Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Iron Leftovers

I started this post not long after I wrote up my previous post, as I realized there were a few things about Ironman Coeur d'Alene that I didn't mention in my race recap that I might like to look back on in years to come.

Anyway, it's taken a while to finally get it finished, but here are some leftovers about the day, in no particular order... 

1) I had my slowest swim ever by nearly 7 minutes. I thought my bike was my slowest ever as well, but have since realized my first ever Ironman bike was actually slower by 1.5 minutes. That said, this was the first Ironman I've ever done that I did not get a flat tire, so in terms of riding time, it definitely was my slowest bike leg. BUT, as you probably gathered if you read my race recap, I'm totally okay with that.

Not really related to Ironman, but funny enough, I got two flats on the ride to/from work the other day. They were my first and second of the season in fact. I'm very happy that the 'flat tire gods' decided to cut me some slack until after CdA.

2) Back to IMCdA.  My run was my fastest ever in an Ironman at 4:38:09. My finish time also came in as a personal best at 13:35:18. This, I was very happy about.

3) Also, my run time was faster than Kirsten's (by 41 seconds - crazy we were so close eh?). She assured me after the Goddess Half that it wouldn't happen again. So, I'd just like to point out that, well, it did. I ran faster than Kirsten ~ again. Okay, now I'm done being the cheeky little sister.

4) I mentioned in my recap that my main goals were to "nail my nutrition and stay in a positive head space." As for time goals, my ultimate ‘perfect day’ goal was for a sub-13hr day. Given the right conditions, I still think this is something I'm capable of, but obviously, it didn't happen this time. No biggie though. My other time goal was just to beat my previous IM times. Totally accomplished and it felt so good.

5) Last year after TRR it took me a little while to bounce back and even begin to consider doing it again. When asked, "Would you do it again?" my response was a bit slow and always with some sort of condition. It was about 7 weeks after the race that I finally started thinking it would be fun to sign up for it again. (For the record, I would totally do TRR again – in a second! While it was probably the hardest endurance event I've ever done, it was an amazing experience that taught me so much about my physical and mental limits and truly helped me conquer the day in CdA with a smile on my face). Anyway, you're probably wondering why I am talking about TRR in my Ironman leftovers…

Well, let's just say I know my true love is triathlon, when on the Wednesday immediately following the race I was looking at the Ironman Whistler site to see if there were still spots available and I actually considered doing two Ironmans in the span of a month.

Anyway, while there were/are still spots available, I thought better of it and have since spent the last couple weekends doing what I assume non-triathlete people do on their weekends. There has been some time spent being uber lazy, some time spent cleaning the house, some time testing out paddle boards and kayaks, some time spent exploring new hiking trails, and yeah, just lots of other fun summery stuff.

6) On any website or blog that reviews IM CdA, you'll likely see a note about how amazing the volunteers and spectators are in Coeur d'Alene – and it's no lie! They are amazing. AH-MAZE-ZING! Throughout the whole day the support was fantastic, but I have to say, for me, it was on the run course where the people on the sidelines really shined. The energy and encouragement of the crowds along the course and each and every volunteer at the aid stations was simply incredible.

7) As for the course itself, I think I have mentioned the choppy swim and the challenging bike course, (and you know, the run is no joke either), but I have to say, I really enjoyed the multi-loop nature of the course. I think I might even go so far as to say I preferred it over the single loop courses that I have experienced before. For me, the multiple loops allowed me to break down the race into more manageable sections in my head. For example on the run, I just thought “okay, I have to run 10k four times… no biggie, that's like 4 short runs” and that felt really straightforward and somehow easier.

8) The midnight finish line is a magical and awesome place. If you haven't experienced it, you really should. The energy. The triumph. The defeat. It is indescribable. Next time you are at an Ironman, you must.

9) Last but not least, my race day gear and 'nutrition'…

So, my FOOD! My race day 'nutrition' consisted of a mandarin Gu before the swim, then Snickers bars, Honey Stingers chews and Powerbar Perform on the bike. I had it down to quite a science, so that I was getting about 60g of carbs per hour (however I broke it down by 90' chunks as I found that easier to think about). It went like this: a quarter of a Snickers at 30' and 60' then a pack of Honey Stingers at 90'. Top that off with at least one bottle of Perform throughout that 90' stretch, rinse and repeat.

As for the run, I had done most of my run training with a variety of Gu gels with great success. Mandarin, Tri Berry and Salted Caramel are the first gels I've been able to use consistently in back to back seasons without getting tired of the taste or texture. That said, once I actually got out onto the run, the thought of gels really wasn't appealing. So, it was cola, water and small bites of banana. I had one salted caramel Gu, but it didn't sit well at all, so that was that.

Now, my GEAR! My Coeur kit was pretty much the best thing to happen to me. This race was definitely the most comfortable I've been in an Ironman so far. I did throw a jersey on for the bike portion of the race, but that was more for sun protection than anything else. What can I say, the chamois is magical and I pretty much had no chafing – anywhere! That is huge if you ask me.

On my feet I rocked a pair of Altra Torins. I dabbled with Hokas for a while this training cycle as the appeal of the cushion on long runs was too much to resist, but the narrow toe box destroyed my toes. [Side Note: anyone want to buy a pair of barely used Hokas?] Anyway, I read a lot about the Altras and decided to give them a go… and I couldn't be happier! The cushion in the Torins isn't anywhere near that of the Hokas, but they still have a pretty heavy cushion and the wide toe box is a dream. A dream I tell you! On top of that, I've found that a zero drop (or very minimal drop) shoe is the best thing for my locking ankle and well, I've found a winner of a shoe. Love them. Love them. Love them.

10) Wow. This turned out to be way longer than I thought, so thanks for hanging in there if you read the whole thing.

Also today marks day 100 in my #100happydays. It is kind of crazy how fast 100 days can go. I know I didn't do this project quite how it is laid out on the website, but it was still a really fun undertaking nonetheless and I encourage everyone to find their happy.

Day 87
A very sleepy pup ~ happy to be back with his people on his own bed after a week away.
Day 88
Dig this smart bike lock by the police.
Day 89
Clean house.
Day 90
Opening day of le Tour de France.
Day 91
Summer = Hefeweizen.
(Idahoan Heffy is obviously more fancy than BC Hef).
Day 92
Doing the tourist stroll on a beautiful sunny lunch break.
Day 93
Post-run flake out.
Day 94
Ice cream day at work!
Day 95
The cute little farm stand down the road.
Day 96
While I was sad Peter Sagan didn't get the stage win,
it did keep me ahead of Shane in this year's Tour de Bet. 
Day 97
Sitting on a hill, listening to music.
Day 98
New hikes to discover empty beaches on the beautiful west coast.
Day 99
Walks with the Rustbeast.
Day 100
No words needed.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ironman Coeur d'Alene - Race Report

Oh, what a day!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm incredibly happy with and proud of the day I had at IM CdA. Right now, I'm running on a bit of a high, and I love it. Watching this video last night even made me tear up a bit.

But let's back up a bit…

Around the time I started to really get focused on training and looking ahead to the race, I think I finally let go of the disappointment that I felt from IMC 2012 (I know, it took far too long). I remember having a conversation with Shane (and then later, pretty much the same convo with Kelly) and telling him I just wanted to execute the day without any major blips. For me, that meant nailing my nutrition and staying in a positive head space. I knew if I managed to do those things, the time on the clock would be one that I was happy with. Of course, I still had minor time goals in the back of my mind [for the record, some were met, some were not], but I knew without a doubt the number on the clock was not going to make or break my feelings about the day as a whole.

The final few weeks leading into Coeur d'Alene I felt so different than I have previously in the lead up to an Ironman. The first time there were so many nerves and a sense of fun anticipation over this new experience I was about to have. The second time, I was putting so much pressure on myself and was a bit of a wreck in a different way - some of the joy was gone.

This time, I felt at ease. I felt confident.

Sure, I was still a little anxious and a little nervous and had moments that waffled between “I'm so ready!” and “I haven't done enough!” but in the back of my mind, I knew it was going to be a good day. I knew I was ready to have fun with it and that I was more than capable of covering the distance. I felt confident that I had my bike nutrition down to a science and was pretty confident that my run plan was a-okay as well. This girl was not going to bonk this time around!

We traveled down to CdA on the Wednesday before race day and immediately made ourselves at home in our little rental cottage. It was absolutely perfect.  We could walk to and from the race venue in less than 10 minutes, but the neighbourhood was removed enough and so delightfully quiet, that it was easy to “escape” from all of the excitement when need be. Oh, and the couch was so comfortable!

The days leading up to the race were easily filled with the last little moments of training to help shake out the body and the nerves, shopping in the merch tent, wandering Sherman Ave, eating copious amounts of food, and chilling back at the cottage with our feet up while Arrested Development played on the boob tube. It was just what a race week should be.

The opening ceremony on Friday night brought tears to my eyes a few times and got me even more jazzed for the big day. As always, the stories of what people have overcome to make it to the start line motivated and inspired.

Saturday's bike and gear drop somehow felt incredibly familiar even though it was a new venue (for me) and I think for the first time all week I had the “I'm doing an Ironman tomorrow” thought (which actually didn't last that long, as I had to remind myself of this fact again as we waited to enter the water on Sunday morning… it was like “oh right, I'm doing an Ironman today” haha).

And then it was Sunday. Race Day.

After a pretty great sleep (once I ditched the tossing and turning Shane and moved to the world's most comfortable couch that is) I awoke to clear skies.

Also, wind. Lots of it.

In the quiet house we all set about preparing our breakfasts and getting ready for the day. The trees whipped back and forth with vigor, tickling the windows while we watched from the warmth inside, I'm sure all secretly hoping that it would die down before the canon fired. (Spoiler alert: it didn't).

And then it was time. Time to head to the lake. Time to drop our special needs bags off and get body marked. Time to load up all the goodies onto the bike. Time for one last pee in the porta-loo and then finally, time to don our wetsuits.

Once we were down to the beach, I took a very quick dip in the VERY chaotic warm up area, mainly just to feel the temperature of the water, get my suit filled up and my face wet.

Shane and I swim about the same pace, so we hugged Kirsten goodbye as she went to her swim corral and we made our way into ours. It felt like we waited forever, but I don't actually think it was that long.

The canon fired and we slowly began to make our way toward the starting mat so that our days could begin. I felt fairly nervous in those moments, looking at the choppy water and wishing it was a mass start like at IMC so that I didn't have to wait any longer and could just get going (patience is not always my strong suit).

Soon enough though, Shane and I were crossing the start line and making our way into the water – and in this moment, I was so thankful for the new swim start initiative. It was awesome. The waves and general choppiness of the water bashed and pummeled me way more than any other competitor did through the entire swim. I had somewhat clear water (for the most part) and it seemed like everyone around me was swimming at a similar pace. Triathletes are apparently much better at self-seeding than runners (at least in the swim portion of a race, haha).

So, while the swim start was great, the swim itself was the most difficult swim I've ever taken part in. The chop on the water was fierce and the waves threatened to choke you on every breath if you didn't get your rhythm just right.

Probably within the first 100m I inhaled a wave and had to stop to cough and breast stroke for a few moments. As I looked around, I noticed a heck of a lot of other people were doing the same thing. I took a deep breath (of air), told myself to calm down, stuck my face back in the water and focused on finding my rhythm. Long steady strokes. Long steady exhales. I began to feel more comfortable. I gasped in another wave just after the first turn, but regrouped much quicker this time and kept at it. On the way back to shore, I tried to allow my body to surf the little waves when I could and before I knew it, I was on the beach and making the turn for a second loop.

I got a high five and a “half way there!” cheer from an awesome spectator as I made my way back into the washing machine. I took a deep breath (of air) and dove (read: flopped) back in.

I went a little wider on the second loop as I had a bit of body contact toward the end of the first that had made me feel a bit anxious, so I was happy to swim a little longer to avoid that feeling again. Otherwise, the second loop went well. I found my rhythm and just kept reminding myself to stay in the moment. Pull, glide, breath, sight, surf when you can.

If you look really really closely, you can see me running up the beach.
I emerged from the water so, soo happy to be done and made my way up the beach to the wetsuit strippers. They were pretty busy when I got there, but I saw one guy without anyone in front of him and plopped myself on the ground. Woosh, my wetsuit was off and I was on my way to my bike bag and the change tent.

The change tent was PACKED! As such, I decided to sit myself down just outside the entrance.

T1 was actually kind of a blur, and admittedly, it was not very focused (and therefore, not very fast). I vaguely remember chatting with a girl who was right beside me, but have no idea what we were talking about. I know I peed into the grass a little while I sat and put my socks and shoes on (a fact that totally grossed out both Shane and Kirsten when I told them later), and somehow I obviously got my bike jersey, helmet and sunglasses on. I repacked my bag and suddenly a volunteer was there to take it from me as I ran through the tent.

I remember a quick stop for sunscreen (which stung oh-so-bad on my wetsuit chafed neck) and then happily ran to my bike and the best spot on the rack I think I've ever gotten in a race.

Before I knew it, I was on my bike cruising down Lakeside, looking for my folks in the crowd and wondering how far ahead Shane was (my swim was pretty slow compared to past races, so I was pretty sure he would have been on the bike before me).

Anyway, at that point I was just super stoked to be on the bike and starting the second phase of the race. I knew it was going to be a good day.

I cruised along, keeping an eye out for Shane as I neared the turnaround of the first out and back, figuring that I must have missed him when I made the turn and still hadn't seen him. Moments later, he appeared in the opposite direction (he also had a slower swim the usual) and before long, he was tapping me on the butt as he flew past me.

I also spotted Kirsten at some point in this first out and back section and just remember having a feeling of relief knowing that she had also made it out of that crazy swim unscathed.

What can I say about the rest of the bike?

Well, if anyone ever tells you IM CdA is an easier bike course than Challenge Penticton (aka. the original IMC) – they are lying. It is a tough course. If you are not going up, you are going down.

On this day, it was made even more challenging by the relentless headwind that bore itself into each and every rider as they climbed for 35(ish)km toward the turnaround of the long out and back. There were moments where I actually felt like I was standing still – like I was on some cruel bicycle treadmill, my wheels spinning, but making no forward progress. There were other times I thought I was going to be blown right off the side of the road or the bridge I was crossing. It was an unyielding force pushing with all it's might against you.

That said, I was happy. I felt like I was climbing really well and I was staying on top of my nutrition. I enjoyed the out and back nature of the course and looked forward to spotting Shane and Kirsten near each of the turnaround points. Also, the horrific headwind that turned (mostly) into a lovely tailwind on the descents was pretty sweet.

I can't really recall a tonne of other details. I ate, I drank, I stopped to pee once. I climbed, I descended. I chatted with the odd person and I just enjoyed myself. I actually remember saying to myself repeatedly throughout the bike ride “no matter what the time clock says at the end of all this, I'm so proud of how I'm handling this day.” And that was the truth.

Of course there were moments that felt more difficult than others throughout the day, but for the most part, I stayed really positive and my self-talk was not cruel. I was only saying things to myself that I would say to others.

As I rolled into the transition area I managed to slip my feet out of my shoes and made a wonky ungraceful dismount as volunteer held my bike. My parents were at the fence line cheering and told me I was only ten minutes behind Shane (which was quite a surprise. I figured I was at least 20-30' behind).

I jogged my way into transition, so happy to be off my bike and nearly onto the final leg of the day.

Much like T1, T2 was a bit unfocused and blurry. I changed my socks and got my shoes on, asked a volunteer to put my sunglasses in their case. Race bib and visor happened somewhere in there and then I was on my way out of the tent to the sun-screeners. I stood beside a garbage can and fiddled with my gels trying to get them into my back pocket for far too long and then, finally, I was off!

As I was running out of the shoot I put some lube on my inner arms so I didn't get any chafe and then proceeded to give high fives to all the people who were sticking their hands over the fence, not really thinking about the fact that my hands probably felt super slimy and gross. They sure smelt good though (Ruby'sLube for the win!).

I was super excited to be running and probably went out a little fast, but I didn't even care. My run has been strong all year and knew if I had a good one, I could possibly get a new PB.

People cheered my name and told me I was looking good. I believed them. I smiled and ran.

My plan was to walk through every aid station to make sure I was getting in enough calories, and so at the first one I took my first walk break of the day. The thought of a gel was grossing me out a bit, so I started what would become a bit of a routine at the aid stations… smalls sips of water, cola, banana, more water.

As I approached aid station 2, Shane was just coming out of a porta-potty. “SHANE!” I half screamed/squealed in a moment of pure delight and surprise. I was so happy to see him. I figured we'd run together for a bit, but I was feeling so good I ended up taking off on him within about 200m. Oops ~ sorry love.

I was moving well but was definitely feeling a bit tired. I just kept reminding myself I would get a walk break at the aid stations, so to just keep running. This seemed to be working.

I power hiked up the big hill before the turnaround, jogged down the other side and then power hiked back up.


Probably around the 15-16km mark my tummy started to get a bit upset and I couldn't tell if I was hungry or had taken in too much liquid with my water and cola routine, so I opted to take my first (and last) gel of the run.

It did not sit well. About 3-4km later, I was rushing into a porta-john to get rid of it.

Gel in. Gel out.

It took a bit for my stomach to bounce back and I did walk a bit more than I would have liked at this point, through special needs and a bit more as I approached the turnaround in town.

I saw my parents and was so incredibly happy to see them. Unfortunately though, it was at that point in the run that I probably felt the worst I had yet (or would for the remainder of the day). I stopped to try and talk to them, but got super nauseous when stationary so decided it was best to keep moving. Thankfully, once I got moving again and got some solid burps and belches out, things started to settle and I fell back into my “run between aid” rhythm.

Sometime in here I reminded myself of the fact that there was no reason I couldn't run. I can't tell you how powerful these words became for me. Every time I thought about walking, I reminded myself “there is no reason you can't run right now.”

Also, around this point I came across a guy (his name was Eric and he was from CdA) at one of the aid stations that I would leap frog with for the remainder of the run. We bantered back and forth, him passing me as I walked through aid stations or up hills, me passing him back as we jogged along the lake side. It was a wonderful distraction, and certainly helped me keep going as the fatigue continued to set it.

Finally, I was within a few km's from the finish.

“There is no reason you can't run right now.”

And soon enough I was making the turn down Sherman Ave. How sweet it was. I made sure to savour this moment. People cheering. High fiving. The noise. The jubilation. I smiled. I saw my folks and raised my arms over head. So excited. So happy with the day.

I eased up a bit so that Eric and another woman I had been leap frogging with got far enough ahead that the chute was all mine.

I raised my arms again. I crossed the line and heard the sweet sounds of Mike Reilly.


Yep, it was a good day. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mike Reilly Said So

I've been a bit absent from the blog the past couple weeks as life and the taper and a need to just be inside my own head took over as we prepared to head down to Coeur d'Alene.

Going into this Ironman was so different mentally from the first and the second (which were both incredibly different from each other in their own ways) and I can say, without a doubt, I am so happy and so proud of how I did down in CdA this past Sunday.

The weather certainly made it the toughest day I've ever faced on an Ironman course but I think that helped to make the outcome even a little bit sweeter. The time on the clock didn't really matter to me, and I would have been proud no matter what it read, but a new PB was certainly the icing on the cake.

Anyway, I'm working on a full trip/race recap but wanted to put a little note up for all my loyal readers (all, what, 8 or 9 of you?), to show that I made it through 140.6 miles and am still smiling. 

Otherwise, Mike Reilly said it best… I am an Ironman!

And of course, the continuation of #100happydays

Day 73
Look at that face!
Day 74
Emerging from my favourite alley on my wander to work.
Day 75
Bikes are home from the shop and ready to go after a final tune up.
Day 76
Going through old family photos and discovering this gem.
Day 77
The joy on Rui's face after cutting his first piece of wood with the chain saw.
Day 78
5 days old! Meeting the lovely (and teeny-tiny) Miss Lily.
Day 79
The kink in my back was very happy for this little massage tool.
Day 80
Rusty on route to his home-stay for the week. 
Day 81
The fortune received at lunch. I figured it was a good sign of things to come.
Day 82
The best family ever, happily strolling through CdA.
Day 83
Heading to bag drop and bike check-in.
Day 84
Race Day!
I personally didn't take any photos this day, but it was still a very happy day. 
Day 85
The day after. Icing the ankles in a much calmer Coeur D'Alene Lake.
 Day 86 
Packed up and heading home.