made note of what they were doing to handle the conditions.  The men ran into the water and over the waves before starting the swim.  The women dolphin dived.  I decided to dolphin dive as well thinking that I was shorter than the men and wouldn't be able to lift my legs that high. 

I lined up on the inside (closest to the buoy) and in the front row.  When they started our wave, I went to dolphin dive right away and found that the water was much too shallow.  I stumbled around several times, turned right too early (at the 1st buoy rather than the 2nd buoy),  and had to backtrack to correct, swam off course a few times, and then finally made it in towards the finish line.  The water was so shallow there, that people were walking in through the water to the beach.  I tried to swim as far as I could, but eventually had to stand and walk/run onto the beach.  This proved to be somewhat challenging as I weaved quite a bit. 

Once out of the water, I ran up the beach and through transition.  I noticed my stomach felt bloated and a bit funny.  I ignored it and focused on the bike.  The first thing I noticed was that my bike computer was frozen.  It was not displaying time elapsed, power, or cadence.  I tried multiple times to reset it without success.  Finally I just resolved that I would have to just bike without it and do the best I could.  I felt that I was biking ok because not too many people were passing me.  This was deceiving though, as I had started in the 1st of 2 waves of my age-group, and early on in the race.  My stomach continued to be troublesome and got fairly painful for a while.  It was difficult to ride in the aero position because of it at times.  Around mile 25 I started belching.  My first thought was, "Gee, that feels pretty good" and I was relieved because my stomach felt a bit better.  Then another one came and this time vomit came with it.  YUCK.  After that I lost motivation to push on the bike and tried to just ride and stay on top of my nutrition.  I really didn't feel like eating much and had to really force down my gels and water.  The stomach felt better eventually, but by then it was too late; I had just given up mentally. 

When I got to transition, I racked my bike and decided to go run (although I had seriously contemplated not running many times).  I didn't feel too bad.  I ran around my goal pace for the first 5-6 miles and then just seemed to run out of gas.  Again, it was hard to stay motivated and I really had to try hard to distract myself from "dark mental spots".  Support from friends and family was very much appreciated during this time and kept me running.  I ended up running shoulder to shoulder with another guy from Chicago for much of the 2nd 1/2 of the run. We didn't talk or anything, but it was nice to have someone to run with.  I seemed to get a bit more energy in the last 2 miles of the run.  I think it was just pure excitement and adrenaline because I knew the race was close to being over, and I was going to finish. 

I crossed the finish line and was so happy to be done.  This was not an especially fast race for me, but it was definitely a good challenging race; both mentally and physically.  It has taken a couple of days for me to get past my frustration of not achieving the results that I wanted, but looking back there are many things that I can learn from my race and my mistakes.  Also, I have learned to appreciate the mental strength that I had to use just to continue as well as complete the race.

From now until Kona, I am focusing on swim technique specific to open water and ways to modify for choppy water.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Kansas 70.3

My Cheering Squad!

Kansas 70.3 is one of my favorite races.  I get to visit some family and race in warm weather on a fair and challenging course.  What could be better?

We arrived at my uncle's house on Friday night and the rest of the cheering crowd (my 3 aunts) showed up the next day.  We were all set!

Race morning I woke up around 3:30am and ate a Luna bar and a Clif bar for breakfast.  I took 4 salt tablets (in addition to the 4 I had taken the night before).  I dressed, packed up my few remaining items and sipped a bottle of Gatorate and First Endurance Pre-Race as we headed out to the park.  The line was long getting into the park, so I had less time that I would have liked to set up my transitions.  After some rushing around, I was ready to go.

I headed into the water with the other girls and made sure to start at the front of the line in the middle of the pack.  My goal was to get out better than the last week and try to hang with the group vs. going out on my own.  Mission partially accomplished.  I got out ok, but ended up swimming alone as I lost track of the other girls.  I ended up swimming through people from waves ahead of me and having to dodge some traffic.  All in all, I swam a pretty straight line.  I came into the finish and got stuck in a bunch of traffic that caused me to go to the outside of the boat ramp.  I slowly stumbled through some rocks before reaching the ramp and running out.  I got to my bike fairly cleanly and headed out to the bike course.  My goal was to remain aero on all down hills and not break (as I had done in the past because of nerves).  I was a little nervous going down the first hill, but after that it was a piece of cake!  I felt strong and rode well until I started to feel a little tired on the last 10 miles.  I had to pee pretty badly, but was unable to do so without stopping pedaling, so I opted to wait.  This caused me to have a bit of a stomach ache, so I just did the best I could and kept going.  Once I re-entered the park, I got stuck in a bit of traffic coming into transition.  The bike area was narrowed to a single-file area because the run also came out about a mile on to the bike course.  I was unable to pass and had to ride slowly behind other riders. 

I got in and out of T2 ok and then started to run.  It was starting to heat up a bit.  I reminded myself to run easy the first 2-3 miles as it was mostly flat and/or downhill.  I had to actively encourage myself to keep running as it was warm and I felt tired.  The splits on my watch weren't too bad though, so I kept pushing on.  Around mile 3-4 a woman ran past me in the 40-44 age group.  She was running really well, so I pushed to hang with her.  She was really strong and just kept building into the run.  After about a mile or so, I decided to let her go as I knew I had a long way to run yet and didn't want to blow up.  I focused on running and had to ease off a bit at times, but my goal was to just keep running.  I faded a little bit on the last couple of miles (even though my effort felt stronger), and was pleasantly surprised with my run split. 

Overall, I had a great early season race and I was pleased with my performance.  I enjoyed the course, seeing my extended family (who even managed to make the front page of the sports section the next day!--see the link below), and the nice warm weather.

Thanks to my Uncle Ed for letting us stay at his house and taking care of us!  Thank you to my Aunt Mary Lou, Aunt Nancy, and Aunt Donna for driving from IA to watch the race and cheer!  We had an excellent time and I will always remember the fun I had that weekend with you guys!

Leon's Olympic

This race was a warm-up for the Kansas 70.3.  Conditions were quite chilly for June.  The temperature while setting up for the race was 61 degrees and by the time we got to the run the temperature had fallen to 49 with a misty rain. 

It was good to get out and race again and dust off some of the mental cobwebs.  I remembered to bring all of my gear, but somehow left my common sense at home...

The race was a "Best of the U.S." (BOUS) race, so there were a lot of fast athletes there.  They combined the BOUS and the elite wave for the swim start.  Somehow, at the time, to me, it made sense to line up near the far buoy as it appeared that I had a straight shot out onto the swim course.  Never mind the fact that everyone else (except the other 2-3 guys who lined up with me), were starting closer to the other buoy.  They started the race and I worked at swimming fast.  Somehow, I swam to the right a bit, hit a sandbar, and had to dolphin dive 4-5 times and then angle to the left to get back on course.  It was terrible!  Lesson learned: start in the pack and stay in the pack.  I ended up swimming the entire race alone and exciting the water quite a ways from the lead women. 

According to my race plan, I rode HIM watts on the bike course, which felt pretty hard to me.  I had a difficult time catching my breath and pushing that hard, but I achieved my goal watts.  It was really cold and by the time I got into transition, I couldn't feel my hands.  I tried to take off my helmet, but really had a hard time given the frozen fingers.  I asked a volunteer if they were allowed to help me, but they said they weren't sure, so we didn't risk it.  I contemplated running with my aero helmet on, but figured that would not be too cool.  Eventually something clicked and I was able to get my helmet off.  PHEW!  I headed out on the run course.

I ran the first mile with another woman and both of us remarked how we couldn't feel our feet.  She seemed fairly distressed about it.  I encouraged her to keep going and told her that after 2-3 miles I thought the feeling would come back.  I cheered her on a bit and then dropped back as I needed to stay to my "training" pace for 4 of the 6 miles of the run.  It was quite weird to sit back and not race the run.  I enjoyed the scenery and cheered people on.  Even the spectators commented on how I was one of the only athletes smiling on the course.  I finally reached the 4 mile mark where I was allowed to "let 'er rip" for the last 2 miles of the run.  I picked it up, but had a hard time "letting 'er rip" like I thought I could. 

I finished the race 9th OA, which was ok considering my disasterous swim, my HIM paced bike, and my relaxing run.  I was not a fan of the weather and would take 98 degrees, sunshine, and humidity any day over 49 and misty rain!