Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kona-- Part 2- The Swim!

It might be possible for me to write a short book about what it took to get to Kona.  There is no easy way to describe everything that goes into qualifying for and then preparing to race in this Ironman.  To just say, 'it was hard' or 'it took a lot of personal sacrifice' doesn't begin to touch on it.  I'm staring at my keyboard right now thinking, " Should I try?"  Not today.   I'd like to talk about my time in Hawaii for now.  All I will say about my preparation is this:  I committed myself 100%. I never missed a workout. (well.. not more than 2 or 3 all year, that is for sure. )  I never made excuses for myself and I never gave up. I was nearly run into the ground a few times but I fought my way back and climbed on that airplane on October 5th in the best shape of my life. I was healthy, the injury was absolutely under control, I was fit as a fiddle and I was confident in my ability to nail the race.  

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
October 5-11th: 

We landed in Kona on the Sunday before the race. We had nearly an entire week to settle in and 'acclimate' a bit to the heat and humidity before my big day. It was perfect. I absolutely loved being there that early.  We stayed in the same condo complex as 2011. There was a beach across the street ( Kahaluu Beach Park ) that has Amazing snorkeling.  The boys could go over alone to play soccer on the sand, or just walk back and forth with us for a short swim to see the stunning tropical fish. We were all feeling happy and very lucky to be back to this place we fell in love with several years before. 

I swam each morning at Digme beach ( the swim course) & took the boys for a swim with me there one day, enjoyed a brief stop at the coffee boat out on the course,  I swam one morning with a rockstar Pro from NH, Amber Ferriera, and enjoyed staying fairly close to her for that, I did some easy workouts down Ali'i drive and the Queen K to keep the body ready and sharp, we cruised the expo and had fun collecting 'free stuff',  ate at Lava Java, munched on fresh mangos and pineapples,  I had a heart to heart chat with 4x World Champion Chrissie Wellington, ran in the Underpants Run, the boys drove over the Saddle road to get a clear view of Maui and explore volcano vents and lava tubes, snorkeled with tropical fish, sat on a stunning beach and read,  You know, everyday normal things. :) Seriously... we did pinch ourselves a few times!!!  The race was one thing, but just the time in Hawaii was priceless.  A real dream for the family. 

A little photo tour before I get to the swim; 

a local market -- 

We enjoyed several yummy Lava Java breakfasts of course!!  

mark and the boys snorkeling-- the picture didn't come out but who cares

Delicious & fun meal at the Sheraton --  We sat at a fun fireplace table overlooking the Pacific & as the evening wore on, we could watch the Manta rays feeding next to the rocks. 

No words needed...

I was  a Lucky Mom to have my guys with me for this. 

The giant Banyan tree on ali'i...can't rotate it! ahh

So much fun in the waves for the boys... 

Soccer even in Hawaii-- gotta stay sharp for tournaments upon return! Though I'm not sure what this move was. :)  

We all participated in the UPR-- Underpants Run. :) I know, they have bathing suits & shorts on. They are kids after all. And I'm a Mom WITH her kids, so I simply wore running shorts and a jogbra. Nothing crazy for the Bancrofts. But we were there! 

There's my name! A few spots above Tommy's finger...
This little kid had the Biggest fishing pole. cracked me up. 

Gear Bags packed and ready

I managed to stay relative calm all week. (I think so at least. Maybe Mark would tell you otherwise. :)) I do allow myself to get revved up a bit, that's how it works for me. It's my way of getting into that pre-race state.  But, as Mark loves to tell me when I get stressed about being stressed and nervous, "I have never seen you do well in a race you weren't nervous for." He's right! It means I care. It's not just a regular day of grocery shopping, laundry, driving kids to and from everything and a training run. It's Race Day! It's THE race day of the year. And so, a bit of nerves and anxiousness is good for me!  I hate it, the day before makes me somewhat insane, but It IS part of the process.  

Bike is ready to rock--(or as it turned out, ready to sail away but that's for another post  :)

Everything was going very well. I did next to nothing on Friday besides a quick (literally 5 minutes  ) swim across the street to test my new TYR speedsuit ( yes, a little last minute to test it but I knew it would be fine), stuff myself with pancakes, drink bottle after bottle of nuun or perform, read and lay on my butt.OH! I also had a Surprise Face Time call from a few of my best friends from College!! Gina, Wendy and Brendan! I haven't seen Brendan in over 20years and the next thing I know I'm staring at their faces as they are  laughing and smiling at me from Burlington -> Kona! What a riot! Our connection dropped after about 20 seconds but it was still a huge huge smile for me that day.  I racked the bike in the afternoon but that was quick and easy.  I was in bed by 8:00 and miraculously, slept great!  

The 3:30 alarm was actually no big deal. I was up and ready to go. I ate my pre-race meal, took a quick hot shower and by 4:15, all five of us were heading to the jeep to drop me off  at body marking and for them to get their spot "on the wall."  They sat there from 4:30-8!!! It's like getting a good seat at a concert with no assigned seats.  They had to get there early and hold their spot if they wanted to watch the swim. 

blurry one of the boys but at 4 am, I am guessing they were feeling a bit blurry anyway. :) Flying the TriMoxie Colors!  Thanks guys!!! 

I stood in line behind the King K waiting for them to open the Transition / Body mark tent. At precisely 4:45, all the volunteers in the tent gathered together and clapped for us as we walked in. It was very cool.  Thankfully, I was on Small-time ( aka: early - to also explain, my maiden name is Small) and was one of the first to get marked.  WTC used stick on tattoos for our numbers ( mine was 4 digits long ) and mine didn't work. It wouldn't stick.( see, good thing I was early! )  I had to go to a 2nd line "Corrections" and wait there for my turn again. As a result, my 1375 was a bit of a sloppy mess with #s that didn't match. I chose not to care. I would never notice the # again that day, I was certain of that. On to get weighed ( don't look-- # is Not the same as when I left home ) and into T1 to pump the tires, fill the bento and then head to the swim..... 
I was calm and methodical. I got it all done and then I crowded over by a fence to hear, but not see, the Pro Men and Women start. I was sad the pier was set up in a way that prevented most of us from seeing the water while we waited.  But I did find Karen PM, a friend I made while at a Texas training camp that I saw again for IMTX and in Cozumel. We chatted and kept our minds off the craziness that was about to begin.  Everything was good.....  

Age group Women waiting for the cannon

The swim start was different this year.  Pro men at 6:30, pro women at 6:40, Age Group men 6:50 and Age Group Women last at 7:00.  I was Ok with this since the women were all together. The mass start is dramatic and amazing and yet, very scary.  I have had a few rough starts so I had hopes that this would allow me to truly SWIM and not feel trapped and scared for 1/2 the distance.  

I swam out and wiggled my way to the front.  Why not.  I was feeling brave. However, in the final 2-3 minutes, a few women pushed their way in front of me. One even put herself flat out so she was laying on the water, totally ready to start in prone swim position.  Good for her. But her feet were in my gut and I was a little ticked. I couldn't get to any other spot etiher. I shouldn't be surprised really, I was amongst some of the toughest women in sport at that moment, but things were a little bit rough right before that cannon blasted. 

Warning: Do NOT mess with these women! Some of them were ROUGH! 

The swim started off well!!!  I did get punched and kicked and hit and clobbered for a bit, but, I also escaped to relatively clear water pretty quickly.  I had a nice pocket and I was swimming hard.  There was one woman right off my right whose hand kept whacking me and that was bugging me but I found a way to move and avoid it after a while. She did haunt me for that entire swim however. 
I felt really strong and positive as I swam.  I knew that if I could just stay steady and push through without getting blocked, a decent swim time would happen.  I was feeling excited about the broken up start and really hopeful that I could make my way around that course without much trouble. It did feel like a long ways to the Body Glove turn around boat and during that first half, I noticed huge swells taking us for a ride. It wasn't bothering me. It was actually fun to ride them up and down and up and down.  I smiled a lot ( in my head ) and  I was still pushing hard and feeling strong. 
Step by step. My mission all day was to take it all step by step and focus on the moment I was in at that time. I thought about my stroke, pulling hard with Both arms, engaging my lats and not getting lazy.  Over and over-- I just repeated my cues and kept working. 

I finally got closer to the boat and felt the waters getting congested.  I knew it would happen, but hoped it wouldn't be too crowded. I was catching up with the men and knew that would make the way back a lot harder.  After all, you are only as fast as the person in front of you if you can't find a way around them.  I checked my watch and was at 28:xx as I was making the turn.  I was happy with that and Hoped I could keep the 2nd half strong for a good swim time. One I knew I was capable of doing. 

The swells grew bigger and I began gulping water down. I tried so hard to avoid that as I feared it could cause some stomach distress later. Some things are unavoidable when you're swimming in a crowd & the water is churning! Clearly, the swim  back to the pier wouldn't be quite as smooth as the way out. 
And That is Ironman!  A day full of challenges you need to deal with. 
I blocked out the intense eye socket pain I was feeling from my goggles. ohhh if I could just stop and take them off my eyes for 15 seconds! I couldn't. I promised myself not to waste precious time with something like that!!  I just continued to swim hard and weave my way through swimmers ahead of me. I think I swam a good line and only went in a little too far to the right one time.  
Boy that last leg was lonnnnnnnnng though!!! I got really sick of swimming. It seemed to take ForEVER to see the pier and hear Mike Reilly's voice! 
At last, I did. I was next to the pier, trying so hard to push to the end. I hoped the boys and Mark were all close enough to see me. ( I know... I'm the one in the pink cap and the black skin suit! ha. oh well... )   But as I wobbled my way up the stairs onto the pier, Mike R DID say my name! Angela Bancroft from Paris, Maine! And I smiled..  I was there. Racing in the World Championships. For real.  Even the 3rd time it feels Just as special.  

Then I saw the clock, or my watch, not sure which I looked at.  1:04. What?? I wasn't happy  and started doing math to try to figure out how that was wrong. It wasn't.  It was just a long swim back from the boat. As I suspected.  

Ok! It's a LONG day and the swim is OVER!  Time to hit the tent and get off on that bike for a few hours....   or 6.     

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kona! 2014 Ironman World Championships

Ten days have passed since I raced in my 3rd Ironman World Championship. Only 10? A lot has happened in those 10 days so I guess it's no wonder I still feel like I go hit by a bus.  I have so much to say and yet I am at a loss for words. The race report on this is going to be a slow release. I'll write in pieces as I feel like it and as I come up with the words to express the way I feel.  
This one carries a lot of emotion. Why? Don't they all? Yes.... but this may be my last.  I love this event... but I'm not sure I'll head back for another 140.6.  I guess we never say never and even my husband looks at me with a tilted head and certain look in his eye when I say that. But seriously.... for now it is on the shelf. 

My cherished Medal- albeit crooked here :) 

At the end of the day, Ironman day that is, I crossed the line in 18th in the world, in my age group. Top 20. The 40-44 women's age group is one of the fastest in the sports.  I was the 5th American woman to finish in that age group. Did I want more? Of course. I was 7th last time, in 2011. Am I proud of myself? Hellyeah. That was a Beast of a day and I'll be 45yrs old  in 2.5  months.  Unlike when I was an age group swimmer and was at the "top" of the 13-14 yr old age group ( for ex ), being the old girl doesn't pay off anymore.  I didn't just finish that race last week, I raced it from start to finish. I worked as hard as I could. Was I slower than last time? Yes I was. Am I ok with that? Well... no. I am disappointed. However, it was not the same race. It was not the same at all.  On paper it is always the same. But on the Queek K, it can be  a Whole different ball game.  

I have smiled about my day, I have felt proud about my performance and I have also cried big fat crocodile tears.  It's that sort of emotional rollercoaster. For years, literally years, I have put my heart and soul into preparing for those 140.6 miles.  I planned on it going just the way I visualized it during all my very very very long hard training weeks.  I prepared in every way possible. But it did not go according to plan. And yet, my race was not a failure. I didn't have a Bad day. I walked away from that island a much tougher person then when I landed there.  The little blue tracking dot did move slowly at times...but that was thanks to some serious serious winds pushing my big white sail of a bike back and forth on the road. But I didn't stop. I kept moving forward all day long.

So....I didn't walk away with a wooden bowl like I dreamed.  If I was already 45, I would have placed 3rd.  Third!?! Sigh...  But, I am only 44! For 2.5 more months....  :)   Never wish time away!! 

I'm back in Maine, I'm happy to be here for our  beautiful Fall and I'm sorting through the race piece by piece. I will write this blog and think it over for a few more days and then it's time to move on and move away.  It was truly incredible to be one of the relatively few Ironman athletes that qualified for the World Championships this year. I am proud and honored to have accomplished that, I am proud of overcoming the rough beastly conditions of 10/11/14 on that Big beautiful lava covered island and I am going to hold my head high when I talk about my day.  And, what blew me away more than anything and has given me the biggest 'hug', is the amazing amount of support I received from people both before and after the race. I had so many well wishes, I couldn't believe it. I continue to go back and ready them for that warm fuzzy.  One of the best things? Three college swim team friends were together at UVM the day before and surprised 'face-timed' me! How fun is that? We lost our connection pretty fast but it was still the happiest surprise.  

Look at this place!!! 

My 3 Ironboys!!!  Flying the TriMoxie "flag" waiting for Mommy to run down Palani to the finish!!!  

A look down Ali'i from our condo 

Beautiful waters 

post race dinner-- lookin' a little wobbly & worn out still 

Bannar from this year 

My guys on our lanai-- or The "larry" as they called it 3 yrs ago for some reason. The term stuck with us and it is now all we call it. 

And the bannars from my 2 previous years on the Big Island 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Eagleman 70.3-- My day to Fight back

I had some great blog posts written in my head before I left for the race last week. Training has been going really well in the big picture,  but not without some true highs and lows. If I get into all that, this race report will be much too long. Instead, I'll stick to my June 8th stories and I guess write my own prequel since that seems to be a thing these days. 

Eagleman 70.3 has been a race I've thought about for a number of years. I've always known people racing there and heard stories about the flat but oh so windy and hot course. In addition,  they have a few coveted Kona spots,  so it's also super competitive. I have been drawn to new experiences and races over the past few years. I'm a bit tired of some of the great places that I started racing so to keep my passion and excitement for the sport, I've chosen to stray away from home to locations with challenging terrain and weather. 

Maine has been cool and wet this spring. I think I had one hot run ( over 80 degrees ) leading up to this. And on that very short T-run, my HR was sky high and I felt way way off. Alright! haha... not a good sign Bub! ( inside joke. )   In addition, I live in the foothills of Western Maine.... I don't think I can string together more than 2 flat miles in one place around here. But besides that, I was ready to go!  Bring on the challenge! Seriously, I wasn't all that concerned. A race is a race in that each one offers Something hard that we might not be used to. It's part of what makes it worth trying! 

We left early Friday morning after the crazy morning scramble of getting the kids to school, saying bye, packing up the cars, and closing up the house. I decided I have "Pre-Race OCD" and it really makes packing and leaving a total PITA at my house. I just Can NOT leave laundry undone or the counters dirty in anyway. ugh. I drive myself crazy sometimes!! 

The flight to MD was easy and uneventful. We also traveled with a friend who is a Pro Triathlete here in Maine.  It was fun to have a fellow athlete with so much experience and fun stories to share. Friday and Saturday were smooth for the most part. I had a small hiccup with my bike that resulted in the need to stand in a line for mechanical help for a while but that got resolved. Mike talked me through the course, we rode the run course, we ate, we relaxed, we ate more, and I got nervous. I don't think he did. :) Normal pre-race stuff....

I laid down and looked up at this tree for a little while to relax on Saturday. It was a Gorgeous day. 
Saturday afternoon, I finally bumped into Jen!! I was coached by Jen Harrison several years ago and have remained friends with her since. Jen has inspired me so much along the way. I found her blog a long time ago before I hired her & knew from her stories that we had a lot in common. There have been times I felt like I could have written the words she wrote.  However, Jen and I have never raced since she lives in Chicago and I'm way over in Maine.  This would be a fun first. Jen and I met in the hotel lobby and got to say hello before we both headed off to chill until the race start. 

The night before the race is brutal for me. I hate the feeling of the nerves that are truly part of the process ( for me! ) and yet so uncomfortable. Lots of deep breaths and routines get me through. Lights were off by 9 and the alarm was set for 3:40 but I was awake a long long long time before that. Sigh.... 

We hit the road by 4:15 with Mark as our helpful and always willing Sherpa. Thanks babe. You just never squeak a word of complaint at my early morning antics and needs on race day.  

I was happy to be with calm pro- Mike and then to bump into some more familiar faces when we got there. I saw Jen H. again, said a quick hi to more pro friends Kim Schwabenbaur and Amber Ferrerra both of whom have inspired me so much along the way with personal racing together and then with me watching from afar. 

My wave was Late! 8:05 was the  scheduled lift off for the 40-44 Women.  The downside was the potential for more heat and more wind on the course, more people to swim through at the start and loads of people to bike around and with while out on the ride. It was going to be a hectic few hours.  But the upside was that I had plenty of time to go in and out and in and out and in and out of the porta potty all a.m.! Yes, potentially TMI but if you're involved with this sport, you Know what I mean!!!  And, really, it is significant to the day sometimes.  I was nervous and I just got in and out of lines all morning. 

I thought I was finally ready to go so  I stood with Mark and  1000s of others on a hot pavement parking lot waiting for my wave and sort of watching those who had already started swimming.  As I put my cap on, I was Stunned to look over and see a PBM kit. What??? Anne??? No, Anne, Sarah AND Jen! There were 3 of my fellow Maine athletes right there! I had NO idea more of us were coming! So, time passed from that point on because  I got to chat it up with some girlfriends. (And, new competitors! Those ladies are FAST! ) 

All of a sudden, it was time for me to split. I had to be alone. I need those last 10 min to just focus and get back inside my own head. I said "bye" to Mark and headed to the corral for starters. 

I had some time to gather myself and then right at the start, I stood with Jen. We commiserated with our nervous bellies and smiled and reminded each other that it was Good because it meant that we still 'cared.' Indeed. 

Ange & Jen at the race start

I spent the next 5 minutes adjusting my goggles. I always do. With about 2minutes to go before we were instructed to get in the water, SNAP! #$%**(^@!!!!!!  You know that word? Yup. Me too. My goggles BROKE!!!! 
LUCKY for me, Mark was Still standing right there by the fence with my bag of 'stuff' that he likes to tease me about. I may have pre-race OCD and an over-packing disorder but I am Prepared!!!!  After 10 panicked seconds, I raced over to Mark and grabbed my spare pair of goggles. There. Crisis averted. Back to business. ( hint to all-- always have a spare pair. And, maybe have them WITH you at the start!! :)) 

Race time!!! Ah Finally! I know!  Enough yapping about all the boring pre-race stuff.  

Swim time!! 

That morning, they announced NO Wetsuits and I was of course, thrilled!!!  I dislike swimming with my shoulders all constricted and it is a bit of an advantage for me as well. I lined up out front and felt Great in the cool-ish water of the Choptank River. The water was brown, there was no visibility, but it was at least moving brown water and not warm with snakes like TX so I was fine with it. Plus, I had goggles. The salty water would have Killed my eyes if I hadn't been saved by Mark standing there. 

We were off before I knew it and I am happy to say that once again, with the starting gun comes the complete and total disappearance of my nerves. NOW I can just do what I do all the time. Swim, bike and run and fight 'til I fall down.  
our wave 

I was off ahead of my group for a little bit. I can always sense where I am in the swim from the beginning. Nobody came with me to start. But about 200-300 yards in, a zippy woman came up next to me with a turnover rate like a young college girl. Hmm... I can't make my arms turnover like that anymore! I tried to grab onto her 'cadence' and go with her. I hung on her feet a bit but as I knew would happen, we swam upon the waves ahead of all  ( all 15 or so of them ) and I lost her. The brown water made it hard to see feet until we hit them. I just did the best I could and swam on.... 

It was uneventful honestly. I just swam. I wasn't swimming HARD -hard  but I was trying to.... I was "alone" so it was hard.   I made every effort to keep pushing and stay focused with a strong stroke. As Mike told me it would be, the water was VERY Shallow for the ~500 yards or so and Most people around me were walking in. I kept swimming with an occasional dolphin dive. 

Other than walking in a hobble with my legs collapsing from time to time, this is what I have left to show from the race. A pretty impressive chafe spot on my arm from the salt water rubbing the speedsuit. It hurt a lot that day! 

Onto the beach, goggles off, smiled at my name being yelled ( not sure who! Jerome? Kari? thanks for the yell! ) and off to the bike. My swim split was a good 3-4 or so minutes slower than my "normal" half ironman swim but it sounds like most people's were. I didn't give it another thought. Some swims are fast, some are slow. Doesn't matter at the end of the day. I was out to race the person next to me. Or in front of me. Or to stay ahead of the ones behind me. Not to stress or think about a minute or three on any of the legs. Let's see who crosses the Finish line first, that is all. 
Heading out of T1

The bike-
I was excited to ride. I never ever get to put my head down and hammer on flat roads. I knew I'd be challenged to stay in that position for so long and I knew the winds were going to potentially get us, but I was still feeling ready. I've been working really hard in on the bike this season with my new awesome coach, Jeff Capobianco at BPC, so my confidence was 100% on this ride. 
I took off and settled in. 
Ahhh.... it only took 5 minutes before I knew Plan B was going to have to be pulled out of my pocket. Shoot. I took a few sips of perform and had instant PAIN in my gut. Ugh. You know, all morning my stomach was off. ( remember my pre-race portapotty dance ). Yup, I knew. I gave it a few minutes, settled the HR a bit more and tried again. Ouch. :( I didn't panic or get too worried but I was sad. I have had so many workouts with my nutrition being spot-on. Why now? What did I miss along these past few days...??
I spent 20 min trying to eat/ drink. It wasn't going to work. I was going to cause myself more issues if I didn't seriously act. What I've learned along the way-- stomach distress-- slow down and / or stop taking it in. I decided to back off the power a hair and give myself until 60 minutes to settle things. I did take a few sips of h20 at an aid station. I didn't want to risk getting dehydrated. That could Certainly come back to haunt me if I hit the run on the low side. 
The clock hit 1:01 and my pace and power were good. I was where I wanted to be. I was having a lot  of fun passing loads and loads of people. And, the belly was better. I hoped. I took a few shot bloks as planned. All good. Started to drink. So far so good. Ok..back on track. 
Only 1 girl had passed me. I had expected her in fact. She won our age group last year and I Knew she was a kick a-- biker. Indeed she was. Wow did she fly by me. When I grow up, I want to ride my bike like that. Unreal. 
Until... about mile 30 all was good and uneventful.  But at that point,  I sat up to drink, certainly don't Remember hitting a bump or anything, but when I got back down into the aero bars, something was wrong. The right bar and pad for my arm were askew. They were angled off to the right. What?? I was confused. I tried to twist it back. Nothing. It was tight. I shifted. All was fine. It baffled me and ticked me off, of course. 
Well.... it was time for me to either lose my focus completely and all upset or to just count off the miles and ride it in. 
:) You know what I picked. 
The bars did move and get worse and worse as I went. My right shoulder was sore and uncomfortable but it was 'ok.' I knew the faster I kept making forward progress, the sooner I'd be running. Head down, just ride. 

I had rallied with nutrition though I could feel an ache and dull pain in the gut. My right quad was 'talking' quite a bit and I was pretty warm. And yet, I felt strong. My power was nearly the same as when I started and I hadn't lost any speed. One more girl passed me though. I think we had about 8 miles to go. I was able to see her the rest of the way in and wondered about her run legs. And, I wondered about mine.... 

The Run- Where the race Really begins. 

For me, the first few steps off the bike on the way to the rack almost Always feel BAD! But, once I change shoes and hit the road, I often surprise myself. My run training has been solid lately. I have had some challenges and some 'scares', but I have also had some moments of "I want to race Right Now!" I was excited to get out there. 

The sky was clear and full sun was on us. There is NO shade on this route. None at all. Not a single tree.  I have no clue what the temp was, but it was hot. That being said, I know it wasn't as hot as other years. And, it was nothing like a few hot races I've done recently.  I train consistently and I train honestly. I work very hard and I take care of myself. But, those things aside, I think one of my biggest advantages these days as a ahem, masters age grouper, is my experience. Running in hot mid-80 degree sun on Sunday was really hard after our cool wet spring, but I have raced in temps near 110 degrees with Much higher humidity a few times lately and that memory, of surviving those races, helped me keep my cool ( pun intended) the other day. 

I was off and running and felt pretty good. My pace was under 7 or just above and it felt somewhat easy. I did still feel that spot in my right side.... and I just crossed my fingers that it wouldn't come haunt me at some point. 

I made a plan.  Keep this even keel... don't overrun, just keep the effort steady and strong, manage the heat with fluids and ice and then, with 4 -5 miles to go, I could drop the hammer if need be. 
It was time to race. 

Honestly, the first few miles are blurry. I felt pretty good, I know that.  Within the first mile, I caught the girl who caught me at the end of the ride. I thought I was in 2nd at that point. I was running at a fairly fast pace, but I was brainwashed, once again, at the aid stations. I don't think it's a bad idea to walk the aid stations, in fact I often recommend it to others. But, I have become a little too dependent upon that habit. I did it during a few really great Ironman races I had and now I can't get off that mode. I see the tables and something just Makes me stop and get 'stuff' in. I did this from the first mile.... ice in shirt, water on head, drink down the hatch. Onward. I'd make it quick, keep walking, and run immediately but still.... that took a toll on my pace in the end. 6:55 min  miles became 7:20s.... it adds up.  Again, like pre- race, Sometimes I drive myself crazy and that was one example. I didn't WANT to stop but my body just seemed to have it's own plan each time I hit a table. 

The miles ticked on and the head games began. I started and stopped conversations like this, "You know, I think this will be the last race I do before Hawaii. I'm not sure I have much more racing in me. I really hurt. I don't have anything to prove. I've done the best I can so I should feel good about that.... STOP!!! HAVE THIS CONVERSATION TOMORROW!  NOT at mile 5!" Yes, I would talk like that ( in my head ) to myself while racing. My head goes ALL over the place out there. And that is Not the time to make decisions! 

I shut off the brain and shut down the voices and just ran. My right quad started talking again. I was limping a bit. Oh oh.
I took a salt. 

I grabbed a gel. 
Things were getting long. The road went on forever. I hadn't seen any other girls my age. I had passed lots of women.... but there were no signs of my age group ladies. I wanted and needed to race if I was going to ignite the fire in me. I was getting tired of just being alone with my tired brain.  

Finally, and I really can't explain how oh very long it takes to get to that 6.5 mile turn around spot, I made the turn and slowly trotted around the cone to head back! Yay!!

And yet now it was the moment of truth. 

What would I see as I headed back....who was there. Was I was ahead? Was I being chased? If someone was there, would I care? Did I have any fight in me today?? 

Time would tell. 

I ran a bit but wasn't fully focused on those coming towards me. Things were getting real. It was hot, I was hurting and I had a really long way to go. 

And then, out of the corner of my eye almost after she went by, I saw Jen. I hadn't seen her until he was basically next to me so I turned back a bit to see if I was right. Yup! She looked super strong and was moving fast. Ok! I knew we'd be close together.  At that point, I thought I was in 2nd with that wicked fast biker ahead of me, with Jen a bit behind, but not far! I wasn't sure how far but I think 1/4 mile? Maybe not that far. Probably about 1.5-2 minutes back. Who knows.... 

I ran a bit and tried to have some little talks about how I felt and what I would do now. Did I have it in me to pick it up? What was the plan.... 

Next thing I knew, I was at an aid station doing my walk fast and grab stuff shuffle. ( GRR!) 

And before I could even grab my cup of ice, SHE went by!  A girl with a 43 on her leg! HEY!?! WHO are you  and where did YOU come from??? Jen was behind me, who are you?? I was totally frustrated and threw my arms in the air a bit. I guess, in some ways, I had a moment of giving up. 
oh oh.

She was very tan and running really well. She didn't look tired. why wasn't she tired like me? I didn't get it. I was mad for a few minutes. I decided that her tan meant she was from the south and used to the heat so of course she was running well. Nobody from Maine has a tan like that yet.  I gave myself an excuse. 

NOT a good idea. Excuses are Not how we win races. 

I ran on for a bit longer but something happened. I stared at this woman's back as she moved further and further away from me and I had yet another little talk with myself. 

"You know Ange, 99% of the time, if you get passed on the run, that is it. Maybe 100%.  Can you be that person that fights back? Can you go back after her? Can you? How tough are you? Are you just an ok athlete or are you the one that doesn't let someone take it from you. Who are you today? Take a risk girl, what's the worst that can happen? You're really really tired for the last 2 miles? Well, you are anyway! Seriously, get tough and do this right." 

After all, Jen and I had stood on the water's edge and agreed we were nervous because we still cared. So, it was time for me to act like I still cared and RACE! It was time to hurt. Time to bring it home. 

I picked up my pace and found my fire again. Races can be such mind games. You can be so revved up and then lose it all without warning. 

I was suddenly on a huge high because I made the decision to go after it again and I knew I had it in me. 

I could feel that I was slowly but surely closing the gap. It took a few miles...this wasn't a quick deal. I just stared at her back and kept the faith. I could see her shoulders look weaker. I think she thought I was left in the dust. She had no idea... 

I never ever took my eyes off her. 
The gap was continuing to grow smaller. And then she veered off to the left to run under a tent with water spraying in it. Ahh...a weakness. She's hot. She let her guard down. I ran straight and gained even more time on her. 
I think we had about 4 miles to go now....and without hesitation I slipped right behind her and tried to quiet my breathing so I could run in stealth mode-.Yah... that didn't work. I was pushing hard and my breathing was what it was. And, she was now going slower so I had to step to her side. We were only inches apart. Running shoulder to shoulder.
I had the Hugest grin on inside, but my face showed Nothing. I kept my eyes straight ahead and I hammered on. I felt her turn to her left and look at me. And then she did it again. I knew what she was thinking but I didn't let on at All.  SHe wanted to yell, "What?! I PASSED you! And you gave up when I went by." 

Ha! tricked ya! 

I was having a blast. What's that song Michelle? Click here to listen:  Ever since my friend I read Mama Simmon's blog last week about her Honu race, I've been singing this song. And I was singing it at this moment too. ( thanks MIchelle. :) :) !!! ) 

I ran so hard. I never looked at the garmin again. I just focused on my race and my love of the sport. I falter sometimes, I wonder why  I am still bothering, I wonder if it's silly of me to keep trying to get faster as I get older but then, all I need is a little kick in the butt and the whole reason I do this comes back to me. I. Love. To. Race. Period.
Those last few miles that hurt SO SO Much. I mean, I was in agony. I wanted to LAY down and there sometimes felt like a force field was going to pull me from the ground right down to the ground. But the will to race and not let anyone else get me was way way bigger than the pain. 

I saw the finish arch from a long ways away. I heard the announcers. A spectator or two yelled my # and some great comment like,' Wow TriMoxie! Your form is awesome great pace!!" Just what I needed.... 

Someone else yelled, "Around this corner, less than a mile, let the screams pull you in...." 

I was on high focus mode. I was all business. Nothing was going to stop me. 

And then.... down the long chute. High five with Mark, a cheer from Mike, I heard my name a few other times and Bam! DONE!!!!!!!

Hands on knees, breath, breath, water, down again, then I stood up, turned around and there she was... 
maybe 15 seconds back... and she nearly collapsed. I held her arm and told her great job. I helped her get help and then I wandered away. 
Jen was just moments behind her. 
Ahh...what a race. Never ever count us 40+ year old women out. We mean business. 

And with that, I felt happy. I fought back. And I will never ever give up after getting passed again. Age 44 and I have a breakthrough. The fun continues!! 

Two days later, and I hurt so bad. That to me = a job well done. I worked to the point of misery for the next few days. haha.. I left my heart, soul and legs out on that course. Just as it should be. 

3rd Age group for Eagleman 70.3 

Someone else snuck in there!! I never knew she was there. :) 

Time to recover! Off for ice creams with my boys...( they love my post-race weeks... ! ) 

thanks for reading!!!! 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Just call me Bat Girl!

Several mornings each week, I set my alarm for 4:02 so I can haul myself out of bed and drive a few towns over to swim. I turn my brain off and just go through the motions at that hour. You know, if I was to really think things over at that hour I'd come up with at least 10 good reasons Not to get up that day.  Reasons that seem perfectly logical at that time, but two hours later when I get up (yes, I've blown off the alarm a couple times ) to go through a normal morning, I am  full of regret and disgust at my laziness. 

The thing is, it's Hard to get to bed early enough to make that hour less painful. I have 3 boys with busy evenings full of everything from lacrosse to concerts to homework, just to name a few things.  I think 95% of the time, I go to bed before my oldest son these days.  The point is, those pre-swim mornings are short enough. But throw in this fun & it's even better when the alarm goes off. ha..

Last Tuesday night I set my alarm and climbed in around 10. That's about the best I can do. That gives me 6 hours IN the bed but not necessarily 6 hrs of sleep. I try to make up for it other days, it's just part of my deal. 

In the middle of the night that night, I had the most annoying feeling on my neck. After  a bit of confusion, and swatting and screaming, "Something is biting me!" I did in fact realize I was Not dreaming and I really was feeling something on my neck and now on my hands as I tried to fling it off me. 

I remember my husband saying something along the lines of, "what? stop it. What's up with the chain?" (He told me later, and we laughed very hard at this, that he thought I was whipping a chain around in the air!!?? Turns out, it was the sound the bat was making!!!! Ewwwww!!! So gross. But the chain part is pretty funny. ) Before too long the light was on and he was standing next to the bed, looking down at his pillow. 

I proudly pointed and said, "SEE! I told you!!!" 
(one of those moments I secretly wished I was wrong!!" 

Ok, it really bothers me to post that and to LOOK AT it!!!! ( this is not OUR bat, just  picture but it's close ) -- There were other pictures of bats online showing bats with big wingspans and teeth and they looked more like bats. But what we saw, was a little blob. 
IN OUR BED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

Mark just stood there with his hand over his mouth and said, "I do NOT like this." 

I actually kind of laughed and then started yelling, "Let's get it! Do something! WE have to go back to bed, I only have an hour!" was 2:53 a.m. and what was on my mind?? The alarm going off at 4 so I could swim. I know... why was I so worried about that at that time? Tunnel vision I guess. I hate missing workouts! But, It would have been the "Perfect" excuse for myself 65 minutes later! :) 

The thing took off and started dive bombing around our bedroom! What the heck???? 
This is where I win wife of the year. 

Mark starts running around the room with a big towel to catch the thing while I pulled the covers up over my head and hid and screamed a few times when I peeked. I remember thinking, "phew, it's hot under here... hope he gets that thing soon!!" Seriously, I was a lot of help. ( eye roll at myself ) 

He did get it pretty fast I must say. He caught it and we opened up a window and chucked it out. I didn't look at the clock again but we had the lights off and went back to bed asap. I had a few dreams about bats (really... lots & lots of bats in the dreams ) over the next 45 min but the alarm went off as it always does and I went to the pool! I was proud of myself for that. 
When I got home a few hours later,  we talked and we thought about it. Hmm... bats= Rabies. Oh #$%^$!!!  I didn't have any broken skin on my neck at all. There was a tiny red spot but that may have been there before. I was probably fine. I didn't want to overreact and seem silly. And yet, I called my doc and they said to come in to see them. I really felt like I was probably wasting everyone's time. However, they called back a bit later and said we had to go to the ER ( not avail at the office ) for an immunoglobulin injection + rabies shots. Turns out, if you wake up in the same room as a bat, you have to do this. Or... risk worrying about death by rabies. And you know, that's not really what we need. Three boys left because parents bit by a bat? Sounds a bit dramatic and like a bad tv show but seriously... we went in for the shots. 

How did it get in there? No clue. We have new windows and the house is tight. Or at least most of it is. I think it came in the attic or was there Before we had work done last fall to tighten a few places up. Gross. 

Why didn't we kill it!!?? No clue on that either. It didn't cross our minds. They eat mosquitoes is what Mark's said in the past.  Ha..that's the last time we don't kill it. We could have had it tested and avoided some VERY pricey shots.  

Last Wednesday, I spent over 2 hrs in the ER getting round 1 of the shots. I had to have 4 that day.... one in each leg and one in each arm. They did two at a time. It hurt but I thought I was fine, until I stood up. My heart started thumping, I was HOT and then very very dizzy... so down I went. But 5 minutes later I was fine.  At first, Mark was very resistant to getting treated. He hadn't felt the thing on him and didn't see the need for double whammy ER bills PLUS the cost of the meds. Well.... doc examined him and he had several decent sized scratches on his shoulder. I think I Flung the thing off me and onto him.  It was on His pillow after all...... thank god I convinced him to get the TX too. 
The stuff is weight based, so he needed more of it. And, they had to inject it all around the site of the wound. So he had about 8 little injections on his shoulder + two in his hips and arms too. Thankfully they said they couldn't put it in my neck so I only had arms and legs shot up. 

Saturday, we both went back for more. And today. And again next week.  

But hey, we wont' get rabies!!!! And if another bat comes near me again, it better run for it's life! 

That is Enough about that!!! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 3- Madiera Canyon Climb or where I remembered how to be tough

Once again, my day started here. Perfect. I actually loved my early mornings that week. It was very easy for me to get up to my 5 a.m. alarm since 1) I'm used to an even earlier 4 a.m. call for my swims at home and 2) I probably never fully switched my body's clock to AZ time. 

To make it easier, this was the view out my window. So, I could set my alarm for 5, look at this, grab a cup of coffee, get back in bed and call home ( 8 a.m. there ) and catch two of the boys before they went off to school. ahhh... 
Then, I'd just get dressed and have a short, quiet walk down to the pool.  One morning I even saw a little bunny hop in front of me as I walked across the lawn. All this made me smile and enjoy the time on my "vacation."  
The day before, at the very very end of the Mt. Lemmon climb to the ski area, I was alternating between, " pedal pedal pedal & @#%^^%!!!! " as I climbed what I was told  was only a portion of a mile but it actually was a LOT more. ( I honestly don't know how far it was... but it was way more than I thought, and after 25 miles UP and 103 miles the day before, I wanted OFF that bike for a few minutes. ) I made my way up I thought about the next day and had it in my head that it was going to be 'easier.'  But then, some guy came up next to me on his bike, looking like a fresh little mountain goat and tried to have a  big ole' conversation with me ( as I tried to breath) about how I should go FURTHER beyond the ski area because it's... ?? I can't remember why he said I should. Because honestly, there wasn't a chance in hell I was going Beyond where the group was. Nope! I was done. 
But when I told him we were riding Madeira the following day, he made this noise. And then said something about the road going on and on and then UP. Yeah, whatever... I was so focused on the present moment that I didn't pay that much attention to him... 
He knew what he was talking about.... I should have begun my mental prep Right then. I needed it. 

Later that night, a few of us looked up the profile for the ride the next day. Hmm... that has a sharp little curve to it. Ok... but really. They were all starting to look like that. Plus, the total ride was only going to be 60 or so miles instead of 80+. Again, Easy day! Right??

We drove a ways to a safe starting point and started the re-assemble bikes, get ready process. When I headed to pump the tires, I discovered a flat. And then I pulled out a small tack. Someone had actually thrown tacks on the Mt. Lemon road --- nice. Several of us were lucky enough to pick them up. I'm just lucky the flat didn't appear while I was trying to escape the bees the day before. 
Finally, we all headed out. 
The first 15 or so miles were  basically flat. I felt good! Miraculously I wasn't screaming to sit on the bike and the legs were responding well. Alright! I had a few strong segments along the way, sometimes alone and sometimes with some guys for a few miles. Our awesome support crew of Josh & Jenny { fellow camper who got sick while we were there :( } were at a corner letting us restock our bottles and make sure the bikes were ready to roll. We didn't stop much on these rides & since I rode alone most of the time I appreciated being able to talk to folks for a few minutes and gather some needed moral support. 

I think my bike read 15 miles at that point. One of the guys told me we were heading up to about the 30-31 mile mark. Ok... that is what Stuck in my head. Call it 31 miles... 

And with that, off we went. 

The sun was shining and the mountain was off in the distance. But I had no idea what we were heading towards. This is the view we were looking at: 

I knew we weren't going ALL the way to the top of that. So, what were we climbing? Where was that spike? Maybe it really didn't get like that? 
By now, I was alone. I had been riding strong and fairly fast. 
And, I wasn't all that concerned about what was left.  If we were only going to 30 or so miles, how bad could it be? I still couldn't see any steep grade so it must not really be that big of a deal... right? 

So I rode and I rode and slowly but surely became very frustrated. I think I looked behind myself a good 10-15 times. What the heck? I am NOT moving!!! What's wrong with this bike? I'm not climbing... am I? { look behind} -- Repeat that self- talk over and over and over. 
I was sure I sucked. I had officially run out of gas and was just crashing. look behind..
I kept waiting for the other campers that had been back from me a bit to catch up. Surely, everyone was about to ride up next to me and say, "What's wrong Ange??"  I think there was wind, I can't seem to remember that part but I do remember talking about it. 
All I know is, just like that fresh mountain goat rider on Lemon had said, "the road goes on Foreevvvvver." It did. He was right. The words he had said to me, the ones I was ignoring at the time, seeped back into my head.  I could see miles and miles in front of me it seemed. And, while it didn't LOOK like a hill, oh believe me it was. We were climbing 10 miles of relentless, demoralizing grades. I realized this on the way back DOWN when I FLEW without pedaling for miles and miles. 
I lost myself during that part. I was lonely and bored. I was SICK Of it. I really really wanted someone to talk to. Someone to commiserate with me and assure me yes, you ARE in fact going nowhere but so am I. (I did have to stop at one point for some cows to cross. :) Yup, there were 3 big cows wandering in the road and I really didn't know what they would think of me. And since I was moving like a turtle, I decided to let them move along before I went their way. ) Truly, I think I was moving about 6 mph along a road that didn't Look like a hill. As I said, demoralizing. I was in a bad place. I kind of pride myself in being able to stay OUT of those bad places during my training and racing so the fact that I had slipped there was discouraging too. 

The Good news was, I was nearing mile 30 on my clock!!! The signs said, "MADEIRA CANYON " so... I was almost There!!! Yay!  Not sure that that peak was all about because we were almost there and the road did NOT spike. IT was a nasty long climb, but no peak. yay! 
fake picture in my head at this time on the ride 

insert maniacal laughter right here.

The scenery changed now. It looked less like a desert and more like home. Madeira Canyon is surrounded by the Coronado National Forest so the hills are tree covered, there are streams and apparently it's filled with many bird species and a favorite area for those who enjoy watching birds! 
There's a Very cute B&B up there ( stopping to snap a photo would have resulted in me falling OFF the bike so you'll just have to believe me) and the view from there is: 
It was definitely nice to see the landscape change from barren  desert to lush forest on all climbs. 
Back to business. 

There was an evil laugh echoing in my head as I made a turn and realized the last 10 miles of "climbing" were just a little warm up.
AT this point, I am Expecting to see my group any second since I thought were finishing around mile 30. 

I saw no one. No one with a bike that is. 
All I saw was the road, tourists enjoying beautiful little picnic areas with food and shops and then my hands....clenching the bars. For dear life. And, to stay UPright! 
because the road, without warning went STRAIGHT UP! 
At least that's what it felt like since I was on a Bike! You can't just push the gas pedal wait for the engine to shift gears, you must NOT hesitate or pause because you will FAll over to the side and crash. And then you'll never be able to get going again.     :) :) 
seriously, it was that steep. 

I started to swear again. I was SURE that every time I went around a corner I'd see the van and the 6 or so people that were ahead of me. 
WHERE WERE THEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
I was sort of losing it. I mean, at least I Knew I was on a hill now so I didn't have to wonder why I wasn't moving. That helped. A little. 
It was survival...each leg stroke was just to hold on. 
I saw so many of these: 

Seemingly Perfect rest areas to stop and rest. Or eat. Or just STOP RIDING UP! 
Yeah... I wasn't in my happy I love this sport place. 

I passed a few people walking Down the cliff. I was starting to wonder if I was going the wrong way! What if I had gone BY Them!!! NO!!!!  So I spoke up: 

 "I'm looking for some other bikers. Have you seen them?" 
"OH! yes!!"
"Are they close??"
insert laugh... "No." 


What is going on??? 
AT that point, I was done. Done with the bad place. That wasn't me.  I was sick of my tantrum and little pity party. After all, as I had been saying all week, I WAS there to work. Suck it up babe and get up the damn mountain!!  I put my head down and just kept going. AT some point, I knew I would have to get there. 
33 miles now... 
Crazy crazy how LONG those 3 miles had taken!!! 
I got to a corner and saw some kids at yet Another perfectly good rest area...
I asked the same question I asked the last group. 
But this time I got: "Oh yeah, they're right over there!" And he pointed UP. 
YES!!!!!!!!! See.. I knew I'd make it if I just stopped all the bitching in my head! 

I rounded that corner and heard them first. I gave it all I had left and finally, finally, reached the very TOP of that road with my friends, in their typical Awesome fashion, Cheering me up and then high fiving me upon completion. I think I maybe dropped the bike as I dove for a bench. It was like a race-- someone grabbed it from me. I have no memory.. so if you're reading this and you were the one ( Bob? Rick? John? ) Thank you! 

I smiled. And then,I sat there and shook from exhaustion for a few minutes. It was that hard. 

The next guy finishing and getting the same awesome welcome and GOOD JOB at the top. What a Great,  great group. 

I was happy to be there with others for a few minutes. Again, the camaraderie is everything. Everything. It made me happy to see how wiped everyone else was too and that even those kick-axx rider friends of mine  who crushed that climb thought they had flat tires etc on that long long nasty non- hill climb on the way to steep crazy peak.  We took off and FLEW back down. Ahh.. much better! 
I was almost to the bottom where we made the turn back to the regular road home when I felt some things hit my leg. I brushed them off and then felt the sharp sting. Huh?
I had to stop. Unreal. I had a stinger in my leg! I got stung by a bee. What was UP with me and the bees!?  I rode on and wondered if  actually was a bee or something else. I didn't really see what hit me. But the leg started to HURT. Great... This might not be good. 
And then as quickly as it had come on, it went away. The pain just disappeared. 
I was fine for the rest of the but later on, it swelled, turned red and hurt a Lot. Oh well.. I can handle 1 bee. The swarm turned away from me so I was just thankful for that one little bite. 

Just like the day before... we drove home, changed up, and then hit the road for a little run. 

Big mental toughness gained that day!!!  
In the bank.