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!
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.
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!
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 🙂
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!
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.
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!
This past Sunday I got to race an Ironman! It felt like I had been training for forever for this race. I had put in a good chunk of training for St. George during the winter 2019/early spring 2020 only to have the pandemic put everything on pause. I still kept up with training and since it looked like Muncie 70.3 was going to happen, I last minute decided to sign up, but then a week or so before, it got cancelled. I was pretty sure IMWI wasn’t going to happen, but kept my training up just in case. Then by mid summer some smaller (mostly trail and ultra) running races were happening so I jumped on the ultra wagon. I really wanted to race again, and I’ve also had the itch to run an ultra, however triathlon training usually took a front seat, so I was excited that it worked out to have the chance to race one. IMWI was officially cancelled in August (I think around then), so I turned my focus over to running and took the 50 mile training seriously. I ran a 50k in September as a training run and then raced the 50 miler at the end of October. I took a little time off and then got back to business mid November to build up my triathlon base again since I had been mostly focusing on running for the past few months. This past spring rolled around and IM training was in full swing. So even though my training block for CdA was only six or so months it feels so much longer than that with all of the training before my ultra debut.
I felt pretty prepared for this race. My swimming has improved, mostly small gains but I was feeling stronger in the water. Plus I swam at least 2k yards every day almost the entire month of February- except when the gym was closed due to a snowstorm, so that has to count for something, right? My bike was just ok, it was as good as it was going to get with the limited weekends where weather cooperated to get in bigger rides, and on those rides I tried to get in hills! I felt like my run was strong between successful speed work sessions and knowing I had some endurance (and mental strength) from the 50 miler. So I felt with all of these improvements on the swim and run, I thought I was sure to make my goal of 12 hours or at least come close.
Except the weather forecast on race day had other plans. To my horror when I checked it the week before it was predicted to be in the mid 90’s, but as the days passed it kept going up, all the way up to 100. Not again. Chattanooga which had a heat index of 100+ was such a sufferfest, I knew at those temps goals would be out the window and it would be more about being smart and finishing safely. However the race director had moved up the start time to 5:30a so the worst part of the day would be on the run. Not ideal but glad we were getting some extra ‘cooler’ hours to race. So I still had some hope that my goals weren’t totally toast.
We arrived Thursday morning and it already felt warm… and it was only in the 80’s! We couldn’t check in to our AirBnB until 4p so we got lunch, then went to the Ironman village where I did athlete check-in, and then waited in line at Tribike Transport to get my bike and gear bag. Once we were able to get into our AirBnB I made a grocery store run and we got settled in. I love eating out while on vacation but I was kind of excited to make our own meals to avoid stressing about pre race food, especially since I was trying to eat a pretty bland, no veggies diet Friday and Saturday. I usually have something green with lunch and dinner even the day before the race, but having GI issues during three of the four IM’s I’ve done, I decided it was time to cut the green out and see if that helped.
Friday morning I went for a short spin and rode part of the run course, which was mostly flat and mostly shaded, hooray. Then I spent the next couple of hours prepping gear and trying to swap water bottle holders- in transit my right rear one got smushed, so I was swapping with the left but the screw in the right one wouldn’t go back in all of the way, but when I tried to take it out, it was stuck. Ugh. So I finally electric-taped the heck out of it and hoped it stayed on. After spending way too much time on the bottle holders, JMR and I ventured out to try a smoothie at The Wellness bar and walked around for a little bit before heading back to the house to rest the legs and make dinner.
Saturday was even less eventful, I met with up with a few team Zooters before heading to drop my bike off at 11. Bike drop off was very quick since we only were dropping off our bikes and we would lay our bike/run gear out old school style race day morning. I did walk through swim in/bike out/bike in/run out so I knew where to go and where my rack was. Then I headed back to the house to rest up the legs and go to bed early for a 2:45a wake up.
I slept ok, not great and was up ready to go at 2:45. I did my usual pre race morning routine: oatmeal/banana/peanut butter, bathroom, sunscreen and then we were headed to transition at 3:45a. It was about a 20 min walk to transition and then I took my time to set up my gear and also find a pump. Usually IM has them along the walls of transition but none were to be found, but I did find a generous athlete on my rack that brought her own and was letting other racers use it. Phew! Once I was all setup I headed to the swim start to line up in my 1:11-1:20 corral. I waited for what felt like forever since it was slow going due to COVID protocols, and finally it was my corrals turn to enter the beach. We were allowed to do a quick swim warm up so I quickly got in the water and dunked my face a few times to get used to the cold water and then headed to line up. 6:03 I was in the water and the race had finally began!
Two Sundays ago I got to race again! Go! Saint Louis was going to put on a modified race weekend, which included a full and half marathon, to say I was excited was an understatement. This year they split the half-marathon to be on Saturday and Sunday and the full on Sunday, both with reduced field sizes and in groups of 50 going off every 10 minutes. They also changed the course to accommodate the two day and longer than usual length of event, so it was going to be a little different than previous years, but still exciting.
I had ‘raced’ a half marathon at the end of January as part of the Frostbite Series and my legs didn’t show up. I was disappointed with my time and also wondering if my 1:41:06 from last year’s race was a fluke. So I signed up for this race with the expectations that I would prove the 1:41 was a legit time I was capable of. No pressure! As the day approached the weather looked not conducive to a PR, Saturday’s forecast was 60’s and rain (humidity, ugh) and Sunday’s was clear, in the 40’s but windy. I was running Sunday, but almost preferring the wet and slightly warmer conditions to the 13+mph winds predicted.
The race course was a point to point, with shuttles taking the participants from the finish to the start. Most of the course was a pedestrian/bike path along the Mississippi river, so I was looking forward to a flat-ish course. When we were dropped off at the start I realized I was totally underdressed. I had a throwaway hoodie I was wearing, but perhaps shorts and a short sleeved shirt were a poor choice with how cold the wind was making things. I also really regretted not wearing a pair of cheap throwaway gloves. My hands were freezing and having Raynaud’s, I usually wear them even if it will only be slightly cold because once they get cold, they don’t function well. Ugh. I huddled with a few other runners in the back of an empty loading truck to stay out of the wind, and about 10 minutes before my wave lined up, I left to attempt some sort of warmup, even though it was the last thing I wanted to do.
After a short warmup and some strides/drills, I headed to my wave and prepared to freeze when I took off my hoodie. For a while I contemplated just racing in it, but I figured if I needed to take it off it would be a huge pain with my handheld, and also I’d have to time it right at an aid station so it wasn’t considered littering…so, I just took it off. Off we went, I tried to get into a groove and realized I wasn’t hearing anything from my headphones. I pushed the play button on my headphones again but nothing. Grr… I had picked which playlist to play but accidentally turned it off instead of turning the screen off, so I fumbled to get it out of my short while ‘racing’, turn it on, push play, and stuff it back in my shorts. Meanwhile the wind was insane, I actually began leaning forward so the wind wasn’t pushing me back, and the path was also flooded in some spots from the heavy rain the day before, so I was also weaving around in the grass trying to avoid super muddy shoes. My first mile split popped up at 8:08. Sh#t. My plan was 7:50 for the first few miles, then settle in 7:45 and then the last couple see what was left. My iPod fiasco cost me some time. I was so mad I picked up the pace (in the dang headwind) and added some pep into my step. I made sure to not go too crazy since I still had most of the race to go, but I didn’t want to get my legs settled into a slow pace for too long or it would be harder to pick it up as the miles go on.
My next few mile splits were much better (and probably a little too fast, but that first mile split really got to me) Mile 2 7:42, Mile 3 7:37, Mile 4, 7:41, Mile 5 7:36. I took my gel around mile 5 and since my hands were frozen, I struggled to even open the gel, only got it halfway open and then tried to just squeeze/bite the gel out which resulted it some of it going down the wrong pipe. So then I was choking, just like Go! 2018 at mile 12 with the gel when I thought I was going to pass out, so I just thought ‘NOT AGAIN’, drank water, kept clearing my throat and was able to not pass out, lol. Mile 6 7:41, Mile 7 7:41, this is where the wheels feel off during the half in January and I was still feeling good, so that gave me an extra boost knowing that my legs were still in the game. Mile 8 7:40, Mile 9 7:49 (short but very steep hill), Mile 10, 7:47… I was started to feel like I was running low on energy and took my second gel with no incidents, hooray. Mile 11 7:48, Mile 12 7:51 (reallllly really big long ass hill, I was surprised I didn’t go into the 8’s), Mile 13, 7:35 (thrilled to have gone up the hill and be on my way to the finish, and the last bit I was hauling ass at 6:43. 1:41:26
So I finished strong! No PR but very close and I do think the Frostbite course was a little short. I also was really happy that I was able to truck up that hill at mile 12 and still able to add some speed in at the end. It also proved I’m getting closer to breaking 1:41 and the half last year wasn’t a fluke. So I walked away happy (and skipped my cooldown which I regretted the next day having sore legs) and vowed to not sign up for another race anytime soon to try and beat that PR, I had IM training to do!
Training the week after the Go! Half was a recovery week, so I did some easy swim/bike/run, but nothing too crazy. This week is the first of two big training blocks before IMCDA, which will hopefully include long rides outside as I’m still on the trainer due to it *still* not being warm enough on the weekends to ride. We’ve have some nice weekdays but the timing hasn’t worked out for a Saturday morning when I have to get my rides done as I don’t usually have enough time on Sundays. I’m ready though, I’ve ridden the CDA 70.3 bike course on Rouvy quite a few times (an app that simulates bike courses) and I can’t fake my way through 112 miles on that course…well let’s be honest, not matter the course, I can’t do that and then run 26.2 after!
I am also once again switching up my bike/run nutrition, in 2018 after IM Chattanooga I decided I was done with Infinit on the bike, I just couldn’t take the sugary drink again for another 112 mile race, so I set out to switch to something different. Last year I was trying Nuun Endurance combined with Honeystinger Chew/Clif Block’s/Skratch Lab Bars, to try to stick with liquid for hydration and solid food for nutrition. However I discovered Skratch bars were really hard to eat while riding at a decent effort (too much crunchy chewing) and Clif Block’s upset my stomach on the run (probably due to the maltodextrin), but races never happened so I didn’t end up with a new game plan.
This winter I saw Skratch Labs came out with a new drink mix called Superfuel that has 400 calories a serving, is super light tasting and per their site “contains a carbohydrate that digests steadily, like real food does: Cluster Dextrin”. This sounded like it could be my solution, so I ordered two packages and crossed my fingers. So far I have only tried it once while riding 3h on the trainer, it was strange because it does hardly have any flavor, however my stomach seemed ok and energy levels were good, but I will see how it does when actually doing longer rides outside combined with runs off the bike.
Other than those updates, that’s about it, I’m just going to keep my head down for three weeks and get in some serious training, take a breather for a week, head down for three more and then taper, easy enough, right? 🙂
It’s been some time since my last post, I have still been running, biking and swimming… and doing a little racing. Races have been hit or miss due to COVID, so when the Saint Louis Track Club was putting on their annual Frostbite Series (with some safe racing modifications) I signed up as soon as registration opened! I signed up for the long series again this year, I figured with having a big base from the 50 mile race, I should probably try to keep up with the longer runs on the weekends. Also I need motivation to get out in the cold, otherwise, NOPE. Last year I was coming back from a strained hip flexor injury so I started the series out conservative and as my hip flexor felt better, I was able to push the pace. However this year I was healthy (hooray) so I was excited to see what paces I had in me.
The way they had this series this year was that the short series started at 7a, the long series started at 9a, and runners would start in waves in an assigned small group, going off every 5 minutes. I wasn’t sure how I felt about starting that late, but in the end I loved starting later in the morning since the temps were a little warmer and I got to wake up at a less crazy early time than I would for the usual 7a start.
The first race was a 12k, since it was so short I didn’t have to worry about nutrition, I just needed to run, and run fast! It was in the low 40’s so I decided to wear the compression shorts I had worn during ultra training that were super comfy. I lined up with my little group, the person at the start said ‘go’ and off we went. The first mile I got a little caught up in the adrenaline and went out too fast with a 7:12 mile. I reigned it back in for the next mile while realizing I hadn’t run fast in these shorts, just long slow miles and they had scrunched up far enough looking like serious bootie shorts. Ugh. So the next 5ish miles I tried to keep a strong pace (mostly in the 7:20’s) and finish so I could pull them down and stop showing way more skin than anyone wanted to see. When I crossed the finish I was thrilled to see 55:59 with an avg pace of 7:25!
The next race was 10 miles, this time it was chillier out so I wore tights and also brought along a gel to take halfway. It was also the day after Christmas and I had eaten my body weight in carbs (especially my mother in-laws delicious homemade mac and cheese) and was feeling pretty sluggish and was sure my body wasn’t going to cooperate, but I figured I better just show up and see how it goes. I started out this time at a more conservative pace, 7:42, which was much slower than my planned pace, but figured it was better than too fast. After that mile I picked up the pace and was able to stay in the 7:30’s for the most part, even on some big hills, which I was proud of. I crossed the finish line in 1:16:10, an avg pace of 7:31, 10 seconds faster per mile than last year, yeah!
The third race was a 20k, I decided it was tights from here on out, so I wore those and grabbed a gel to take halfway, which in hindsight I probably should have taken two. I started out at a decent pace in the 7:30’s and was hoping to hold it for the rest of the race to see if it was a realistic Half Marathon pace goal being so close to that distance. Legs felt good until about mile 7, then they started feeling heavy so I knew I was going to have to really push to try to hit the goal HM pace. The back half of the course had some big long hills that I struggled to stay on pace, but made up for it on the downhills and crossed the finish in 1:35:37, a 7:40 pace, so I was happy! I just needed to hold that pace for .6ish more miles the next race, not much more, right? Totally doable.
The fourth race, the Half Marathon, I was feeling a little self-imposed pressure since this time it felt like a ‘real race’ since it was a ‘real distance’, which is silly, but other than a 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Marathon, I don’t run any of the other distances much so it’s hard to really compare my time to see what kind of shape I’m in. So this was a good indicator of fitness (in my mind at least). Tights again and this time grabbed two gels, to take one at mile 5ish and one at mile 10ish. I debated bringing my handheld water bottle but was worried my hands would be too cold holding it as I like to make fists when I run to keep them warm. I also wasn’t sure where to put my second gel as I wasn’t going to put anything in my back pocket, no chance in hell I’d be able to unzip it and get anything out with my cold fingers (even with gloves, my hands lose their dexterity when running in the cold), so I decided to stuff in it my waistband and hope it wouldn’t fall down inside my pants, lol.
The first mile I went out at a 7:45 pace, slower than I had wanted, but knew I could pick it up. Settled in the low 7:40’s, high 7:30’s for the next few miles, and then after I took my gel around mile 6, it felt HARD. My legs felt heavy (more than the last week) and I just thought crap, I have SEVEN MORE MILES?! I was feeling defeated and my paces showed it as they slowly crept up to the high 7:40’s, then 7:50’s and mile 10 was an 8:15. Ouch. I was trying to push but my body wasn’t having it today. I finally decided to quit looking at my watch and just try to finish strong, whatever that pace might be. I crossed the finish in 1:42:54, almost 2 minutes slower than my goal pace, with an avg of 7:52 pace. Man that bummed me out. Had the previous three weeks been a fluke and just really ‘on’ days for my legs? I had probably put too much focus on this one race and so in the end, since outcome wasn’t what I hoped, I was really bummed out. However after a day of quietly moping, I snapped out of it and just got back to training.
The final race, a 15k, I decided I was going to bring hell to the race course and finish as strong as I could. It was the last race of the series and I was also done racing in the cold. It was 19 degrees feels like 12 when I checked my weather app before I left my house. Yuck. The first mile was 7:28, I felt good with that pace, but just kept making sure I was putting in a hard effort but not too hard so I could last the entire race. As the miles went by in the 7:20’s I felt good and legs felt much better then they did the last race. I saw a few miles in 7:30’s on hills, but nothing indicating I was going to blow up like the last race as I still was feeling good, just the usual ‘going up a hill’ kind of pace. When I saw the mile 7 marker I just thought ‘just keep pushing and don’t screw this up, you can handle these last two miles, just hang on’. And I did! Mile 8 was 7:24, 9 was 7:20 and the last bit was 7 min pace. I finished strong in 1:08:53 with an avg pace of 7:26. I felt satisfied with that pace and relieved that the earlier races were in fact NOT a fluke.
An added bonus to having faster times in the series this year, I also placed 1st in my age group! I think I might retire from this race series on that note! 🙂
Outside of the race series, I’ve been swimming and riding (indoors) slowly building up for IM CDA in June. I have definitely lost some fitness on the bike since I mostly focused on running this fall, but it’s slowly coming back. On the swimming front my coach has me doing a challenge to swim EVERY DAY in February (at least 2100y), so swimming paces are also getting back some speed. I did miss three days due to a snowstorm we had last week, closing the gym for the whole day Monday, and then they also had a late start that Tuesday due to snow and had to work late that night. Then that Thursday I had some broken kitchen sink pipes drama Thursday and had no energy left for the pool after that. Four more days left and I will have swam 25 of 28 days in February! My skin is going to be so happy when this is done, it’s been soooo dry and itchy regardless of how much lotion I use. However hoping this will give my swim a boost it needs.
No Frostbite race photos to post, so I will leave with with a photo of the dogs being bored stuck in my office with me, waiting for the plumber to finish fixing the pipes so they could go back to their couch and look out the window.
I got to race again this year (!) and this time it was another big goal I have been wanting to pursue, a 50 mile race. It had been on my list for a few years, but the timing was just never right. However with all of my triathlons cancelled this year, I had nothing but time to focus on working towards some of those goals! So in early September I ran my first 50K (also on my list of goals) in preparation for this race, and my fingers were crossed the whole time that it would happen!
I won’t go into all of the details of training, but some weekends my coach had me running 36+ miles with back to back runs on Saturday (am and pm) followed by a long run Sunday. It was crazy, but even crazier was my body was up for it – all of the cross training from triathlon, PT exercises and strength training over the years had paid off! Also I was doing all of my long runs on the Katy trail, as it was similar to the race trail, which is a gentler than pavement which I think helped too. My left knee had been giving me a little trouble and after a visit to my chiropractor during race week, he confirmed it was most likely a weak inner quad muscle that help keeps my knee cap on track that was causing the issue. Not much to do to be ready for the race to strengthen it, but it was on my list during the off season to strengthen!
On to the race! Racing during during Covid is so different… we dove the 4 hours to Ottawa, KS, spent maybe 2 minutes at packet pickup (which was held outside) to get my bib, shirt and drop off my 2 drop bags. Then we headed to the hotel and ate the very boring dinner we brought with us in the room – Panera sandwich for JMR and chicken, rice and a few veggies for me. The rest of the evening consisted of sitting around, watching tv and I also did some rolling/stretching and then we went to bed. Not that I’m usually out partying the night before a race, but just being restricted to our room felt extra boring.
The next morning I was up at 4:30 to eat my GF toast with almond butter and a banana, drank my Nuun Preload, and went back to bed. I woke up again around 6a to start getting ready since my race time was 7a and they wanted everyone to stay in their cars until your race time, so no rush to get there early with the hotel 5 minutes away. It was in the 30’s so I opted for a tshirt, long sleeved shirt and my standard compression shorts with millions of pockets. I also used a race belt which I hate using because I don’t like running with things around my waist, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to pinning my bib to my long sleeved shirt in case I got warm (spoiler, I did NOT get warm), and my shorts didn’t have enough real estate to pin it to them.
We headed to race around 6:30a, I assembled my gels and Nuun packets in all of my shorts pockets, and headed to the start. It was dark and hardly anyone was around. very weird with no pre-race vibes going on. I got behind (six feet) a guy lining up to go under the ‘start’ banner and waited for him to go, then I walked up, hit start on my watch, and ran under it to start! This was it!
The first 5 miles (an out and back) are in the downtown of Ottawa on the roads. It was still a little dark when I started, but didn’t want to fuss with a headlamp for the 30 minutes when it would still be dark, but the streetlights were fine and gave enough light. After the out and back, we were on a little running path that passed by the start/finish, next went under a highway and then we were on the trail!
I had been focusing on my 9:45-10 min planned pace and was sticking closer to the 10’s, either out of fear of the big distance ahead of me, or my legs were just not having much pep. Other than the slow legs, I felt pretty good, but my hands were freezing. My $1 gloves were a terrible choice to wear, I thought I’d wear them for the start, warm up and ditch them. No way would I be ditching these with the wind chill, they would probably be on for the full race. Because of the cold I also wasn’t drinking much of my Nuun, but just a swig every mile seemed to keep my body feeling ok. Also at mile six I caved and put on my headphones. I was going to try to wait until at least mile 20, but running solo I really felt like I needed the boost. And once my usual training music was on, I did feel a little more pep in my step!
The first manned aid station was at mile 11.8 and boy was I glad to see people with not many runners on the trail with the race start so spread out! Since I hadn’t drank much of my handheld I didn’t need to refill, so I checked into the aid station, said hi to JMR and was on my way! The next several miles kind of flew by, I did have one jolt of knee pain that took my breath away but fortunately that was the only time. However at the time I was worried it would happen again, so during these miles I was either worrying a little about my knee and when that might happen again, and then also trying to take in the pretty fall leaves and just enjoying running.
Soon I was approaching the 18.3 aid station and my stomach seemed like it wasn’t happy, so my first task was to hit the porta potties, but there was a line 😦 There was just one lady waiting but that was going to take up much more time than I had planned at this stop. However I figured it was better to deal with this now with a real bathroom than on the trail. While in line JMR helped me fish out a Nuun packet from my shorts and empty it into my bottle since I couldn’t unzip/grab anything because my hands/fingers were so cold. It was so frustrating, each gel I took was a mini battle to get out of my shorts pocket, bite it open and somehow stuff it back in my shorts pocket. No cheap gloves next time! After it was finally my turn to use the bathroom, I headed to the aid station to add water to my bottle and head out. Ooof, this was going to be long stop, and sure enough, after I headed out my watch beeped with a 15 minute split so I knew I had stopped for about five minutes.
I picked up the pace a little out of frustration, but was feeling good, until after a few miles my stomach started to get angry again. I opened the zippered pouch on my handheld and fished out some tums, but I had wrapped them so well in plastic wrap I couldn’t get them open with my stupid cold hands…arggh. But then my stomach was really hollering and I knew tums weren’t going to fix this. I started to look off the trail to see if I could I find a good ‘hidden’ spot to go, but my stomach got louder and I had to quickly shuffle to the side of the trail (THANK GOODNESS NO ONE WAS AROUND) and drop trow there. I desperately wanted to be as fast as I could in case someone ran by, but my lovely saran wrapped toilet paper I brought (didn’t want it to get soggy from sweat) was a pain to open with non functioning hands. It felt like a nightmare in slow motion. In the end, I had to sacrifice my gloves as well (cue the sad music). Once I was back to running and reflecting on how wrong all of that went down, I saw my next split and my ‘stop’ had cost me an extra 3 minutes, which surprised me since it felt like eternity with everything seeming to be happening in slow motion with my stupid cold hands. At that point I also made the decision to take an Immodium to try to stop these stomach issues and just hoped it didn’t mess my stomach up more!
After that event, I seemed to have lost some pep in my step, my hands were cold from no gloves and was just feeling a little defeated. I wasn’t even halfway done and wasn’t sure if I was prepared for another half if more surprises like this were around the corner. But then after my mile 24 split popped up, I saw I was going to finish the first half around 4:15, woah! Just seeing that split helped lift my spirits and picked me up. I started running strong again and was back in the sub 10’s and right around this time I started seeing more people and it also energized me to see some friendly faces.
I was so happy when I reached the 27.5 aid station where we would turn around and head back to the finish. I had a drop bag with Nuun hydration packets, gels and a Skratch bar cut up in pieces if my stomach wasn’t wanting gels, however the problem was I couldn’t open the bag or grab anything. Thank goodness JMR was there, he had to re-stuff my shorts pockets and fill my handheld. I was trying to be fast since the 18.3 aid station was such a long stop, but with cold hands, there wasn’t much I could do and had to be patient and happy at least JMR was there was help! Once my nutrition for the rest of the race was stuffed in my many pockets, I had to hit the bathrooms again which had a short line, but fortunately went quickly and then I was off. That stop ended up being 6 minutes, and I had planned on 5 knowing I’d be restocking all of my hydration/nutrition, so not too terrible. I also took my second Immodium as I was tired of these bathroom breaks! I know it was risky as I have read it can mess with absorbing calories (since it slows everything down in you stomach) but thought it was worth the risk.
I was so happy to be more than half way done, and my legs were still feeling good! I had really hit the wall around mile 27 during the 50k, so I wasn’t sure how my legs would keep feeling, but I was running at a slower pace so I was hoping any wall I would hit might be later in the race. I had wished I had taken the Skratch bar with me since my stomach was angry and gels were probably not a great idea to keep taking, but the bar pieces I cut up were rock hard from the cold and I figured I might choke or break a tooth trying to eat them, so I stuck with gels. I happily approached mile 36.3 aid station, and my hands had warmed up a little so I was able to grab and add my Nuun hydration packet to my bottle while running to the station, had the volunteer refill it and was on my way! I even did an air high five to another runner at the aid station since we were both excited we were getting close to the finish. I waved to JMR, said I was feeling great, and said ‘Just a half marathon to go!’ And then thought to myself, wow, not sure I’ve ever thought ‘JUST a half marathon’ to go before.
As I headed out my FAVORITE song from one of my DJ sets came on (I run to techno, yes, it’s a dance party all the time when I’m running, lol) and everything just felt perfect. I had that body buzz going where I was feeling great, and even had a little bit of teary eyes realizing I was doing it – I was going to finish this race, and thought back to ALL of those tough long runs and training I did to get here. The buzz did eventually (sadly) wear off, and I was starting to get a little tired, but kept my pace strong and the miles ticked by. At mile 40 I was still feeling strong and confident that I might be able to keep up with my sub 10 pace until the end and finish around 8:30ish, which I was pretty excited about. I had some goals in mind but my big goal was to break 9 hours and it looked like I was going to do it!
I approached the 42.8 aid station and ran right for the port potty, no lines, yay! (Immodium, why are you not working?!) Then headed to the aid station to refill my handheld and was off, a total of 3 minutes, so not terrible and only SEVEN miles to go! I waved to JMR again and was ready to finish this race!
I was passing more people (50k I was guessing) which was nice to see some people again and we both encouraged each other while passing which was a nice boost. At mile 45 I knew I could handle 5 more miles, I wasn’t going to hit a wall, I was going to keep going! There was going to be NO walking during this race for me today! I kept going but I could feel my face starting to make the pain face (I’m sure I looked scary) as I just focused ahead and kept pushing. I counted the miles down and soon I was 1.5 miles away and decided to push the pace a little harder and my legs went with it. I knew I was so close, so I kept pushing (a 9:45 pace, ha, it felt faster than that at the time!), passing a few more people, going under the highway, getting back on the paved running path, I could see the turn! I could also see all of my bathroom stops added on some mileage and I was definitely going to make up for my 50k being .5 short, by running that extra today! I kept pushing though, knowing I still had it in me to go hard for that bonus half mile. I made the turn and ran up the little hill and under the finish line! I did it! I stopped my watch and was thrilled to see 8:36!!!
The finish area was very anti-climatic as there really wasn’t much of one, just the finish line and after finishing the racers needed to leave and not linger. Which I completely agree with because of the pandemic, but it makes finishing a tiny bit less celebratory, however I’ll take that over not racing any day. After getting my 50 Mile sticker and belt buckle, I headed to the car to quickly change clothes (I was FREEZING) checked the results and saw I was second place – first place beat me by 30 seconds!!! 30 seconds!! I thought of all of the times I wasted time fumbling at the aid stations with my darn cold hands, and of course all of the lovely bathroom stops. I remembered seeing a woman with a 50 mile bib running coming back when I was at mile 23, but figured since the soonest she could have started was an hour ahead of me that she must have had a really good lead and I didn’t think we would have had very close finish times (with her time much faster than mine). I was wrong! But in the end I didn’t care, my goal was the finish the race-which I did! And I even made my super secret goal of breaking sub 9.
I will say I have GOT to figure out what was up with my nutrition… Nuun hydration and Huma gels for my 50k worked just fine and I was running harder in that race, so I don’t know what the deal was since my stomach issues started only 15 miles into this race. But I have some time to get it figured out since this was my last race for the year 🙂
Now onto some much needed recovery before I gear up in a few months for all of the races that were cancelled this year, LOL. Next year is looking to be very busy if those races happen!!!
I had started a post when I was tapering for this event, but was worried it would jinx the race actually happening so I never posted it. It was hard to stay tight lipped about this race, but I figured I’d be more sad if I had to tell people the race was cancelled (like so many others this year) so I kept it quiet!
The month or so leading up to the race I had my highest running volume I think I have ever had (I even went back to my training plan for my first marathon in 2006). Although one key piece to the high volume is that the miles were much slower than what my pace usually is with my typical lower run volume, so even with higher miles my coach had me playing it safe running slower and on softer surfaces like trails. By race week I was feeling pretty prepared but also had some random aches that I was fretting about, like random left foot pain I’ve never had before. So I had some anxiety about the foot along with the whole running 5 miles farther than I’ve ever run before. It’s ‘only’ five miles, but from past experiences a lot can happen even during a couple of miles. I was just going to have to see how the day went.
On to race day! I got up at 3:30a, ate my pre-race GF toast with almond butter and a banana, and then tried to sleep a little more until I left at 4:45 to head to the race. I arrived around 5:45, went to pick up my packet and then waited in the porta potty line. I did a little stretching (my usual hip stretch exercises) and then waited in my car to stay warm. At 6:15 I headed over to drop off my drop bag (had my keys and phone in it) and walked to the nearby the ‘start line’. Everyone seemed to have such a laid back, relaxed vibe, just standing around chatting (with masks on), then the race director gave us a few instructions then sounded the horn and we were off! Just like that!
I am not sure what I was thinking, probably ‘Oh boy, here we go’
My coach had given me firm instructions to STICK with my planned pace, and even write it on both arms so I didn’t forget (which I forgot to do…). So I started out even a little slower than the planned 9:30 pace, but figured I would just ease into it, and watched everyone run past me. That was a little tough to watch, but I also figured since I was a rookie at this distance I needed to stick with my plan, I did not want to blow up and suffer too early in the race. So on I went, ticking off the miles around a 9:20-9:30 pace, hitting the first turn around at mile 4, and then headed back to the start where we would go out 11 miles and then turn around. I had brought headphones but decided I wouldn’t pull them out until I needed the distraction, however by mile 7 after realizing I was probably going to be running solo for the rest of the race (everyone was pretty spaced out), I decided to just start up the ipod.
Still early and fresh at mile 4
I came up to the mile 9 aid station (at the start/finish, before doing the second out and back) and to my surprise I saw JMR! I had given him a map of the course, aid station locations and my planned splits for each aid station so he had an idea of when I’d be there. The night before he had said he would meet me around halfway in the race at the mile 16 aid station, but he must’ve gotten up super early and met me much earlier on the course than planned. I waved, flew by the aid station and kept on moving. Side note about the aid stations, since my stomach seems to get upset easily, my plan was to carry the same liquid nutrition and gels I trained with and just use water from the aid stations to mix my pouches of liquid nutrition. So this was a time saver, but I was also a little sad to miss out on the all of the food they had there, it was quite the spread!
An additional side note about carrying nutrition- when I read that aid stations were only going to be about 4 miles apart I realized I didn’t need to be running with a hydration vest and could just use a handheld – which was great because it’s less to run with, but that meant I lost all of the fabulous pockets and storage my vest had. HOWEVER, my new Saucony compression shorts I had recently bought did have some side stash pockets that turned out to be a game changer! I fit 2 gels in one side, another gel, my ipod and a baggie of toilet paper, tums and immodium in the other side. THEN, I was able to fit three pouches of my Nuun hydration powder in the back zip pocket. I guess I could have worn the vest if I had really needed to and only used it for nutrition, but it was really nice to know the shorts can carry so darn much AND feel comfortable AND not even notice everything crammed in them while running. I told JMR I was going to post a review on their site I was so darn pleased!
Ok, back to the race, there was a older gentleman that I had been bouncing back and forth with since the start and around mile 9 we ended up next to each other running about the same pace. We chatted a little and I learned he has run up to 100 mile races and he was running his virtual Boston Marathon that day as part of this distance. So he knew his stuff and he was fast. Since he had some serious ultra experience I asked some ultra running type questions (still so much to learn!) and then we talked about some races we had done, until he had to step off the trail for a nature break, but I figured he would probably be passing me later!
I hit the 12.75 mile aid station, saw JMR and waived, and refilled my bottle with more Nuun, and it felt like it took ten years as I couldn’t get the lid back on. I really thought I was at the aid station for five minutes, but it was less than a minute after looking at my watch. Then I was off, focused on the next aid station at mile 16.25. Around mile 16 my left outer knee started to feel like it was getting tight and had sharp pain. I was worried it was going to just completely cramp up… darn IT Band… I’ve been doing my exercises but sometimes it still gets crabby. It was starting to hurt so much I was worried I might have to call it at the next aid station, but then a half of a mile later, poof, it was gone. I was grateful it went away and prayed it wouldn’t come back! I saw JMR at the next aid station, mentioned nothing about my weird knee, waived and kept going towards the final turn around.
As I got closer to the turn around I started to pass a few people and could see the leading women in the 50k coming back. I counted 1st, 2nd and 3rd and when I hit the mile 20 aid station turn around I didn’t seen any others, so I was excited to be in fourth! I refilled my bottle, told Jimmy I was still feeling great and kept on trucking. I hit the 23.75 mile aid station feeling a little less fresh, refilled water and waved to JMR telling him I was started to get a little tired. However I was determined to get a marathon PR, so I was very focused on holding my pace at least until 26.2 miles.
Those 3ish miles took forever, I did pass a few more people which was motivating to keep up the pace, but I was starting to get a little tired. Finally I hit mile 26.2 and saw 4:04:44, hooray! A PR! Now five more miles! Five…more…miles. I was instantly not excited, but kept on pushing. I got to the mile 27.25 aid station and refilled my water and also decided to have a little cup of coke for some extra energy. On I went but I could feel my legs getting heavier and it was a struggle to keep up the pace. Around mile 27.5 I looked at my watch and saw my HR was over 200…woah…ok, at that point I decided it was time for a short walk break to bring it back down. When it settled back in the 170’s I started attempting to run again, but it was at a slower effort. I took my last gel at mile 28 and hoped it would give me magic energy, but, sadly it did not. I hit mile 29, and just told myself ONLY 2 more miles… but had a few more walk breaks because my HR was going back up again and my legs were struggling, however I couldn’t decide what was worse, walking or running, both felt bad.
In the pain cave around mile 27.
I started back up to a slow run prepared to just suffer the rest of the 1.5 miles left. A half of a mile later to my surprise I could hear people cheering and suddenly saw the red aid station tent at the start/finish. I was confused. Did we do loops in the parking lot once we got there to make it 31 miles? I was very worried about the mileage for some reason, lol. Soon I was turning to the finish line and crossed at 30.4 miles. I was thrilled to be finished but super sad to not hit at least 31 miles. My sadness went away when the lady said ‘You finished second female!’ I was like what? I knew I had passed another lady in the last five miles, but thought I was in third, so I said ‘Really? Are you sure?’ and she said ‘Yep!’. She handed me my medal, plaque, took a photo of me under the finish line and then I hobbled over to JMR. I told him how I died the last three miles, but was pretty happy with the even pacing the rest of the race.
After drinking some water and coke, I picked up my drop bag, headed to the car and followed JMR home. Wow. I couldn’t believe that just happened! It actually went by so darn fast! When I knew I’d be running for almost five hours I wondered what I was going to do (well other than run) that whole time, which is why I had my headphones, but I probably would have been fine without them too. Also I was so happy that my left foot felt fine during the race, it’s so weird what random aches and pains appear during race week.
Just a tad short of 31
We got a facemask as swag!
So what’s next? Well, this week has been a recovery week with swimming and easy rides (I haven’t run one step yet), but provided my foot doesn’t get cranky again and I can keep my left knee happy, I do have another possible race in October if it happens, so fingers crossed and I will just keep training away! Happy Friday!!
Wow, time is flying, which surprises me because usually it flies when I’m busy and having fun and have other good distractions, but these days it’s just the same day in and day out – same training, same working from home (well that was pretty much the same pre-covid as I only went in 1 day a week), no social interactions for the most part except with my family. So with everything feeling like groundhog day, I guess I never thought we would get to August, but here we are.
We did take a family trip two weeks ago to South Haven, Michigan with my parents, my sister and her family, and it was so nice to get away. We rented a house, ate in every night and maintained social distance from others when out and about, so it was a pretty low risk trip and a welcomed change to do something different. JMR played golf with my parents three days, my sister and brother in law rotated playing two of those days, and while they were golfing I ran 14 miles one day and the other two I rode 50ish mile routes up to Douglas, MI and back. I also rode with JMR in the afternoons as we brought his never-before-ridden-outside road bike with us, and he finally rode it and LIKED it! Which I am glad because it was a tad stressful getting both of our bikes in the car since my bike rack had bit the dust a year ago. After it bit the dust, since I only had my bike to transport, it easily fit in my car with our luggage with the front wheel off only so there was no need to buy a new one. Two bikes…and golf clubs…different story. See photo evidence below. (spoiler alert: JMR gave me the green light to buy a new bike rack as soon as we got home)
It was a little tense between JMR and I while trying to load them up, we had it down for the way home though.
We mostly rode on a crushed-limestone trail or a paved bike path, and took the pace easy, so I think that was a good way to ease him in. We tried a road route one of the days and he was NOT a fan of the cars, so we will stick to bike paths when riding back at home for now. I got in 213 miles of riding, 27 miles of running and a whopping 860 yards of swimming (I just wanted to go out and say I swam during the trip, the lake was very calm one day!), so it was a very active vacation for me! I love ending the day eating extra dessert (cookies AND ice cream) and then going to bed and sleeping well from being so active during the day.
Since IMWI was cancelled the week before my tip, my vacation week was an unstructured training week (do whatever I felt like, except I needed to get in two specific runs), and then after I would switch training to more of a running focus since there are no more tri’s on the schedule for this year. When we got back that Saturday, I had a 10 mile run to do and that Sunday I had another 10 mile run to start getting used to running on tired legs (more on that later). Last week was the first official week of changing focus, cutting back on the Saturday long bike rides and replacing them with a long run on both Saturday and Sunday. I’m also re-adding my Tuesday/Thursday strength training to make sure my glutes, quads and other muscles that need work stay strong and I avoid injuries!
The back to back ‘long runs’ this past weekend went ok, 12 miles on Saturday and 10 miles on Sunday, both on trails to lessen the impact on my legs/joints and hopefully prevent injury. I am also getting used to running with a hydration vest that has two bottles in the front since my handheld doesn’t carry enough water for longer distances on trails, since I can’t refill it with water like I do when I run at nearby parks. The longer mileage, running vest, trails… are all because I have some potential upcoming running ‘races’ I hope to do, but since these days it seems like you never know if a race will actually happen until you are actually racing it, I will just give a recap after the event if they are a go!
That is about all that is going on over here, I’ll leave you with a picture of the dogs staring me down at 5p yesterday… clearly it was time for dinner.