Get Your Butt Kicked @ Route 66 – 6 Hour Race Report

After the Muddy River Half Marathon, which I didn’t really race, I decided I wanted to do another running race before IM Chattanooga, and was leaning towards more of an ultra distance. After perusing Ultrasignup, I saw a local ultra club was putting on a 6 hour timed event nearby in early July. Perfect! No travel, it would be right after Steelhead 70.3 and then after this race I would start to build up for Chattanooga.

Training for Steelhead went well, and since this was a ‘fun’ race, my coach didn’t have me do anything extra in training regarding running to prepare for this race (or really to avoid risking injury before Steelhead as that was a more important race to me). So the focus after Steelhead was to recover the week after and then be ready to get some big miles in for this race.

This was my first time racing a timed ultra running event. I thought it would be similar to the Queeny Backyard Ultra, but it was so very different! The format is to run a 2.4 mile loop as many times as you can, until 5.5 hours when you will be switched to running a .3 mile loop. The winner (male and female) are the ones who have ran the most miles in the timed six hours. This was going to be interesting! I went into it with a goal of at least 30 miles but was hoping to get in a few more, but never having done this format (or distance this far in such warm temps) I wasn’t sure how things would go.

Packet pickup started at 4p (the race started at 6p), so I arrived a little after 4 to try to get a good parking spot as the run course goes through the parking lot and you can set up an aid station next to your car. I lucked out and got a decent spot and then just hung out for an hour or so. I was a little nervous, but having a few ultras under my belt helped with my confidence and the fact that this was a ‘fun’ race for me along with the atmosphere being 100% chill helped too. And really, I was competing against myself, and any distance I finish would be a PR since I’ve never run a timed 6 hour race before 🙂

Aid station all set up and ready to go by my car
View from my camping chair, we run through this parking lot which is the start of each big loop.

Soon we lined up to the start area for a few pre-race rules/information and promptly at 6p we were off! I had debated wearing music since I hardly needed it at Queeny, but I saw many people with headphones at the start and decided I would have them in but could turn them off. It was a good plan because once we were off, everyone was very quiet, no chit chat, just off and running. After a couple of miles I could tell that the vibe of this much different than a backyard ultra in that we were racing the clock, and there was no forced rest period between loops, so people were focused, just like a road race (which most of the race was on the road or a gravel path).

My first couple of splits were high 8’s, low 9’s, which I knew was too fast, so finally around mile 5 I slowed it down. I also was just taking sips of water during each mile, and had planned to refill my water after three loops, but since my bottle felt pretty full still after 3 loops, I skipped stopping to ‘save’ time. By the time I rolled in after the 4th loop I still had water in my bottle but decided to refill. I tried to be as fast and efficient as possible and was out of there in 30 seconds or so.

I was keeping a good pace until around mile 14.5 when I stopped to refill for a second time (this time only after two loops, I was SO thirsty) taking a little longer and then was off, but I could feel my pace start to slow. I think the heat and being behind on hydration had caught up to me, as taking small sips of water every mile in the beginning was not a good plan and I should have definitely stopped after three loops to refill. At mile 15 I did my first walk break and started questioning why I was doing this, and also around this time my left hamstring started to speak up (which has given me issues on and off since Queeny). I ran/walked, looking at my watch and realized it hadn’t even been 3 hours yet, oh lord. How was I going to do this for another 3 hours? At this point I was wondering if I could just stop at 3 hours and head out. However since I was parked on the run course I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to get out. I knew this was my last chance to race until Chattanooga and I had mentally been ready to go into the pain cave for this race, I guess I just hadn’t expected to enter it so soon (and being honest, after 2 hours I was already suffering). So after thinking about it a little more while walking/shuffling, I knew in the end, despite how I was feeling already, this would be good experience – another ‘dig deep’ mental toughness building experience, so… despite my brain screaming ‘This is ridiculous, we are running 2.4 mile loops in the heat of July… for fun…solo.. in silence (other than headphones)!!’, I kept going. I decided I would really try to do at least 30 miles.

Around 9p the sun started to set (or maybe it was closer to 8:30ish) and I grabbed my headlamp, and was looking forward to the cooler temps with the sun being down. It was around this time that I also stopped feeling SO thirsty too. What a relief. At one refill stop before the sun had set I picked up my entire jug of water and started chugging. Yeah, lesson learned on my early hydration fail. Since I had run in the dark during Queeny, I felt a little more prepared/less scared and once my headlamp went on, it still seemed a little creepy but also peaceful. There was so much moisture in the air, the grass and trees had a weird shine to them, almost looking 4d which was quite trippy. I saw deer, a possum, a chunky raccoon as well as heard several coyote, which made me run faster! There was some walking during the last three hours, but much less than the first half where I was having my mini-mental-meltdown, however my pace had settled closer to a 10/11 pace.

I started doing math to figure out how many more ‘big’ loops I could do before I would need to start the .3 mile loop. The race director said they start redirecting to the little loop at 5.5 hours, and based on my math I should be able to get in 13 big loops which would get me to 31ish miles, knowing that I would still have 20+ minutes for the little loops, I decided that 33 miles would be my next goal. Once I headed in to finish the last big loop, something happened, I am not sure if it was being around other runners again (most of the race I was running solo) or the excitement of only having 20ish minutes left or what, but my legs found new energy and I felt like I was flying. In reality I was running 10ish minute miles, but it sure felt fast! I managed to get in 6 little loops bringing my total to 33.523 miles. I did it!

We got medals before the start, since you just needed to complete 1 loop to be a finisher, I guess they had confidence we would all finish 2.4 miles 🙂

We all hung out at the finish during the final few minutes as the last of the runners came in at the midnight cutoff, and we all cheered once it hit midnight, which was really cool to experience the comradery since the race itself felt very solo. They did awards quickly after, and I managed to come in 3rd female, however they only gave awards to first female and first female masters, which by the way, I am now in the masters category! I cannot believe 40+ is considered masters! I was only a mile behind her, and then the wheels started going in my head ‘if only I had been better about hydration and pacing in the beginning if only’… so now I’m hooked and definitely want to sign up for another to see if I can improve, and also because it was fun, just a different type of fun that I had initially expected. However, the focus is now on IM Chattanooga, so I will have my head down the rest of what is left of the summer training. However I already have some more ultra races I want to do next year 🙂

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Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Pre-Race

I raced Ironman Steelhead 70.3 back in 2016, and crashed and burned on the run, so I have had this race on my list for a rematch. This time around I definitely had some expectations (beating my time in 2016, if anything at least the run time), but also to just have fun since my last 70.3 was in 2019 and I was a little rusty!

I drove up Friday evening after work and arrived at 11p (darn the hour time change and two stops along the way), and was pretty tired so after unpacking I was asleep by 12:15. I figured I would sleep in due to getting to bed that late, but of course my body woke up at 6a as usual (well 5a my time), so I got up in search of a good local coffee place and then would eat my big pre-race breakfast back in the room. I ended up in downtown St. Joseph at a local coffee and breakfast place and was so surprised at how nice and charming the downtown area was. In 2016 we only ventured to the race venue and a restaurant near our hotel closer to Benton Harbor so I had never been to St. Joseph. If I ever do this race again staying in St. Joseph will be the plan!

After breakfast I took the bike for a short spin around the road near my hotel and then headed to the expo/athlete check-in at St. Joseph High School. This was a change from 2016 where check-in was at the park where the race was. Check in was fast, I only bought a water bottle (ha) and then hung out for the athlete briefing at 11a. After the briefing I headed back to downtown St Joseph to walk around the farmers market (not too much walking though!) and grabbed a Jimmy Johns sandwich to eat for lunch.

The fun welcome packet Maytag, the race sponsor, gave participants!

I hung out in the room for a bit and then at 1:30 I was on the move again to head to transition to drop off my bike. I’ve never racked my new bike before and was shocked when I noticed the front tire didn’t even slightly touch the ground when racked by the seat! I’m not that short!? After much debating I decided I would rack my bike overnight by the handlebars so I wouldn’t risk it falling if it got windy at night (storms were predicted), and then would switch back to the seat in the morning.

When I got back to the hotel I did a little bit of my needlepoint (It’s a fun Halloween scene!), got chicken to go from Applebees to eat with my microwave rice for dinner (my bland, light pre-race meal), and then worked on getting my gear/nutrition set up for the next day. Once I was done with pre-race prep, I headed to bed at 8p with an alarm set for 3a. Sooo early, but I wanted to leave by 4a to get good parking and then get to transition when it opened at 4:30. The less rushed I am, the lower my stress stays!

Was working on the orange sky

I actually slept pretty well and when the alarm went off I was awake and ready. I ate, got dressed, packed everything up and was headed to my car a little after 4. The drive to the parking area was only about ten minutes away, super easy to get to, and I got great parking! Once parked, I grabbed all of my gear and headed to transition. As usual I spent way too long fussing with my tire pressure and triple checking everything, however I didn’t have anything else to do for an hour so I gave into my obsession of checking things way too many times. Finally at about 6a I headed to the beach to get my wetsuit on and line up with my swim pace group.

At the swim start I heard my name and saw a local coach from STL with some of her athletes, and she came up to say hi. It was so nice to see a familiar friendly face after being solo all weekend! We chatted for a bit until it got close to 6:30 and then we got into our swim waves (I wish I was as fast as they are!).

The nerves starting setting in a little as my line inched forward to the start. I made sure my goggles were extra tight, my turn was coming up and my stomach was in knots. I waited for the beep to signal it was my turn to go, then I hopped/ran into the lake until it was deep enough to start swimming. ‘Here we go!’ I said to myself.

Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Race Report

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Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Race Report

Ironman Steelhead 70.3 Pre-Race

As soon as I started swimming I thought ‘oh crap’, the water that appeared to be slightly choppy from the beach was much more than slightly choppy, and I was having trouble timing my breathing without having my head collide with a wave each time. Once I sort of got that figured out, I realized I also had trouble sighting because the waves would crest over my head and I couldn’t see ahead of me. Oh boy. Mentally I immediately switched into survival mode instead of race mode. I was worried I would feel panicky in my wetsuit with already feeling a little claustrophobic with the waves and sighting issue, so I wanted to take the pressure off and just focus on getting to the next buoy. So for the rest of the swim those were my short term goals.

I felt like I was making really slow progress and also kept getting pushed way left of the buoys on the way out, so I also felt like I was swimming horrible tangents too. Despite those frustrations I just kept focusing on moving forward and was SO VERY grateful this was just a half. A 2.4 mile swim sounded pretty awful. Soon I was turning past the final buoy for the last stretch back towards the shore. One of the athletes from STL I talked to before the swim mentioned that we should have a little current helping us back into shore and I definitely thought I could feel it as that stretch seemed to go by much faster than the way out. Finally I was close enough that I could touch the sand so I stood up and hobbled to the arches. I looked at my watch and saw 41 and though ‘Eh, that’s not as bad as I expected at all’.

As I ran through transition I hit my lap button to switch to T1, and it never changed on my watch, so I hit it again. I guess I was impatient and it was just slow to change to the next screen because now it was showing I was on the bike. ARGH. I was really aiming to have a fast bike split and was sad I wouldn’t know my exact time on the bike, so I stopped my watch. However then I realized I wouldn’t know my total time while racing, so I hit start and decided I would make note of time elapsed when I headed out of T1 and just subtract from the bike time. And really, no matter what my watch is doing, the race clock is still going…

I clumsily got my wetsuit off, quickly got my helmet, sunglasses and shoes on, I headed out of T1, clipped in and was off… but my bike computer was not. It wouldn’t sync with my watch. I spent time fussing with the computer while trying to settle into the bike, which wasn’t the safest thing to do, and finally after messing with it enough and realizing I wasn’t paying attention to the course, I took the computer off and stuffed it in my back pocket. I twisted my watch so the face was on my wrist like I usually do for races and just went with using my watch…. BUT, my power wasn’t working. Oh lordy. I sync’d it with my watch that morning, so I had no idea what the deal was, but I was using new pedals on this bike and it was the first time I was racing with them so who knows. They worked ok in training, maybe the battery died? I decided that at least I had heart rate on my watch and would go by feel. I had practiced racing at HIM pace the past few long rides so I knew how it should feel. At least my watch was working 🙂

So off I went, annoyed that I wasted a few miles fussing with my computer and watch and decided it was time to get some work done on the bike. I felt really good on the bike, the course had some smooth roads and some also crappy parts, the smooth I could really drop the hammer and the crappy I just tried to not get frustrated and also prayed to not get a flat. I was surprised when my 5mile splits (I keep the splits on my watch in race mode) were 20+mph. I usually go by power and was also going by heart rate, but seeing those splits was extra encouraging to just push a litttttllle harder. I yo-yo’d back and forth with another guy on the bike, joking that we would see the other person in a bit when when would pass the other and finally exchanged names. We gave each other friendly words of encouragement or humor each time either of us would pass the other, which added a little fun to the bike.

As I made the final few turns to head back to transition, I looked at my watch and after subtracting the 4ish minutes from transition I realized I was going to ride a 2:40ish split! Woah! I knew this was a fast course, but I wasn’t expecting to ride that fast! Hooray! I headed into T2 very very excited about my bike, and feeling like I put in a good effort but not too much that would fry my legs.. at least that’s how I felt, I would really know once I got on the run course.

Before I ran out of T2 I made the executive decision to give up a couple of minutes and hit the porta potty as I realllly had to pee. I struggled to get out of my one piece (the sleeves would not come off) but finally managed and then ran out half naked (well, I had a sport bra on, so not really, but that’s how it felt!) while I tried to wrestle my arms back into my sleeves. Once situated I tried to settle into a comfy running pace, knowing it usually takes me .5-1 mile to get really settled. Everyone was flying by me, but I stuck with my pace and after a mile I was settled into a 8:20ish pace.

I know…I’m ‘borrowing’ this photo, just wanted to show the ‘felt like half naked’ look I rocked a couple times during the race 😆

We were really lucky with the weather, mid 70’s and a slight breeze, I told myself ‘you have to run hard today because you won’t probably ever get conditions like this again! No excuses today!’ And tried to keep sticking with that 8:20ish pace. I was a little scared to push to that little extra gear I thought I had because my stomach had been off since the bike. I wondered if it was from some of the lake water I drank accidentally during the swim, or was just from race nerves. Regardless, I really didn’t want to hit a porta potty for an emergency (apparently the sleeves on this kit are tough to get out of when soaking wet!) so I stuck with a pace that felt like a good effort for the day. However, at mile 9, my stomach was rumbling and I thought ‘uh-oh..maybe it will go away if I pulled the pace back a bit and running in the 9’s’

Yet even trying that my stomach was still angry and I knew I was going to have to make a stop, but I timed it horribly and the next aid station wasn’t until 1.5 miles….oh god. All I kept thinking during that time was ‘please hold on stomach, please hold on’. I finally got to the next aid station but didn’t see any porta potties and frantically asked a volunteer if the porta potties on the other side of the road for an earlier aid station were the only ones, and she said yes. So I ran off the course, down a little hill and up to the other aid station and made a mad dash for an open porta potty. Once again I struggled with the sleeves, made it as fast as a stop as possible, and dashed out half naked again.

On I trudged, annoyed that I had to stop with less than 3 miles to go (and ran a little extra to get there) but as I said before, it had to happen or something terrible would have happened mid run, lol. My pace had slowed and was in the high 8’s but when I made the turn for the 1.5 miles back to the finish, I had some extra pep in my step and ran it in as fast as I could without killing myself (which ended up only being an 8:30 pace). I ran down the finish chute, excited that I had a great bike and that I finished the run in under 2 hours (why I can’t run even remotely close or even 10 minutes slower than my half marathon times, really really annoys me) and was just very happy with how the day went, even with the rough swim.

Once I finished I found out that I had a 1ish minute PR in 5:32:12! The course I PR’d on was an easier course (a local one that had much shorter transitions and a very flat swim) so I was super happy. I went back to transition to get my bike and gear, and headed back to the car to check my phone and change clothes. I checked the official results and was 14th in my age group, I knew my time wasn’t competitive enough for top 5, but … you never know. Since I figured 70.3 Worlds slots wouldn’t roll down that far, I packed up the car and started the drive back to STL, as the six hour drive was going to be rough as is, and waiting around until 4p awards (it was 12:30 by the time I got back to my car) was going to make for way too long of a day.

I really enjoyed this race much more the second time, being fitter and having more race experience definitely added to the enjoyment, the cooler temps helped too! I am also thrilled to have knocked 40ish minutes off my time from 2016. I’m not sure what races I will do next year, but this one I will definitely come back to do again! In the meantime, I brought home enough sand that I will probably keep finding it until I race this one again, lol.

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Queeny Backyard Ultra Race Report

The idea of doing this race started last November when I was looking at races to add along with Ironman Chattanooga and Steelhead 70.3. I was wanting to do another ultra, but since ultra training and IM training don’t go very well together, I would need to either build up running mileage early in the season and do a spring ultra, or take a week off after IM and then have a month or so running build and aim for a late fall/early winter ultra. I finally settled on doing a spring ultra since who knows what condition I’ll be in after IM, and committed to the Queeny Backyard Ultra in early March. What really drew me to the race was that it was a non-technical course, it was 10 minutes from my house and I was really familiar with the course having running it many times for cross-country practice in highschool. Ah memories. However the format, last man standing, I was definitely not familiar with but figured it would be something fun and new to try and would just go into it without too many expectations. Since this wasn’t my A race and I didn’t want to burn out too early in the season, the plan was to get in enough run volume to have fun and go far but nothing crazy. Training included some back to back days with 10/16 mile runs and practicing doing 4 or 5 mile loops with a 10 minute break, as I figured I would finish each loop in 45-50 minutes, so practicing the ‘hanging around’ time in between loops would be helpful.

Training wasn’t off to the best start in January as I got COVID, so I was out for the count for a few days and fatigued for several more. I eventually got some of my longer planned runs in as well as some decent elevation/vert (for me) which was important since the course had about 410ft elevation gain per loop. At the end of my training cycle I felt prepared for a 50k, however in races with this format the strategy is to walk the uphills to save the legs since you have plenty of time to complete each loop, so maybe my legs were capable of 50 miles? Or would the 10-15 minute break between loops make my legs more stiff? I really had no idea what to expect, so I was hoping to run at least 30 miles and anything over 50 would be awesome. Although just in case I packed enough nutrition for 100 miles… because you never know?

Race day arrived and boy was I so excited! It felt like a mini adventure since this was all new to me, and I was certainly packed for an adventure: a canopy tent, a camping chair, a tub of gear (forecast was looking to be warm, but you never know how chilly temps can feel running in the dark), a tub of nutrition, a cooler… just to list some of the things, lol. The race started at noon on Friday, so I was able to get up at my normal time, eat a big pre race breakfast, and then head to the race at 10:30a to set up my tent and gear.

Once I arrived and got everything set up, I picked up my packet and just hung out, feeling a little nervous but surprisingly calm. I think knowing the loop was only 4.2 miles and every loop I could hit the bathroom and hang out at my tent was reassuring. Soon it was time to line up and I headed to the start, but made a fast dash for the bathrooms again, and then was off!

My little setup under my tent
Tent setup from afar 🙂
Pre-Race Photo with Bib, I was really excited but my face apparently didn’t show it! Photo credit: Marcus Janzow

I had my headphones in (just in one ear) and planned to get into a zone and just tick off the laps. However the energy of everyone chatting along the way was so contagious that I wasn’t ready to go into a ‘zone’ quite yet. Many of the runners were happily chatting away and making new friends, so I just listened to everyone talking and enjoyed being outside and the sunny nice weather. Before I knew it, I was done with the first loop, a little faster than planned, so I had 15 minutes to hang out at my tent. I texted JMR to let him know one loop was done and since I might be back with some time to spare each loop, I was just going to text him every loop 🙂 Soon the three minute whistle was blown so I headed to the start, and then as the minutes counted down we were off for loop two. I had decided to put my headphones away and just ran this loop the same way as the first, enjoying the weather and just being around other chatty happy runners.

I think this was loop 2 or 3. Photo credit: Marcus Janzow

On the third loop, after the first 1/2 mile I ended up with a group of three guys chatting away and somehow ended up in their conversation. After chatting for a while, I learned that they had a similar goal of at least midnight (50 miles) and we were running a similar pace, so I planned to tag along with the three of them for as long as I could. Joining their group was the best decision of the race, we became fast friends, chatting about all kinds of random things and the loops just flew by. We even made up a team name!

Mid Loop (4 or 5?), and feeling good. Photo credit: Marcus Janzow
Running in line with my new friends!

I grabbed my headlamp at the start of loop 6, and was excited (and scared) to turn it on when the sun started setting and run in the dark. Running the loop in the dark definitely felt different, not super scary, but I was happy to have the company of my little group with several headlamps lighting the way. However on loop 9 I fell back from my little group as the first 1/4th mile is a steep downhill and my quads were starting to kill me, so I took it extra extra slow as the pounding was pretty painful. I tried to catch up without success, and then reminded myself that the end the goal was the finish the loop, not keep up with a group, so I carried on at my own pace. That’s how it went for the next two loops, however fortunately I still kept making new friends along the way so I wasn’t alone in the dark for very long stretches at time, which I was very relieved about!

I think this was the end of loop 7 or 8. Photo credit: Marcus Janzow

I finished loop 11 feeling down and out, hating the downhills (my quads!), feeling like my pace was just really starting to slow, and questioning if I would finish the next loop in time. I told JMR I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to start the next loop (he came to support me starting at loop 10 as I was worried that as the loops went on, I would get loopy, ha). He said ‘Come on, you are almost at 50, you’ve got to do one more’. I debated going out again and then told him that I was going back out but I was going to wear my headphones. So off I went with my headphones, hoping they would carry me through my final planned loop. I have no idea why I cared about the headphones, I guess I felt like I was using my last tool to carry me through, so if the headphones didn’t help, this was it… but this was it, the last planned loop. Like I said, I was getting a little loopy.

Our Team gave first bumps at the start (we had been doing this each time) and if we all finished this loop, we were going to make it to midnight! The whistle was blown and off we went, or well, for me, more of a shuffle. I slowly waddled down the big hill, and then something happened about .75 miles in, my legs felt good, I was feeing the music and…I felt good! I chatted with a few people but was mostly just focusing on finishing my last planned loop. As I was about a half mile away from the end of the loop, I thought, ‘why not just do one more loop’ and the idea sounded ok. The decision was made, I was doing another loop. I finished in about 50 minutes, headed back to my tent and told JMR, ‘I’m doing one more loop!’.

Once the three minute whistle blew I headed to the start, and when the final whistle blew I shuffled along. This time the big downhill had me doing loud, huffing, deep breathing techniques to fight the pain as I tried to hobble/walk down it. Once I got to the flatter parts of the loop I noticed I still couldn’t seem to hold a decent pace. I was in a another low and the thought of this being my final loop was the only thing pushing me to get through it. I think I had a few tears during the last .75 miles just wanting to be done since my quads were so angry, right about the same spot where I had decided on the previous loop that I was doing another. It wasn’t in the cards, my brain wasn’t even considering another loop this time. I came in around 51 minutes and told JMR I was done. I started to disassemble our tent and then heard the three minute whistle and remembered I needed to tell the volunteers at the start that I was done.

I headed to the start to withdraw form the race and the two volunteers said ‘What? You are?! You are doing so good! Just do one more loop!’ I hadn’t expected that response and I was like ‘My toenails feel like they are falling off, my husband won’t know if I leave for another loop since I told him we were leaving’. In my head I was like, do I even have enough time to run back and tell JMR before the last whistle blows?!? Should I go for it?! They tried to get me to go, saying there were only two other females left, which gave me more pause, but then I insisted I was done. I reminded myself that the furthest I had trained was 16ish miles and I was already asking a lot of my body, and had some other big races coming up. I hit my goal of at least 50, so I felt like it was time to walk away. I headed back to the tent and we packed up and headed home. That decision haunted me though as soon as I got in the car, however it had been made and there was no going back.

When I got home I left all the stuff in the car (2a isn’t the time for unpacking), showered, cooked and ate an entire frozen pizza and attempted to sleep for a few hours. Once the sun came up I spent the rest of the day in a post-race-hungover-feeling and eating my way through the day, ha.

I would be lying though if I didn’t second guess my decision to quit at 54.6 miles as the second girl quit after loop 13 and the winner won doing 63 miles (14 loops)… could I have done two more loops? Should I have run back to JMR and told him ‘one more loop?’ I woke up early Monday morning in a panic about it! As the days passed and I was further away from that moment I realized that I had made the right call, my goal was just to do a 50k, 50 miles was awesome and anything more was fabulous, and I did that. My recovery hasn’t been terrible, my legs took a week to come around but I’m back to training for the Go! Half Marathon and if I had kept going for more loops that might not be the case today 🙂

Overall I would highly recommend this race. The backyard/loop style format just makes for a really fun race to hang out/run with other competitors, and the 1 hour loop takes the speed ‘factor’ out of it so it feels less competitive. Also Terrain Trail Runners does an awesome job at putting on races, it was incredibly well run and organized. If I can fit it in next year, I will do it, because it was THAT much fun 🙂

I’ll leave you with a picture of Penelope, which is how I felt that Saturday after the race.

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2022, Let’s Try This Again…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted! I had a nice break after IMWI, followed by easy training with a few ‘fun’ races mixed in October and December, and finally started to ramp up training at the end of December. However I came down with some kind of bug (tested negative several times for COVID) that took me out NYE and that weekend. Just when I was feeling better and was ready to put things in full swing with a big swim block in January, I started feeling sick again, this time with a cough and sore throat, and tested positive for COVID on the 5th. It’s 1/24 and I have STILL not been back to the pool. The fatigue from COVID really knocked me out and I could only manage one workout a day, so I picked running or biking since I could do them both from home (I was that tired). I plan to finally make my debut back into the pool on Wednesday though.

It was slow going coming back to training after being sick, but by mid-week last week (two and a half weeks after first symptoms of being sick), I finally felt more like myself. I have a semi-big running race planned for early March, but it’s been up in the air with how my running has felt (not good). This past weekend of training was kind of my go/no-go for that race as it was my first big build for the race. If I could get it done, then the race was still on, if I struggled, then I was ready to just call it and get back to a more balanced swim/bike/run training for my 70.3 in June. Spoiler alert, I got it done!

The original plan was to race/run the Frostbite Series Half-Marathon on Saturday, and then run an easy 12 miles on Sunday, doing loops similar to the race format. I had really wanted to be in racing shape for the half-marathon and see if I could PR, but obviously after getting sick and taking off time/recovery, my body wasn’t there. I had only run 4 times in the past 2.5 weeks since testing positive, two 5-milers, one painful treadmill 10-miler (and that was more for me to ‘prove’ I was better, but it put me on the couch the rest of the day) and a so-so 3-miler the Thursday before the planned race, and pretty much all of them felt terrible.

As I was getting ready for the race Saturday morning, I was thinking about trying to run a conservative pace in 15 degrees temps, IN A RACE (darn my overly-competitive nature), knowing those last three miles were going to hurt because 10 the week before were terrible, and then running 12 the next day… I decided I just wasn’t up for that kind of type 2 fun. I’ve been injured plenty in the past, and felt like this was walking a thin-line as I knew I would probably run the darn race too fast, running a pace I thought wasn’t fast but one my body wasn’t ready for. So, I decided to stay home and run 10 (with some marathon pace miles) on the treadmill. I think I pled my case fairly strongly for missing the half-marathon, but it still stings a little. I did end up running one extra mile (extra easy) just to be a little closer to the planned 13.

Sunday I was up and ready to go, maybe fueled a little by the guilt of skipping the half-marathon. I was on-call for work so I had to be creative and did loops near my house so I wasn’t any further than 15 minutes away (the time we had to respond after getting a call). The pace for this run was just ‘easy’ and focusing on getting in the miles, so that made it easier despite the mental challenge of doing 3 x 4 mile loops. Even though my legs were sore, it wasn’t to terrible and I got the run done just fine. I did get one call, but I was .8 miles from the house (and the end of my run) so I was able to end my run and get to work. I was pretty happy with how both runs went!

So with the race still on (as of now, as long as running continues to feel better), and swimming getting added back into the mix, things are starting to feel a little more normal to me now. I appreciated the required down-time needed to rest and recover (I read SO many books!), but now that my energy is back to normal, I’m more than ready to get back to my usual training routine.

Happy Monday!

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IMWI ’21 – Pre-Race

Man, I can’t believe another IM is over and done… it’s been three weeks since I was standing at the start line, slightly dreading racing knowing how long of a day it was going to be and that there was going to be some suffering…. but then once I crossed the finish line I forget ALL of that, and just wanted to do it again! This race went almost exactly as I had hoped and trained for – we got lucky with perfect racing weather and I came pretty close to all of my goals. Even though I’m sad it’s over, I’m also pretty content and don’t have that feeling of wanting to race right away for redemption like I did at CDA where I shuffled during most of the run.

I originally was going to make this race ‘not a big deal’ since IMCDA was quite the event between flying, renting a car, AirBnB, shipping my bike via TriBike transport and trying to make it a little vacation (I have realized that just doesn’t work with big races, too much pre-race anxiety/stresses to really relax). So we were going to leave Friday morning, do race stuff/hang out Saturday, race Sunday and drive home Monday morning. However I started to get anxious not arriving until Friday afternoon, and then having to do athlete check-in, fit in a short bike ride, check into hotel and also try to squeeze in a swim in the lake. Too much. So I convinced Jimmy to leave Thursday after work so we had a little more time to settle in once we got there and it would be less rushed. It would be a late arrival though, we did it in 2015 and it was rough, but it seemed like a better option. Then my parents realized they were free that weekend and decided to come too, so this race ended up turning into more of an ‘event’ than planned, but I was ok with that!

We got an early start Thursday evening thanks to Jimmy for surprising me and leaving work early, and hit the road about 5:15. We had rush hour traffic, but other than stopping once for gas (I brought sandwiches to eat in the car for dinner) it was a pretty uneventful drive and we arrived about 11:15p. Check in was much easier than 2015, they had our key ready, we got use one of the bellhop carts to bring everything upstairs and then I went to park our car. Wow, easy peasy. Once settled in, I did a little unpacking (I had SO much STUFF…everywhere!) and then was in bed around midnight.

Along with gear, I packed a TON of snacks for Jimmy and I!

Friday I was up early to get breakfast, headed to athlete check-in, and then met my friend Mike who was also racing (we met several years ago through my former triathlon team) for a short spin to check out our bikes/gears to make sure they were working ok. Later I met up with Mike, my coach and his wife (who was also racing) for a quick swim in Lake Monona. It was a good test run because my wetsuit was rubbing like crazy and my goggles were leaking like crazy. I got my wetsuit straightened out and my goggles situated so they would be ready for race day. After the swim we grabbed dinner at The Great Dane.

Saturday the only real plans were to check in my bike/gear, meet Team Zoot for a group photo and meet my parents for an early dinner, but somehow it was much busier than planned and I walked way too much! I decided to head over to the athlete briefing at 10a to make sure there wasn’t any important information covered that wasn’t in the athlete guide. A few hours later I was back to Ironman Village around 2p to drop off bike/gear and holy cow, the transitions were HUGE. My transitions were going to be way longer than the times I anticipated. Sigh. I know everyone else racing had to do it too, but it made me sad my time goals would have to be adjusted. After walking what felt like 3 miles through transition, I met up with my parents near the Capitol to say hi and hear how their drive up was, and then at 3 I met up with Team Zoot for a group photo. By 4p I was finally headed back to the hotel. My feet needed to be up and resting!

Lola racked and ready to roll.

We met my parents at 5:30p for an early dinner and then afterwards I cooked my oatmeal for breakfast (easier/faster to eat when cold, so I cook night before and keep in fridge), prepped my bike bottles, and got the rest of my gear/nutrition ready that I would drop off in my bike/run bags in the morning. I was in bed by 9p and slept pretty well until about 3:40a and laid in bed until my alarm went off at 3:50a.

Then I was up! I did my morning pre-race routine and we were out the door at 5a to meet Mike in the lobby to head to transition. I tried to not fuss too much in transition, just set up bottles, put nutrition in bento box, pump tires, calibrate powermeter and LEAVE! Then I went to my bike/run gear bags to add gear/nutrition, and finally sat with Jimmy along the helix while I squeezed into my wetsuit and people watched. Around 6:30a we headed to the swim start, once we had to separate I gave him a final kiss goodbye and headed to the swim corral to find my 1:11-1:20 seeded start group. Whoo I was nervous. I remembered how long the swim at CDA felt and knew this was going to be a long one too. Having 3 of my IM swims current assisted, I realized how long a real legit IM swim is, and I was going to do it again. Soon I was nearing the start, got my goggles ready and when it was my turn, waded in and started swimming, here we go!

IMWI ’21 The Swim and Bike

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IMWI ’21 The Swim and Bike

IMWI ’21 – Pre-Race

It took me a few minutes to get into a rhythm, I was grateful to be in my sleeveless wetsuit, I felt like I had better mobility and less of a claustrophobic feeling, so I was able to focus on sighting/strokes and not worry about fighting back any panic. I turned right past the first buoy and realized how crowded it was, and as I kept swimming it felt like EVERYONE was passing me. Maybe everyone in my corral was really a 1:11 swimmer and there were no 1:20’s, because once again it felt like EVERYONE was passing me. I approached the timing arch we swam under during the second turn and was attacked by lake plants – wrapping around my arms, legs and even over my head/face. Several times I had to pull them off my head so I could see and many strokes I felt them dragging along.

Finally I was past the lake plants and almost to the third turn, which was also crowded and everyone was passing me. At this point I was pretty frustrated, I wasn’t even halfway done and was just over the slow I seemed to be going, and feeling like the entire race was passing me by. On I went, finally getting to the turn buoy for the second loop, having the world pass me by on the back stretch, through the timing arch while lake plants were trying to attack me, stopping to adjust my goggles because water had leaked into them, then making the last right turn for the final stretch. I could hear announcer and could see the swim exit, finally! I kept pushing until I could stand up and wobbled out of the water to cross the timing mat. I checked my watch and saw 1:20:xx and thought, crap and welp, that’s how long it felt, lol.

I ran up the helix while pulling down my wetsuit, feeling like it took forever since we were going up four parking garage levels. I finally reached the top and got my bike gear bag and plopped down on the concrete to put on my bike shoes/socks, helmet and finally sunscreen on arms/neck/hands. I stuffed my swim gear in the bag, dropped it off with a volunteer and then make the long trek across the parking garage lot to my bike.

I grabbed my bike, hustled to the mount line and was off, slowly winding back down the helix. The first several miles were through bike/pedestrian paths and really crummy roads so I took it easy to get settled in. So many bottles were littered around the ground near this part from the rough roads, and I wasn’t looking forward to coming back through at all. Good thing it would be at least five hours from now..ha. Finally we hit open roads with a little better pavement and I settled in and pushed the pace into my planned IM pace. With the course having some flat parts but mostly hills it certainly kept me busy and focused, and sort of made the time go by quickly. We were so lucky that the weather was in the 70’s and cloudy, absolutely perfect weather! I reminded myself this several times when I was feeling blah or ready to be done riding, remembering how hot CDA was and to get to ride in this weather was LUCKY for sure. I am also glad I previewed the course in August since I had forgotten most of the course from when I last rode it in 2015, as it helped me remember what bigger hills and turns to expect.

Around mile 80 I was starting get a little crabby and tired of riding, wondering why I sign up for these long ass races when my favorite part, the run, was 8+ hours into the darn race. Then I thought, man how was I going to run a marathon after this? That sounds soooo long. I think due to the heat at CDA deep down I just had the goal of having a strong bike time (within reason given the heat) and no pressure to run fast on the run, since it would be more about surviving. This time, I had no excuses on the run, it was going to be perfect weather. But deep down I love the challenge of putting the three sports together, the strategies and problem solving throughout the day and that feeling after finishing an IM for me is just a different feeling than finishing a running race, so that’s why I was at mile 80 of the bike, questioning my life choices. However at mile 90 I had a second wind (so funny how things can change back to the positive, you just have to hang on during the lows) and realized that I was going to be close to 6:15 if I kept up this pace, and it was reassurance that since I had kept the pace/effort for 90 miles, I was pretty sure I would for the remaining 22. Knowing I was on pace or a little faster than the planned goal, I was recharged and ready to finish this bike.

It was around the 100 mile marker that I realized either my watch was off or the course was long because my watch had 102 miles… ugggh, of course, the course would be long when I was going to PR my bike time. I kept pedaling away, knowing everyone else had those extra two miles too and I still needed to finish strong. Soon I was nearing the finish, pedaling on that crappy pavement, wondering what would or could fall off my bike from the horrible bumps and finally seeing the helix (past mile 112 by the way…that irritated me). I climbed up the helix and dismounted, hitting my watch and seeing 6:20, hooray! still a bike PR and 17.9mph, I will take it! I actually rode the bike well! Now let’s see how the legs do..

I dismounted my bike, waddled to drop it back off at my rack, took off my shoes, ran through transition (quick stop in the porta potty, still cannot pee on the bike), grabbed my run gear back and sat in an open chair this time to get ready for the run. A wonderful volunteer helped me get my gear situated, I quickly put on socks, shoes, hat, grabbed handheld and my baggie of gels I would stuff into my kit while running. I was off!

IMWI ’21 The Run

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IMWI ’21 The Run

IMWI ’21 The Swim and Bike

When I left transition I wasn’t sure where the timing mats actually started for the run, I heard a beep when I left the changing area, but thought it officially started once we exited the parking garage, however there weren’t any there. Well darn, then I guess it was after the changing area, so I started my watch and figured once I hit the first mile marker I’d know how much it was off. As we ran up the small hill out of the parking garage transition there were crowds lining the route, and I saw Jimmy and my parents and gave them a wave! Then I was off, passing the capitol through downtown, passing crowded streets, and feeling GOOD. I guess my legs were going to show up! I was so worried during the bike HOW I was going to do this run after biking at a good effort, but once I got back into transition my mind just went into autopilot, I did what I needed to do and just moved! And now I was passing the first mile marker feeling good! I noted my watch was .25 off, so when calculating times I would add 3 or so minutes to be on the safe side.

As the first few miles went by I saw my splits in the low 9’s but was feeling good, so I just focused on keeping a good effort and going with that pace. The cooler weather and clouds made for perfect running weather, but I was glad I still had my handheld to just take sips of my skratch hydration as my stomach wasn’t a fan of Gatorade endurance. I got to Observatory Hill and chugged up it, I told myself ‘no walking this first loop’. Then we ran back into downtown, which I remembered would be a huge energy boost with all of the crowds there, and it certainly was! Then I headed back through and was in a zone running on the path along the lake, so much so I almost missed seeing my friend/coach’s wife as we crossed paths at an aid station.

Soon I was getting close to the turnaround in the park along the lake, I hated this part of the loop, it just seems to go forever. Once past the turnaround I headed back into downtown, still feeling great and pretty darn excited. When I ran past the capitol I saw my mom and coach, he ran with me for a bit giving me a short pep talk, and then I saw Jimmy and my dad as I headed towards the finish line to turn around for the second loop.

As I turned around and headed back for the second loop, I was excited and a little freaked out. I was running a little faster than I had expected to (I mean, it was the goal pace, but I haven’t had many IMs where that worked out to be true), but with the cooler weather and my legs feeling good, I wasn’t going to slow down as long as I was feeling ‘comfortable’ and not pushing it. I waved to my family as I passed them again and then went back to trying to just focus on the mile I was in. I took my third gel around mile 14 and around mile 15 my stomach wasn’t happy. It was a caffeinated gel so maybe that was why, but also I think my body just had to go. So at the mile 16 aid station I dashed into the porta potty, and then shortly after was back on the run course, but running a little slower in fear of my stomach getting angry again. I decided at this point no more gels, that just skratch hydration and coke (I had started drinking coke pretty early on in the race) will probably be enough nutrition for the 10 miles left. After another mile I realized my legs had lost a little of their pep and I was struggling to run in the low 9’s and high 9’s was getting to be a more do-able pace. Bummer. I didn’t check total race time yet because I didn’t want to stress myself out, and instead just run what my body was capable of. I decided I would check with six miles to go.

Headed out for loop #2 and feeling good!

This loop there was a little walking during aid stations (sloshy stomach), and a little walking up observatory hill, but mostly still running, just at a slower pace. When I got to mile 20 I decided to see where I was with overall time, 11:15, so after doing the only math I could at the moment (increments of 10 minute pace, ha) that if I kept up at 10 min pace I would come in around 12:15 or so, which made me very happy to see. With my swim and the long transitions I figured sub 12 wasn’t going to happen, but I was thrilled to at least finally get a PR and closer to the times I thought I was capable of. That gave me a little more pep in my step and I was able to push the paces a little, but nowhere close to low 9’s.

Soon I was headed back towards downtown, I pushed the pace but could feel my body struggling and was worried I wouldn’t make it the final three miles, so I slowed down back to high 9’s for the last two miles. I remembered during my 50k with 1.5 miles left, my legs literally quit on me. I couldn’t run at all and walking was hard, and I didn’t want to get to that point so I just kept the run pace that felt like I was pushing but not redlining. When I made the turn to go up the hill to the finish, I was overcome with a wave of ‘holy sh!t I’m going to finish this! In daylight! With a PR!’ and turned up the pace. I went flying down the finisher chute, checking that no one was behind me, and then ran it in across the finish. I did it! Two Ironmans in one year, no injuries…and a PR. That was huge and those were my goals!

Running it in, the final push!

After I got my medal and finisher photo I met up with my parents and Jimmy, and they told me my time, 12:06 and I said “holy sh!t! what?!?!?!’ I had thought it was 12:15…bad math when running, very bad math, lol. I wish I had checked total time earlier than 6 miles to go so maybe I could have pushed a little more and maybe gone sub 12, but then again, maybe that was all I had. Regardless I was so thrilled with a 46 min PR on a tough course- a legit swim, hilly bike and not flat run.

We chatted for a bit telling stories about the day – from my racing perspective and their spectating ones, it was quite the day! Then I started getting super cold, so we decided to skip meeting for dinner and Jimmy and I went to pick up my bike and gear bags and head back to the hotel. I was tired and wired, what a day. I really couldn’t believe it, it wasn’t perfect but everything for the most part came together and I was able to race to the ability that I had shown in training and that I was thrilled about. When I got back to the hotel and checked official splits times, I was shocked to see I was 9th on the bike for my age group, that was a huge improvement for me! I also ended up 9th overall in my age group, which I was also pretty happy about. All of those early mornings…all of those long bike rides, painful runs…all worth it!

Now it’s time for a little break from structured training. I’m signed up for some ‘fun’ running races, a Halloween 5k and a Hot Chocolate 15k in December, but other than than I’m just going to take it easy for bit and give my body a little break after the big season it had this year 🙂

2021 is the year of no dates on IM Medals..or shirts..or hats….

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Quick Check In – Less than a Month out from IMWI!

Since I don’t log my training weeks like I used to earlier in this blog since it’s basically the same general stuff, day in and day out :), I thought I would do a quick check in since it’s less than a month out from IMWI.

Two weekends ago I headed up to Madison, WI with my coach, his wife and a training friend to ride two loops of the course. (We were skipping the stick – the out and back portion which is usually pretty busy with cars and not super hilly, so it isn’t really needed for a ‘course recon’). The plan was to head up Saturday, get in a swim and short run and then ride Sunday morning. The weather had other plans for us though, it’s was stormy on our way up, the rain stopped when we headed to lake Monona but it was choppy and windy, so we aborted the mission to swim and instead ran 10 miles along the lake. It was nice to run around a new area and to also run with other people! Training solo I forget that sometimes I miss the chit chat with others during a run.

Sunday we headed out to Fireman’s park where we would start our two loops, there were a few cars there but it wasn’t super crowded. I was glad we went during an ‘off day’ when there wasn’t a supported or planned ride so the roads would be a little less busy and therefore maybe less irritable drivers. Off we went, but five minutes in I dropped my chain. Grr. What a great start, I had thought it was a mechanical issue since my shifting sounded off/was skipping occasionally when I checked it Friday, however in retrospect I am pretty sure I shifted to the small ring when I was down pedaling with way too much force which caused it to drop, so it was a relief knowing it was user error.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, I did notice that some of the roads were super rough – my aero bottle was rattling away and really getting in my head, I wanted to go slower to make it stop! So that was one thing I noted to take care of before race day (which I did this past weekend, putting a piece of fabric between it and my bars stopped the rattle on rough pavement, hooray). Also, during the first loop the three main big-ish hills weren’t so bad at all, but during the second loop, I struggled on the last one. That was an eye opener, I mean I knew it was a tough bike course, but I guess I had forgotten how tough since I last raced it. So it was good kick in the pants to keep riding hills at home and to take this bike course seriously! Which I definitely do take IM training seriously, but I figured after surviving the tough CDA bike course I was good and just needed to ride mileage and not worry about hills, ha…no.

This past week I had my largest training week for IMWI, which had the usual volume during the week but a 100 mile ride and long-ish run over the weekend. The weather was supposed to be nice, no rain and a high in the 80’s, so it was perfect conditions, but I was slightly dreading it because I had some serious pre long-ride anxiety for some reason. Usually I feel that way when I start riding outside again, but after a ride or two I feel more confident and less worried. However, I think part of it was due to fear of the condition of the roads, this time of year they are chip sealing all over my favorite routes, so encountering long stretches of gravel was on the back of my mind, and gravel can mean crashing/falling.

Also my darn rear bottle holders got squished again in transit to Madison, I think the storms we drove though really pushed the bikes against each other on the rack and the handlebars of my friend’s bike were pushing on my rear bottle cages. Because the screw is stuck in one of the cages (you can read all about that drama in my pre CDA race recap, lol), I’m stuck with that bottle holder unless I want to invest in a whole new rear hydration setup, which, I do not. So I tried to un-squish it as much as I could but it’s still a struggle to get bottles in and out, however I just need it to hold up until race day and we will go from there. [Sidenote: I turn 40 next year and have been saying for the past five years I am buying a new bike as my present for that big birthday, but damn, bike prices have gone way up, or maybe my taste has, so who knows, but for now I’m not sinking any more money into my current tri bike.] Despite the fears and squished bottle cages I got the ride done. There was gravel, so I had to change routes and get in less hills, but I still got in some hills and it was ok. No bike mechanicals, no flats, and my rear hydration setup didn’t fall off while trying to pull the bottles out, lol. So it was a win!

I’m at the point now where I’m counting things down to keep my motivation up. I’m still excited to train, but am getting a little worn down and am ready for race day. For example my alarm went off at 5a yesterday and my first thought was ‘can I swim after work instead?’, but telling myself ‘Only 11 more early morning swims until race day!’ seemed to help and know that there will be mornings in the near future when I will sleep in past 5 :). Whatever works!

I have also started to think of my goals for IMWI now that the race is closer and have a good idea of what my actual fitness might be on race day. I won’t be posting any numbers (fear of jinxing myself!) but I went into this season with some specific swim/bike/run goal numbers, however after CDA, I think my swim goal time might need to be a little slower based on how that swim went and IMWI being a pretty similar format (lake swim, 2 loops). I am going to swim in my sleeveless wetsuit which I *think* might help my pace a little, which sounds counterintuitive since I’ll be wearing less neoprene, but the long sleeved made me feel panicky during a lot of the swim at CDA, so I wasn’t swimming as hard as I could have in fear I would get my heart rate up too high and then go into an actual panic attack. So yes, long sleeved wetsuits are faster than sleeveless, but maybe not the case when you are borderline panic attack in a full sleeved. I’ll report back after and let you know 🙂 I still feel pretty confident in my bike goal time, and if I have a good day the run goal time might be attainable too. Everything just has to come into place or I have to do a good job of going with the flow and being flexible (and problem solve) since usually things going as planned and having a perfect day is rare.

I also have some lessons learned from CDA that I do and do NOT want to repeat! The DO: Pre-Race Nutrition. I had zero stomach issues on race day which is rare, I followed a really strict pre-race nutrition routine, so I am sticking with that again. It will be a little harder because I won’t have access to a kitchen and our hotel room doesn’t have a microwave, but I think I can still follow it semi-closely with the big piece being NOT eating vegetables two days prior to the race. Nutrition on bike/run seemed to be pretty good using Skratch Superfuel and 1 Skratch Rice Cake on bike; Skratch Sport Hydration, Huma Gels, Base Salt and Coke on the run, so I’m keeping that in place. Running with a handheld worked well with hydration and also carrying salt/2 gels along with what I stuffed in my kit, I will see what the weather will be like on race day but will most likely still carry handheld since my stomach seems to handle Skratch well.

The DO NOT REPEAT: Missing sunscreen on hands. And Arms. I guess this will really depend on weather, but my hands were just fried by the time I got on the run at CDA. I know I didn’t spray them in T1 or T2, so maybe just spraying the tops will be enough, or I might wear bike gloves. Also dependent on weather, but I will be bringing arm sleeves as well. If it’s hot, I will take the time in T1 to wear them so I don’t fry or have to re-spray in special needs. Raw neck from wetsuit. This is a regular problem for me, even with putting a crap ton of body glide on my neck. I’m considering using K-Tape on my neck to see if that will help, but I’m not sure how well it will stay on, so it might be riskier if it falls off and not having anything there since I can’t apply body glide and k-tape. Decisions…

So training is chugging along, I’m getting close to the taper, just a couple more big weeks while trying to take care of the little things: strength training, yoga, stretching, sleep and eating healthy so that I will get to that start line healthy and ready to race! I will leave you with a picture of this little guy we see occasionally hugging the power line outside our house. It’s a funny looking site, he/she will be running down the line and then stops and just hugs it and stays that way for a while, like he/she just realized they’re afraid of heights. Then after a while I guess he/she works up the courage (or forgets the made up fear of heights I created) and scurries off. Anyways, some days I feel like I’m just holding on for dear life between work, training and life so this picture sums up my weeks lately!

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Ironman Coeur d’Alene – The Race

The water was a semi-chilly 68 degrees, but I warmed up pretty quickly in my long-sleeved wetsuit. Somehow while trying to warm up and not panic (cold water and wetsuit restriction sometimes gets me panicky) I had managed to get to the left of the buoys. For the entire swim out, I kept trying to get to the right of the next buoy and failing every time (I’d get close and think, eh, I’ll cross over after the next one, it’s crowded). I did make it around the red buoys at both turns (because you have to!) but going back towards shore once again I was to the left of them, which is fine as long as you go around (to the right of) the red buoys but it was driving me crazy. There was also a lot of chop near the first turn that made sighting and even swimming a struggle. By the time I headed back to shore I began to think that this loop seemed very long, so much so that I was wondering if I was wrong and it really was just one loop, not two. When I finally ran out onto the beach after my first loop, I saw other people running back in, so it was definitely still two loops. I looked down at my watch and saw 38:xx, and thought ‘not too bad’ since it had felt much slower, and I was certain I could pick it up the pace on the second loop and come close to 1:16 (my goal was 1:15-16).

Once again I spent the loop trying to get on the right side of the buoys but never making it except for the red turn buoys. I guess I really need to work on sighting. The chop near the first turn was even worse this time and I really struggled to get around the red buoy. I also noticed that my wetsuit was really starting to rub my neck despite the glob of body glide I had rubbed all over it, so then I started to stress out thinking about how it would sting the rest of the race between applying sunscreen and salt from sweat. Between the buoys, chop and rubbing wetsuit and being unable to turn them out, my mental game was not strong on the swim. By the last turn I was so ready to be done, and I just kept focusing on swimming towards shore and tried not to think about my wetsuit rubbing with every stroke. When I got out of the water and saw 1:21:xx I just thought, ‘Crap. What a bad swim’… all of that pool time to have such a slow swim really bummed me out, and let it stick with me longer than I should have. I still ran through transition and tried to be speedy getting out of my wetsuit and bike gear on, knowing the I still had other goals I could achieve, and then after a very long run through the bike-out I finally got on my bike and was ready to ride!

Swim: 1:21:45, T1: 5:55

As I settled in it occurred to me I completely forgot to calibrate my power meter that morning. Ugggh… the numbers probably weren’t too off but I never feel like I can trust them unless it’s been calibrated before my ride. In Chattanooga 70.3 I also forgot to calibrate it that morning and made the call to get off my bike during the race and calibrate. Since it was going to be hot and I wasn’t sure how meaningful the numbers would be, I decided against stopping and rode on. I also couldn’t remember how to calibrate in race mode and was a little afraid to mess with my watch. Although in retrospect it probably would have been good to have the numbers to also make sure I wasn’t overdoing it, so lesson learned.

The out and back was pretty uneventful, there was one slightly steep hill, but nothing terrible. One thing I noticed right away though was how smooth the roads were! So many of the country roads I train on have been paved with chip seal and are definitely not smooth, so the ride was nice and quiet and felt fast! Soon I was headed out of town for the main loop and started mentally preparing for the big 2ish mile climb and then several other smaller ones before the turnaround.

Once I got to the base of the hill a guy passing said ‘here we go!’, and I prepared to get ready to grind. Surprisingly the hill wasn’t terrible, but I’ve noticed that my back seems to get tight when riding long-ish hills, so that really was the worst part and I went back and forth from sitting up to riding in aero to give my back a break. I was relieved when I reached the top and after a little flat stretch I was able to cruise downhill. It felt warm out but not terrible and there was a slight cool breeze which helped. I hit the turnaround happy to be 1/4th of the way done…it had been awhile since I’ve raced an IM and 112 miles was feeling long. Also another thing I was worrying about was my arms getting sunburned. I had gone back and forth as to whether I should put armcoolers on in T1, since I train in them and they work since I burn easily, but I was worried it would take too long and instead sprayed sunscreen on them.

Going back into town to start the second loop I was feeling a little tired and nauseas. I was trying to remember to keep drinking water but the water was so warm in my aero bottle which made it hard to drink. I would grab a cold water bottle at each aid station, chug at least half, fill my aero drink and if there was any left I would spray the rest on my head and body. I was also taking base salt occasionally and drinking my Skratch Superfuel (200 calories/half a bottle an hour) that had calories/electrolytes. So I knew I was taking in the right stuff, but probably could be doing better on water since that usually creeps up on you especially in drier climates. The ‘little’ hill on the out and back was much more noticeable now so I figured it was going to be a tough second loop. I stopped at special needs at mile 66 to get my third bottle of Skratch which was still cold from freezing and wrapping in foil (yay!) AND the volunteer had spray sunscreen, so I gave her a big thank you while she sprayed my arms and neck. The worry about burned arms quickly faded.

By the time I got out of town and started the big climb again I was feeling the heat, and the nice breeze was now like a hot fan blowing in your face. I had fond memories of that same feeling at Chattanooga. I tried to sip more of my hot water and began to take Base salt every five miles as I had only taken it a few times during the first loop and knew I needed to be more proactive with the temps rising regardless of what I felt like drinking or taking. As I made the big climb again I was happy that my back seemed to have loosened up and felt better this time, but it was definitely a much slower grind. I do love hills though and passing people gave me a little encouragement, despite feeling a little nauseas and starting to get hot, I was still doing ok since I wasn’t killing myself going up the hill, just taking it easy and getting into a manageable rhythm.

By the turnaround I was ready to be done… but I still had 22 or so miles left. As I kept riding I could feel the temps rising and now the hills seemed never ending. I didn’t remember the hills feeling tough on the way back to town but they did this time. Finally when I got to the huge downhill during the last five miles, which was a no passing zone, I and at least six others were stuck behind a cautious rider braking the whole way. The rules are the rules, and we all stayed single file but I wanted to cry because of all of that lost free speed from the hard work we did on the hills earlier. After the descent and no passing zone ended I realized I was going to be off the bike soon and started to get worried about running a marathon after this hot second half of the bike. I came into T2 and saw JMR and could feel the tears behind my sunglasses and said something to him while walking my bike to my rack, I’m not even sure what I said but I’m sure it included ‘it’s so hot’.

Bike: 6:35:00, T2: 6:21

On my way to my rack two different volunteers stopped me to see if I needed medical, to which I said no, but was wondering how bad I looked. I felt pretty terrible but not bad enough to call it a day. I racked my bike, sat on the ground, put on my hat, swapped into my running shoes, grabbed my baggie with nutrition and walked out of transition not wanting to run a marathon. I walk-jogged the first mile while trying to stuff my nutrition into my back pockets and thinking how crappy I felt. I passed some porta-potties around mile 1, and since I really had to pee I decided I didn’t care how long it would take to get out of my one-piece kit. I quickly unzipped the top and wrestled to get out my arms out, knowing it would be just as fun getting them back in but if it would make me a little more comfortable then that’s what I was going to do. I also managed to flash a few volunteers as I thought I got locked in the porta potty and pushed the door open in panic, thankfully it opened, but my tri kit wasn’t pulled up yet! Once back in my suit I walk-jogged some more, feeling lightheaded and hot, and wondering if I could walk this whole thing. As I kept walk-jogging I did the math and realized it was going to be a long ass marathon at the rate I was walking it (like 7 hours), but I wasn’t sure what else to do because running felt awful in the heat. All I could do was try and keep my HR down, take in ice and water at the aid stations and keep moving forward.

Along with feeling pretty crummy my right hand was ON FIRE. I had put sunscreen on my hands along with my arms in the morning before the race, but I guess it had rubbed off and I completely forgot to spray them in T1 and didn’t ask the lady to spray them either at special needs, and both hands were red but the right one was bright red. I had sewed the bottom of an arm cooler to make a little ice wrap/tube I could fill and put around my neck during the run and decided to wrap the arm cooler around my hand to keep the sun off of it and from it feeling on fire. Right away after I wrapped it around my hand it felt much better and it freed my some the mental energy I was spending on it to focus on running. Next race I am wearing bike gloves!

After several miles of stopping at each aid station to dump water on head/ice down suit and drink water I was starting to feel a little better. At the mile 6 aid station I made the decision to drink some coke. I usually wait until the second half of the run, but all bets were off and I had to see what might help, and that did it! Shortly after drinking it I started to feel better and was able to turn my walk-jog into a run. Ok! From here on out I was going to add coke into my mix of water/skratch/salt/gel and hope that kept me moving forward at a 10-11min pace.

As I was finishing up the first loop I saw JMR and told him I was feeling much better and gave him a high five. I also soaked up the energy of the big crowds on this part of the loop which kept me moving at a good pace. I had gotten in a good groove of running to the next aid station and then walking through it to get ice/water/coke, and that strategy made running a 10ish min pace sustainable. I did have a few aid stations where I drank too much water along with coke and had to walk a little further beyond the aid station to try and let my stomach settle. My mouth was just kept getting so dry between aid stations that by the time I got to them I wanted to chug all of the liquids there. I also sipped on my Skratch hydration in my handheld in between aid stations and took in salt as well. As I hit the mile 13 marker I looked at my watch and thought, well hey, I can finish this in under 5 hours, that will be my new goal (I had switched to FINISH THE RACE as my goal once I started the run). Then I realized that 4:45 was probably close in reach if I kept moving since my first 6 miles were really slow, so my second half should be much faster.

My new goal, which seemed achievable, gave me focus to just keep moving. Soon I was finishing the second loop, saw JMR again and told him I was still doing good, and kept on moving. When I hit mile 20 I decided I wanted to see where I was on race time. I flipped my watch to race time and saw I was close to 11 hours, which meant unless I magically started running 9 minute miles I would be pretty close to 13 hours. I knew my goal of sub 12 hours was out of the window before the race had even started with the heat, but I wasn’t sure how far off I would be. Well, I was going to be very far off, and probably finish close to my first IM time. However, I reminded myself that this heat was no joke and it was a mini miracle I was moving at my current pace considering how terrible I felt at the start of the run. And I also knew that every race is different and has its own challenges and you can’t really compare them, BUT it’s still nice to have some time goal to chase. I changed my watch back to run time, and moved on with the goal of finishing the run sub 4:45, I had no more mental energy to waste on things I can’t control at that point!

On I went, making the last turn around on the third loop, less than six miles to go. I just kept counting down the miles. Finally with 2 miles to go I started to feel all of the emotions, I was going to finish, I could feel the happy tears starting to come and almost felt like I had goosebumps and chills (the good kind, not the hypothermia kind). I passed through the neighborhoods high fiving people, running close to a 9 minute pace, pushing harder and feeling good, and when I got to the part of the loop where you turn to the finish or keep right to go do another loop, I turned to go to the finish and got even more emotional. And then a lady dared to say ‘Good job! 9 more blocks!’…9 more blocks? I have like .3 miles to go, what kind of blocks are we talking about lady?

I kept running, over the little bridge towards Sherman Ave where I would turn left and run down to the finisher chute. The crowds got larger and a guy shouted at me as I turned left ‘you have been racing all day for these three minutes! enjoy them!’ It’s true, the rest of the race was a blur and and all I could feel were the emotions of finishing. I was overcome with happy tears behind my sunglasses, ugly crying while sprinting down the the finish (why I sprinted, I do not know, and now all of my finisher photos I have 3 chins from making quite the face while sprinting), and finally crossing the finish line. Holy crap, that was HARD. I’m pretty sure I said that out loud too. #5 was done.

Run: 4:43:37

Total Time: 12:52:37

I got my t-shirt and medal, took a finisher photo and then met JMR after. I’m pretty sure I said again ‘that was so hard!’ and then went on to say how I thought I wasn’t going to finish when I got out on the run course and was struggling, but then rallied at mile 6 and finished strong. I asked what the temps were and he said at one point his phone said 102, phew, it was hot! JMR recapped the events of his day while spectating and then after grabbing a coke from the athlete food tent (the thought of food made my stomach flip) we headed back to the house. What a day! It’s crazy how the day starts out feeling so long (at least for me), especially when you’re suffering, but once you cross the finish line it’s like you forget all of that and only remember the good and it seems like it went by just in the blink of an eye. Good thing I feel that way, since my next Ironman is in less than 10 weeks! Ironman Wisconsin training starts up next week! 🙂 However this week is definitely a recovery week!

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