Friday, July 29, 2011

The Race of my Life

It was easy for me to write the first two parts of this race report. The words flowed from my heart.  They flowed easily and smoothly.
I have been sitting here looking at the screen for 25 minutes now. 
The Run.
It's not so easy for me to get this out in words to you.
These final 26.2 miles are where it all comes together. You've either set yourself up for success or you risk crumbling into a pile of blubbering mush out on River road somewhere.  Ok, maybe not that bad.  But you do feel like that at times!! 

I burst out of T2 feeling like a million bucks.  Alright fine, maybe only 1000 but I felt good! I was excited to be running, my stomach was happy, I was waving to my family, and I was also in a bit of shock and disbelief over what I had just learned in the tent.

Where was I in this race anyway? It's true, I hadn't really seen any women other than those two I passed on the bike along the way. I saw a whole lot coming at me when we did the 'out and back' before the climb to Wilmington.  I had seen Mary then too. She was looking good. I heard my friend Mike. I saw my friend Bob.  Hmmm......things were beginning to click in my head. I hadn't been caught. I was feeling strong. People were yelling strange comments to me like,"Angela! First woman! Looking good!" 
My head snapped around each time.

At this point, I had a very very serious little talk with myself.  Very serious.  "Ange, this is your race. This is your race to lose or your race to win. Remember those times you allowed your head to go to this place? This unimaginable goal? This thought that maybe, just maybe, if the stars aligned, you Could win this thing? DO NOT let yourself get freaked out with the lead and blow it. Be Smart. Stay steady. Do what you're doing. You are a runner. You're a runner. You're a runner. Steady. Steady." 

I had to bully myself around a bit.  I found myself in a position that as much as I had possible fantasized about, I would never ever reallllllllly imagine could come true.  I'm just me after all.  Just 41 year old Mommy trying to fit in workouts around the kid's lives and family stuff we all have. 

I turned the first corner to run down that giant hill that makes your quads holler at you.  They had a well placed announcer there to help get people UP that hill on the way back through town.  But this time, he yelled my name and number and as I passed two men on the way down he said, "HIT 'EM ON THE ASS ON THE WAY BY!!!"  Ha! I almost did!!!  Too funny. 

Time to run. I felt Fine.  I had way too much 'stuff' in my hands and stuffed in places. My gel flask, a few left over in my back pockets from the bike, two gels in each side of my bra, and a tube of salt tabs along with another stash of salt in my pocket. Typical me to have too much stuff with me!!! I got to station 1 and chucked a few things. 

I made a decision early on to stock up on fluids and calories as much as I could early in the run if I could. My belly was totally clear and happy so I went with that plan. The sun was shining brightly now and it was hot! The big heat wave had broken but mid 80s in full sun on an Ironman run is still hot for a Maine girl.  TIme to be smart.

Each and every aid station:   drink perform, drink water, sip of gel flask, ice stuff anywhere I could, sponges rung out on neck.... Go. I walked as fast as I could be I did stop running each time.

This would later be something that came back to haunt me. Or, did it?

I glanced at the garmin as I ran.  Nearly all sub 7:00 pace.  6:45, 6:50, 7:00, 6:30, 6:45....the thing wobbled back and forth but mainly stayed sub 7.  This was fast for me to start....or was it? I felt easy, in control, and like it was the pace I was meant to do. There are a number of down hill areas on the first segment so that contributed to the fast pace.

I passed Kurt around mile....3? Honestly, I don't know what mile he was at. Right in the middle of that segment anyway.  It was so comforting.  He told me to watch out, it was getting hot, get fluids,salts, calories......  I was on it. I nodded and pushed on.

Next up- moment of truth. 
The 1st turn around.  I allowed myself to stop thinking about the race and just find my legs for the first 5.5 miles.  But when you turn... you are Forced to remember what's happening.

It's when you get to see who is coming to get you!!! And, more importantly, how close they are.

I ran a bit.... and then I saw them. First, a woman in the Ballou Skies kit that I'm familar with from friend and superstar athlete Beth Shutt.  She looked awesome. She honestly looked like she was running a 10K.   oh oh...
and shortly after her was a tiny woman who looked like she was running a 5K!
oh oh again....
I thought I felt good but they looked better.

"Ok, Ange. This is a long long race. Anything can happen to them. Or you. SO BE SMART!!!! Just keep running. Steady and strong. DO not think too much. Do what you're doing. There's a long long way to go." 

So, I continued with my plan. I got in loads of fluids and calories, cooled my body off, and took my salts.

You know what? I felt good. And I was running pretty fast compared to ever before in an Ironman. I was thrilled with my pace. But, you know what??
My legs were KILLING ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I was honestly, in a lot of pain. 
I think it started with my right quad. How do you describe pain? I thought about that while running. I'm not sure you really can unless you're talking to someone who has done this stuff too? Trust me, it just hurts. It really really hurts.

And yet, my head was clear. I had zero GI issues. No foggy- brain-what am I doing out here moments. So, I powered on. I just had to deal with the pain.

I came upon Kurt again. He moved into the road and counseled me on running the shortest line. "Stay in the middle. Keep it short. You're not even racing yet. You're just jogging. Nice and easy. " 
Umm... not racing? Just jogging?

I yelled, "I'M SURVIVING!!!!" 
heehee... I was hurting! I was surviving. But in Kurt's wisdom he wanted me to know that, "well girl that may be true but you have a loooooong way to go and you need to be ready for that!!!" He didn't say that but I know that's what he meant. 

He also told me this, "you're crushing them. You've got this."
I asked, "what do you mean?? Age group? I'm winning my age group?"
"No no..that's not even a race. You're crushing them all. The whole field."
"But there's a chick running me down....."
I allowed myself to think for a minute that she was a Pro? Maybe? Maybe she didn't realy count?

insert inappropriate swear words here.... 

I think people had to tell me this 5-6x before I truly believed it.  Even after hearing it in the T2 tent and as I ran my first miles, I didn't fully accept it in my brain. It was too big for me to wrap my head around.

Somehow I got up the giant hill.  The announcer guy yelled something like, "Use those arms!!" So, I did. It helped a bit. I flashed back to my High School XC coach yelling the same thing as I tried to crest the Spurwink Hills in my hometown. 

I've talked to people who are indifferent about the cheers and supports of family and friends on the course. I could not be more opposite. I LIVED for hitting the screaming crowds in town.  I felt more energy and life come into my soul as I ran ( was I still running? ) near the olympic oval where the finish line was waiting and down the long long road to the next turn around. The streets were lined with millions of serious Iron spectators that pulled me with their energy. I was able to hear and pick out the yells of personal friends and family. I Loved it so much.  thankyouthankyouthankyou if you were one of them and you're reading this. I'll always remember your cheery faces out there during that sufferfest!

Special Needs bags along run course

Ange and Mary before the start (ok, this is out of order but I had to get it in here somehow. Couldnt' have done this without my BFF.)

I made the turn at the 12mile mark and it was time for a reality check again. Where were those fast women running at me?? I ran over the timing mat and was sad that it didn't beep......  I looked down to confirm the chip was still there.

And then, I saw her. That really fast looking run coming at me in the little blue Ballou Skies tri top. Hmm...she still looks pretty damn strong. And then, I saw the other fast woman behind her.

"Ok, Ok. It's ok. Keep running.... You still feel strong. Ignore the pain. Everyone has pain. I'm sure they're tired too. We're all tired and there's 14 miles to go. Anything can happen."

Heading out of town, there was a young woman who jumped out into the road in front of me. She had done this on the first loop too but I didn't think as much of it (except for what she had said- that I was in 1st) until I saw her again.  Why was she taking such interest in me? It was so cool!! She got right in front of me and said, " You still have this! It's YOUR race!!! You have 5 minutes on girl #2!!!"

I smiled and thanked her and you know what, I was in shock about this the whole day. I never really got used to that.
More self talk:  stay in control, get in your fluids, nice stride, keep going, don't freak out, she can get tired too.....,

who am I kidding. I was talking like that the whole time.

And then, just like that,
The pass was made.

Kudos to Kim S. ( need to look up the spelling on that name again Kim!! )  She was running like a jackrabbit. 

I kept my chin up and knew that if I continued on, I was still in the midst of the race of my life.

She was gone in a flash. There was no running side by side for a while playing, "oh yeah? you want to pass me? work for it." Nope. None of that. I'm sad to say. She just flew. by. me.

I came upon Kurt and he didn't mention that. He just told me to follow the tangents, stay smart and this is the best, "You're going to start to feel really bad soon Ange! take care of yourself!"

WHAT  did he just say???  I laughed out loud at that one I think. For a few reasons. First, I already felt really really bad. Well, my legs hurt really bad at least. And second, who says that??? Ha! Kurt! He's such a realist. Cracks me up. Because it's TRUE! If you thought the first 15 miles hurt, wait for the last 11!!! 

I kept running. I passed people all day long and it was a blast. A guy at the next turn around said,"Hey! you must have been a swimmer! look at those shoulders." That made me laugh too. You got it! But now I need to run the last 10K of this Ironman and I wish my X-butterflier shoulders could help me!!! 

Iron-supporter extraordinaire Marisa Rowlson was on the River Road cheering me like wild and snapping photos!! She had taken my kids and Mary's kids the day before and made awesome posters for us and propped them along the barren road for us!

Nick had his in his had at the finish and it read: "Your gunnu win this thing mommy!!! GO GO"   GO" 

Mark and the boys had put a message on the electronic sign on the course. It said, "KickbutAngeMommyluvyour4boys!"

I love my family!!!! 

Somehow, and I don't think it was pretty, I got myself up that hill by the ski jump. It hurt. Big time. I came upon the Marriott and saw my parents!!! They were psyched and told  me I was crushing it. 

I got back to Kurt and he was clearly happy with what was happening. I think I might have had a semi-cry face going on. It hurt really really bad. But my pace, was just fine. Somehow, I was still running and only a bit off the pace I started.

This time, "how many times have you run a 5K Ange? Time to dig deep!!! It's at 9:50 . Let's get in by 10:20 or better!!! "

Time to finish this thing. I looked at my watch. 9:57! not 9:50.

I dug deep.
I got down to the turn around. I thought about the pain. How can I describe the pain? Only 1 mile to go. The glory mile. Ok, maybe I need to go another 1/2 mile and then the glory starts.
I was pushing harder than ever before. 

The emotions were rising inside.

I ran so hard. I entered the Olympic oval and decided that I can't put into words, the feeling you get in the final minute of the Ironman.  You just have to take my word for it.
Everything. Everything I had done over the last year since I signed up for this race. It all came together. I had nailed it. I was the perfect race.

Had I been beat? Yes. She ran me down. But you know what? I still won. I nailed an Ironman. I won my age group by 30 minutes. I beat my 2009 time by nearly 30 minutes. I almost broke 3:30 for my marathon! My family and friends were there to share my happiness and it all felt amazing. 

Total time:   10:19:21  (1:01 swim, 5:37 bike, 3:30 run)
2nd amateur woman
1st age group 40-44
7th overall woman with pro field
83rd finisher with men
and hey, I beat 5 of the male pros!! :) 
Now.....Off to KONA!!!!

Ok, I'm done. That's all I've got.
My favorite people in the world! Love you guys!! thankyou!!!!!!!

now it's time for a little of this stuff with my guys at the lake!

and one more thing!!! Just like it's hard for me to express the finish line feeling, it's hard for me to explain just how much I appreciate the support that was given to me along the way and on that day. GIANT HEARTFELT THANKYOU to all of you.
Mark, Cam, Tommy, Nick for the constant support, love and understanding and never ending cheers along the way, Mom and Dad for 41 years of support and love that is absolutely unmatched and more appreciated than they'll ever know, Jeff,Leigh, Jack Griffin and Audrey- my other family that is there for me at the drop of a hat-love you guys!, Mary- couldn't do it without you girlfiend!!!, Kurt for his excellent coaching ,Bob and Mike for being two of the best friends in the world and who understand what all this takes,  the Hamm family for reminding me to keep having fun!, Jen for two + years of awesome coaching that was capped off by turning me into a runner!,  Norway Savings Bank for the generous sponsorship, and then oodles and oodles of friends and family that were out there on the course and cheering from home. I felt it all and love you all for it.  THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!   This list could go on for miles. I'm a very very lucky girl.  (yes, at age 41, I still call myself a girl. :) )

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Ride --

This is the part that worried me the most.  I know I'm a swimmer, I now think of myself as a runner, but a biker? Um.... I'm still working on that part.  Sure, I can ride. And yea, I do ok out there on the bike. But, 112 miles is a long long long way to go and there are just so many things that can happen. 

This is where your nutrition plan is either nailed or completely blown.  This is where you either ride with intelligence and patience, or you get over excited, pull out an impressive bike split and therefore set yourself up for a nasty and miserable run. This is where you sail around a course on a well tuned machine or (I can say it OUTloud now that the race is over) you FLAT!

As I sit here 4 days later attempting to compose something interesting to read about this LONG leg of the Ironman, I guess I feel a little giddy when I have to admit, I don't have many stories at all about this ride!! 

Let's see.......
after waving to  my 4 Bancroft boys as I cruised down the hill out of town, I put the game face back on. Moments later I came upon Coach Kurt at the base of a hill. I remember almost everything he said to me that day. Except this part. I just plain forgot. He said something to me and off I went.

The first 15 miles includes the long and fairly steep 3 mi descent. It was fine. We had a Headwind on that part!! I was with a group of guys and one of the only women I saw all day on the ride.  I passed her at the bottom of the hill and that was that. I felt strong. Smooth.
I was getting all my fluids in easily. The gels each hour.
Totally uneventful.
I climbed the 11 miles back into town to complete loop 1 of the bike. I got excited thinking about where I'd see my family. 
First, I saw one of my athletes and now friend, Marisa way down on the hill. She was just amazing all weekend. She jumped around and cheered and snapped lots of photos. We slapped a high 5 and I smiled. As I neared the top the scene caused goosebumps on my arms. Those of us riding only had a small narrow hallway to climb through. The crowds were lining both sides of the roads screaming, playing music, banging drums, and hollering words  of support.

As I got to the top I heard familar voices yell, "HEY! That's ANGE!" It was Mary Lou, Erin, Carrie and Stacy. RIght after that I saw Jared. I smiled and felt really happy. I saw my brother and adorable twin nephews in the next 1/4 mile.  His loud screams pumped me up even more.
I skipped the special needs bag stop in a last minute decision.  I looked towards the tent where my family set up camp for the day and saw all the boys holding their most awesome signs and Mark's alwasy audible yells for me.  I had goosebumps. I was flying high. Floating through the Olympic circle. The crowds are indescribable and invaluable to me. 
But before I  knew it, I was descending the hill out of town again and heading out by myself for the final 56 miles.
One last push of personal support as I left town though.
Kurt was still in the same spot at the bottom of the big hill we start with on this two loop course.
In his controlled and steady manner he yelled to me,
"Let's go Ange. Third on the Road. You're THIRD ON THE ROAD!" 

I nodded and settled in with the power meter.
Third on the road????

What does THAT mean???
Third third? Or third in my age group? Or... what does that Mean???? 

I think that's when I realized things were serious. I was in the process of having the race of my life.

Just keep doing what you're doing......that's what I told myself. Just keep doing the same thing.

Surprisingly, I did not stare at my power meter. Kurt told me I wouldn't but I didn't believe him. I had a range that I was supposed to ride in. And, without even thinking about it, I was there. I was right in the zone.  I checked in with the numbers frequently, but never changed what I was doing to get myself there. I just rode the way that I was taught to ride and it magically worked out perfectly. ( Ha! No magic involved of course. It's called hours and hours and hours of very smart, specific training to prepare my body for that day.) 

My nutrition was spot on. Except for the fact that my aero bottle was so damned Stick from the EFS / Perform bottles that it kept getting Stuck in the bottle holder! I dealt with that though.  Oh and there was at least ONE potential close call.
Remember that 3 mile descent??  Loop 2 found me alone on that. No problem. I prefer that. But I guess the critters in the woods had been waiting for a dull spot in the action for a moment to cross becausea  big DEER ran in front of me on the road!
CLOSE one!

It started to get Hot out there around mile 80. I grabbed waters and cooled my neck and head. But not a single cramp, no pain, not one GI issue and that was a huge huge relief. I did hit a few bumps and developed a bad headache.  I thought I had excederin with me.....couldn't find it. Miraculously, it went away.  I tell ya...the stars lined up for me that day. My headaches never just go away.

I think I might have passed one woman while I was out there.  Other than that, I never saw a single female. Not one. Hmmm...

I rode on and off with the same men. Occasionally new packs of men who were blatenly cheating in their little draft packs would fly by.  At one point in particular, after dropping back like I was supposed to, it was time for me to overtake them again.  Now, I realize men don't like to get chicked  but too bad. MOVE OVER! This one group was spread out across the entire road blocking anyone from passing. If they wanted to risk penalty time and ride in a pack, drafting all day, go for it. You know it's wrong but Do NOT get my way and block the road. I hollered a few times, "GET RIGHT!" "I'M on your LEFT!!"  Stuff like that.  I kept the 'cheaters' comment under my breath. Finally, a few moved over a bit and I blew past them. Ha! Take that...
that was the end of those guys..  

I hit mile 100 in 4:53. I was stunned. I ride my centuries around Maine and Rarely can even get under 5:30. I felt like a stud. I was totally enjoying the ride and feeling strong.

And that was that!!! Before I knew it was climbing those hills into town. Marisa was still there even more enthusiastic than before. The crowds were still pulling us up the final hill with their energy. 

I sat up a bit and stretched my aching back. I did have a back pain...that was the one thing. But I just put it out of my mind. Around the Olympic oval, I dared gaze down into the ciricle to imagine the finish just hours away at this point. 

I clicked out of the bike and handed my trusty Cervelo to the best volunteers in the world. I LOVE that they take my bike. I took off my shoes and ran for my bag. Legs were creaky but I was smiling and feeling OK!!

bike split  5:37   (huge huge PR here... 15 minutes to be exact)

red run red run red run.....

I snatched the red run bag from the hook and hit the tent. 


what's going on??

Every single volunteer in that tent stood and clapped as I ran in. What?

No less than 10 women circled me to help. I asked if I was in some strange kind of spa. We laughed.
They said, "We dont' have anyone else to help yet. You're the first one here."

what did she just say?

dry feet, socks on, shoes on, belt on, visor, wipe face, what else what else??? grab flask
I HAD to stop in the bathroom here. I just had to.... it wasted time but it was important. 

when I ran back into the tent after my bathroom break and headed to the other side to exit for the run, they did it again. They all stood and clapped and yelled my name.

It was, to say the least, overwhelming.  I have tears now just remembering and writing about it.

What was going on?? 

I flew out of the T2 tent with the biggest smile in my life.

The guy that rode near me for most of the 112 miles exited at the same time and said, "I just can't get rid of you can I?"

I don't know what I said, but what I was thought was, "Nope, but I'm about to get rid of you."

So that's exactly what I did.

only 26.2 miles to go......

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ironman Race Report- Part 1

The Ironman.
2.4 swim
112 bike
26.2 run

It's a long day. But the training for an ironman is even longer. You make a committment. You dedicate yourself. You focus. You work. Sometimes you struggle. Sometimes you thrive. You never forget. It never leaves your mind. As the months move along and summertime excites the world around you, you know that it means something else. Ironman day is drawing near.

There's excitement but at least for me, there are nerves. Those nerves are welcome now. I'm experienced with this and so, when I feel the buzz as the final weeks approach, I am able to accept that it means my brain and body are where they need to be. My head and my  heart are in the game if I feel the pre-race fluster. When that disappears, if that ever disappears, I will know. I will know it's time to step back. 

July was here in a flash. I continued along with our typical summer activities. Life has been busy and full of good times. However, I slowly but surely drew myself inward and began to slow down. It was time to put all the hard work out there. To get myself to that starting line in full health and full form.

And that's just what I did.

The final week before I left town was hot. The country was hot. Maine was no exception. I scooped up my 3 little guys ( I know, they're not so little now but to me they're my little buddies...) and headed to the place that calms me the most.
The ocean.
They played and I sat. I relaxed. Took my deep breaths. Thought through the day. And then accepted. I was ready. 

The final week was easy. I moved my family of 5 into giant house with Mary's family of 5 and my brother's family of 4! Sounds potentially chaotic, but the house was so big that we were fine. I retreated to my room and organized these bags, sat around on my tush, and reviewed my plan. Over and over. 

Next thing I knew.... it was 3:30 a.m. and I was wide awake and ready for a giant day. 
My pre-race breakfast was white and bland. I ommitted foods I alwasy ate before, added things that are always easy, and attempted one thing that would NOT go past my tongue. No harm done there. Just good to know that I don't need to bother next time! 600 calories of food, 2 cups of my first caffeinated coffee in weeks and bottle full of EFS and pre race later, I was wired and out the door for the Ironman. 

Mark dropped Mary and I off at transition where we immediately found supporter extraordinaire, Marisa. She was a saint all weekend.  From making posters for us with our kids, to photographer along many roads on the course, to blister fixer-upper, med tent communicator, and beer supplier post-race, she ROCKED!  But at 5 a.m. on race day, she was body marking. She wrote our respective numbers on our arms & legs, branded us with our big 41to note our age on our leg, and then with one last big giant hug, we were on our way.
The next 2 hrs are a blur. I was truly buzzed. That caffeine and pre-race combined left my flippin' out a bit. That combined with my usual pre-race energy and I am quite sure I was seriously annoying. Sorry friends.  I pumped my tires, answered questions from people racked with me about where to get body marked ( seriously??), put my garmin on the bike, filled the bento box, and discovered that the soaking rain in the night had oozed into my Run bag that was hanging and my run socks were wet. Duh. Rookie mistake. I doused them with baby powder and prayed. Not much I could do.
We sqeezed our way out of the masses of the transition area ( amen to getting there early!) and walked up to the tent set up for my family for the day. Mary was admiring a great Dane along the way. I discarded all politeness and basically ignored her comments about the dog. I told her I'd check him out tomorrow.  Mary understands.  We laughed about my super fast paced walk and her super slow stroll at that hour. We almost Allllllways have to split up at this point for that reason. She slows down and I speed up as the race start gets closer. 
At the tent, I could barely hold a full conversation with anyone. I saw Mark, the kids, Andy, their kids, my brother, Leigh, their 3 kids, my coach Kurt, my parents, Mike, Bob,Dave, Mike, Stacy, Mary Lou, Carrie, Erin....any more? It was awesome, totally awesome to have them there.  However, there came a point where I had to just go. I said to them, "I need to go. I have to just go walk by myself."

There had been rumors all week about the water temp. According to WTC rules, if the water is above 76.1 degrees, wetsuits are illegal.  People can overheat. On the flip side, some people would struggle big time to swim 2.4 miles without the buoyancy of a wetsuit. 
It was finally made official on race morning.  "WETSUITS ARE OPTIONAL"
What does that mean?
It meant that if you wore a wetsuit you took yourself out of contention for any age group awards or a possible Kona spot. 
No wetsuit for me!!  I was happy and yet, a little sad because this surely meant a slower swim time. 

Those of us without a wetsuit entered the water under a different arch than the others.  The majority of the racers wore wetsuits.  I knew this would be the case.

I found my spot in the water and tried to stay calm. I was shaking. The water felt freezing to those of us without suits. I was so cold. As the clocked ticked down and only 10 min remained before the gun blasted, the masses squeezed in. I slowly but surely lost my space. we were squished closer and closer. At this point, I became afraid.  I had a mini- panic attack. I was unable to tread. I can tread water for an indefinate amount of time. The water is my friend. I am comfortable. But not when people are on top of me. I lost all the room I needed to move my arms and legs in order to stay afloat. This is a deep water start... I needed to float. I begged people to move so I could stay up. But with 1000s of people around all of us, there's not much room for them to go either. I also felt the strap of my timing chip swaying in the water. That chip is normally tucked nicely under my wetsuit.  What if it got kicked off? No chip, no time, no place, no Kona. I was freaked. 
I watched the clock and tried to will it to go faster. JUST START!! I needed to get out of that spot. I tried not to shake. I tried not to panic.

10, 9 , 9, 4,3, 2 BANG!

(did you watch the video? You should. It still makes it hard to takl about the feelings but it shows you a little bit of what it's like. I'd love to see it from underwater.)

I honestly do not think one can put into words the feeling you have over the next few seconds. It's almost intense as the very end of the day. 

I held my head up and searched for my spot.  In my first Lake Placid race, I fought hard for 5 min or so and then I outswam the masses and found nice clean water. I could work hard and swim my swim.
Not Sunday. Because I was slower than normal without my suit, I couldn't break away from the men ( seemed like mostly men) surrounding me with their wetsuits on. I was pushed and pawded. I was so aggitated. I wanted to turn around and belt this one person that was groping me for the first 1/2 mile. But of course, that would only cause more chaos as the people were swarming everywhere.  I just kept going and looking for water.

I wasn't swimming hard. I couldnt'. I just did my best to keep going forward.
THe giant turn buoy approached and while I was on top of it, hitting it as I tried to make a 45 degree angle turn, I avoided gettign shoved under it. I swam far far to the right at this point so I could swim by myself. Most people wanted to swim on the buoy line but I decided it was worth it to go a bit further so I could be by myself.
I obsessed over my ankle strap. It felt loose. I made the decision to stop at the half way mark ( we get out of the water and run back in the other side of the lake for loop 2 ) to check the strap. 
Finally,  I was out on the beach, touched ankle to see it was fine, lifted goggles for a break and dove back in.

My swim was lackluster. I didn't feel fast. I had trouble finding my speed. I swam for a while with a girl in just bathing suit. I imagined myself back in college fighting the girls in the lanes next to me. This pushed me to a faster speed.

My mind was less focused than I expected. I had trouble finding my heart!!!!  I remembered what Michelle Simmonds commented, "You dont' have to feel good all day to have a good Ironman." I remembered that and found peace. It's OK! I didn't know Why I was so blah on the swim, but I tried to ignore it. I pulled hard. I avoided kicking. I needed to save those legs for more work ahead. The wetsuit allows you to relax your legs so I decided I needed to do this wetsuit or not wetsuit. 

By the end, I was feeling fine. My goggles were pushing on my eyes and making my brain feel like it might explode. I almost ripped them off with 100-200 yards to go without even thinkign about it. I started to think about the bike. It was time to get serious. I might be able to just swim  those 2.4 miles but the bike was a different story.
Time to FOCUS if I was going to make it the day I wanted it to be.

Swim Split 1:01   Ok, that's fine. 4 min slower than '09 but sans wetsuit, I'll talk it. Move on.....

I hit the sand and ran out into the screaming crowds. There is Nothing like the crowds of supporters at Ironman. My heart skipped a beat with excitment as I ran through the gauntlet to T1. I bypassed the wetsuit strippers since I only wore the thin speedsuit and began rehearsing the next few minutes in my head. As I made a corner towards the giant tents I heard the Loud holler that I know so well. Mark and my family were up on a hill screaming and waving. We made quick eye contact, I waved and smiled and I knew they were with me. 

Down the rows of bags, blue bike blue bike blue bike, I grabbed the blue bag and ran to the tent.

The transition tent volunteers ROCK! I was greeted at the door and some nice woman ran with me. She dumped my bag and handed me stuff as I needed it. wipe feet with towel, sock on, shoe on, sock on, other shoe on, wipe face, glasses on, helmet on, race belt on, 2 gels in one side of bra, 2 in the other, power bar and 2 more gels in pocket in back. DONE!

down some more aisles and off to my bike.
row 9 row 9 row 9 row 9- I said to myself so I'd remember where to go.
ROW 9! got it!

around the corner, power meter on, down the hill and

GO ANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

yes! there they were again! Mark, Cam, tommy, Nick, Mom!I waved and tucked into aero.

See ya in a few hours!!!  I thought about how psyched the kids were now. The end of the swim meant one thing to them. DONUTS! They have a tradition--- free donuts at the church after the ironman swim.  I smiled. Time for me to work.

I look like I worked a bit harder than I thought I did.

focusing on the next job of the day....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ironman Lake Placid 2011

This race is in the books. It was, quite possibly, the race of my life.

We rolled back into Maine tonight after an incredible weekend of anticipation, nerves, support, hard work, determination, grit, pain, suffering, relief, joy, pride, and so much love from friends and family. 

I'll write my race report out...soon. Very soon. 

But here's the scoop in a nutshell. 

Finish Time:

7th Woman finisher of the race -  Pros and amateurs combined.

2nd Woman Amateur to Finish


1st place in my Division

I'm not sure I can put into words how all of this felt on Sunday.  But as I try to stand up off this couch and get into my bed right now, it's possible my neighbors will HEAR how I feel Now!! OUCH!

I spent every last cent that was in my bank. I'm broke. I'm bankrupt. Nothing was left out there.

It was a Great great day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Who am I???

It's the week before the week of.
On my training peaks plan, I am cautioned to 'keep my emotions in check' the day before the race. What about the week before the week of?
I woke up in the middle of the night last night sobbing. I was crying and crying. I had had a dream. I remember parts of it and now, in retrospect, it was silly. Of course it was. Mark and I laughed at the scene this morning. He had to calm me down and assure me that everything was ok. The dream had nothing to do with Triathlon.  But apparently, my emotions aren't fully in check.

I'm getting there. This race is on my mind 100% of the time. It's all I can think about. And yet, I feel very very scattered. I can't seem to get it all organized. The plan is swirling around in my brain.

I have lists half written on the left of my desk. I have lists printed out in color and bold print on the floor by my bed. I have calendars with notes of what to do each day printed and stuffed in my purse.
It's time to Get it ALL together!!! 

I was thinking through my race plan while I rode today. I was thinking about the day as I talked to a friend. I was thinking about that day as I did the laundry and put aside my favorite bike socks.  It led me to this though.
What is this all about?
Why does this matter so much to me?
Who am I after all?

Well, I'm Mommy to these 3 handsome guys.  Pretty lucky aren't I?

And, I'm the wife of this hot guy.

Those are my primary roles in life. The four guys above keep things in perspective for me and make me want to be the best person I can be.  They really are my world. I love them all.

But deep inside me is an athlete that just can't stop. I just can't seem give in to the idea that age will stop me or slow me down. I refuse to go there. I've been at this game in one form or another for a really long time now but the fire is still smoldering.

I'm aware that it seems insanely  hard core to some. I am aware that the tough sacrifices I make aren't forced upon me. I am not under contract with a college sport any longer. I am not part of a team that I am committed to and thus perform well for at the 'big meet.'
This is my choice. This way of life is something I jumped into 6 years ago and now feel fully engulfed in. 

So....why then?

Why do I wake up at 4:30 most days? Why am I ok with cutting out my morning coffee for a few weeks? Why am I ok with going to bed early on a Saturday night when the rest of my crew wants to stay up 'til the wee hrs?
Those things are just the tip of the iceburg. Just the tip.

I'm ok with it because of what happens here:

and here

and this moment rocks:

Ahh---the Finish line. The best of all.

For me, there is nothing like training and racing. It is who I am. Simple as that.

But that's a bit boring so I'll get a little more into it.

The 9 year old son of some good friends of ours recently said, "Mommy, everybody has something that they are the best at." 
Pretty cool view for a little guy.
While I'm not the best, this is my skill. I love to challenge my mind and my body beyond what I thought it could do. There was a time a while back that I was certain I could not ever ever run a marathon. Now, I've done 9. And I'm about to do my 3rd marathon After swimming 2.4 miles then riding 112 miles.  I squashed that 'I can't' right off my list. 

There is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment.
When racing an Ironman, you have to accept that it's not a normal race. It's a process. It's an entire day. It's an event that requires months and months of physical preparation. It requires months and months if not a full year of training your mind and body to accept that it can go the distance. Nobody just jumps into an Ironman at the last minute. 
The final weeks before Ironman day become almost ritualistic. We try to sleep more. We eat perfectly. We stretch religiously. Roll the muslces. Complete workouts exactly as they are recommended with race specific paces and watts and intervals.  We fine tune. We hold on. We grab the energy.

I can't explain why it's who I am. I feel the pain out on the course. I feel the fatigue. The burning, aching, throbbing quads that are inevitable on the final 10 miles of the run.  I feel the stabbing pain in the gut that sometimes creeps in after 86 miles of riding in a hunched over aero position while attempting to consume 300 calories each hour. I feel the tedium. The digust and the intense need to just get off. the. damn. bike. already after nearly 6 hours of riding at the perfect pace and intesity. I feel the fear and weakness when my competitor is chasing me down. I have those urges to just give up and let it go. I fall into the who cares, I did the best I could mindset. Sure....all that nastiness happens. And those are just the things I can talk about. On Ironman day there's oh- so so much more that happens out there on that course.

Then what keeps me here? What makes it so great?

Ahh... you see those moments are just moments. You know, good always trumps evil right? Yes, it does.
The good stuff?
Go back to those pictures.
The surge of adrenaline as you tread in the water with 3000 other highly tuned athletes ready to launch with all their might towards the end of the lake. You listen to the National anthem, you watch the 1000s of people lining the shores for You.  At that moment, there's a silence. The whole day is ahead and those people are all there to carry you along. Families and friends spend endless hours running to various spots just for a glimpse and to offer their critical support.
There is Nothing like that feeling at the start line. It's overwhelming and it's incredibly invigorating all at once.

The day moves on and on and on and amidst those lows I noted, you have fantastic highs. The hours upon hours upon hours of hard training in all elements pay their dividends. You remember that 90 mile ride in 30mph winds that forced you to reach deeper than you knew was there. You remember the 100 miles you rode in the cold nasty rain mixed with snow. Your legs respond. You fly up hills that just months ago forced you to yank on your bars and waiver around the road.  You hit the run and your legs are There! You can run and it's all good!! You have 1000s of people lining nearly every road cheering for you!!!  Mile 13 comes and you see the faces of the 3 best little boys on earth and they are watching THEIR MOM attack 140.6 miles with a smile. They are learning that nothing can stop you if you want it. Someday, they will get it. I know they will. 

The high that surges into you after fighthing through race day lows ( and they always happen ) is euphoric I think. It leaves you with more drive and fight and makes the final mile so incredibly rewarding. To work and work and work day after day after day after day for something that is really really tough to accomplish, is like nothing else.

That is what keeps me in check this week. I remember the hard work. I know I have put in the time and effort. I will come around the corner into the Olympic Oval of Lake Placid and feel that incredible emotion of accomplishment.
I know I can do it. I have this in me. I have big goals for that day. This is Ironman #3 for me. If I follow my plan, the distance will happen. I need to make the rest of it fall into place this time.  It's a big challenge.
I'm ready and I'm excited.
This is who I am.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Training for an Ironman while summer whirls around me....

Summer in Maine. It's the best.  Our weather is so neurotic. Seriously.  We go from 50s and rain for weeks to 80s and 90s in a matter of hours. But let me tell you. When it's good, it's good. The gorgeous summer days are one reason I could never leave Maine. There is nothing as serene and lovely as a warm sunny day on the ocean. Or the lake. Or... you get the point. They make up for all those nasty days we endure during some of the other seasons.

As I alluded to in my last post, it's been wild and crazy around our home. Actually, everywhere But our home. We were gone for a few weeks....
Cape Cod, Lake Placid, Wolf Neck, camp on the Island, and now the boys are off camping with some friends.  It's been great. So fun. But I'm sick of packing and I've missed my own bed. 

Today is catch up day.

I'll catch you  up now with a few random bits from training.

It's July 6th.  Ironman day is July 24th. Holy ----
Yup. It's here.


I don't have the same fear that I am sure I had in July 2009 but there is a definate angst in my body right now. I feel 100% ready.  My body is in great shape.  I'm not injured. I've lost a bunch of weight ( though not all the way where I want to be yet) and my workouts are going smoothly. 
And yet, race day. You just never know what's going to happen.  Fear of the unknown. I guess I have that.

Let's back up. I want to share an experience I had since it's a new one for me.

A few weeks ago, I had a 2 hr run on the plan. Not too bad. The weekend had been cold. I spent hours curled up under a blanket and by a fire at our camp.  Now, four days later it was super humid and 90 degrees.  Because it's summer and I often rely on a babysitter and his schedule, my run was starting at 11:00.  Prime heat hours from 11-1:00.
Here's how it went down. First a 60 min bike. I took 2 bottles with me. One with EFS and one with water.  I drank them both so I'd be nicely prepared for my run.
I spent 15 min at home changing and yes, drinking some water. I was thirsty. I knew I would Get thirstier.  So I stocked up.

I left home with my 4-bottle fuel belt. 2 x 8 oz of water and 2 x 8 oz of EFS.  (for those of you who aren't familiar with EFS it's a sports drink by First endurance and it's PACKED with electrolytes. I'm a relatively new user of this stuff. It even tastes salty.  Therefore, no salt tabs for me.)

I had a gel as I left home too.....with water.  I felt ready!

Two miles in-- I was OFF! You know that feeling when you can't focus? you feel spacey and lost? You might even tip over? But I just had a gel! There was no excuse or good reason and yet I could not fight it. I headed into a dunkin donuts and took a deep breath in the cool a/c bathroom. I had another gel, drank a bit of water (saving EFS for later when I needed it?), used the bathroom and regrouped. There...what was that about?

Ten min later I felt fine. I was running well. No big deal. Just cruisin' along.......
Man it was hot. And humid. I was a big sweat ball. But, I was still fine.

I had my next gel at 50 min even though I had just had one around 15 min.  I had water. Probably a sip or two of EFS. 

I just continued to run without much ado. I drank out of the bottles as I went along. The waters were gone by 10 miles. I had 1.5 of EFS left I believe.
I bumped into a friend who was driving by. I stopped at his car to say Hi and prayed that he'd  have a cold water bottle and I could steal some. But he didn't. I had trouble catching my breath at that point. Looking back, I realize all I really said to him was how hot I was feeling. 

Just keep going. You'll be fine. Legs were still fine.  Not too far to go.

Hey! There's Mark! I saw my husband on the next road. ( it was lunch hour for everyone) He DID have a really really cold bottle of Poland Spring water. perfect! thanks hun!! You can buy more right?? I was soooooo thristy!!!! I drank and drank.  And then a bit more.  ahhh.... so good. 

I told him I only had 30  min let and yes, I'd call him when I got home. 

My run had a mission. After 1:50 I was supposed to warm down the final 10.  I was fading.  Those last few min to get to 1:50 were horrible. I was suffering. I was on a road with NO shade, lots of cars, and no friends to spray me with a hose.  My feet hurt. I wanted to be done more than I ever remember. I got to 1:50 and it was near the office of the friend I had seen at mile 10. Isn't he headed back to work yet? Why wasn't he driving by? I was 100% sure I was going to make him drive me home. I had 3 miles to go and it was all up hill. No joke. I thought surely I would die.

I walked. I bent over.
I saw stars. The road was so so long. I could see the turn I had to take and it was 18 miles away. Maybe more.
I walked and walked. And then trotted.
I never ever walk. Ever.
I finally got to the turn. only 1.8 miles to go.  I wasn't sure I could get there. A big loud dumptruck screached by me. I almost  flagged him down for a ride. Who Does that?? Me. I almost did it.

A hose. I had to find a hose. I needed more water. I needed it fast.
Finally I saw a house that looked vacant. And a hose! Allelujia!!!! I cranked it up and soaked my head. And then, I drank and drank more water.

All 4 bottles were empty now. Even the 2 I had Refilled with water when I had seen Mark. 
The remainder of the run was more of the same. I truly staggered up the road. I was not coherent. It took all I had to remain upright. I saw neighbors and wondered why nobody was picking me up as I was bent over with my hands on my knees.  I'm never like this guys!! HELP ME! It was miserable.

I walked into the driveway and had to put on the everything is ok face for the Babysitter. I paid him and thanked him and nearly cried as he walked away. I was gasping for air. All I could say was, "Nick, could you please fill a cold tub for Mommy and get me some water?"  My little 7 year old is always right there to help me. Bless his little heart.
I crawled into the tub without taking off any clothes and thanked God I made it home. I called Mark and told him it was Hell but that I was home.  He had driven out of town for something but said he'd worried why 30 min turned into 60. I told him I was hoping he'd sent out a search crew. It was that bad.

After  cooling off.. I thought I was ok. I was beat but ok. I was cooler and home. I could breath. I wasn't thirsty anymore.
I sat down and logged my workout and wrote a few details about my hell run. 
Kurt emailed back asking me for a total electrolyte count.
 I have to count?

And then things got weird. I was Intensely sleepy all of a sudden. I had trouble keeping my eyes open. I was nauseus. I was absolutely unable to concentrate on counting # of electrolytes. It took ALL of my brain power to get through that.

I told him this as we emailed about a few things.  I felt sick. It was worsening. 

His words? "GET SALT! STOP DRINKING WATER!!!"  He said, "get pickles, pretzels, salt tabs, EFS and do it now."
Um... ok.
Hyponatremia.  Shit.

Little Nick pulled through again.  Within 1 min he had a handful of pretzels. But then he reminded me about the pickles I wouldnt' buy for him the day before. "See Mommy!!! You should buy pickles because sometimes you NEED them and I ALWAYS love them!"  touche' Nick, Touche'.

I recovered. I was ok after a few hrs. The kids wanted to go to the library but I had to wait a while before I felt like I could drive. Kind of scary really. 

This has never happened to me. I completely over did the water without keeping up with the electrolytes on a super hot and humid day. I messed up.  I know better. But when I'm thristy and hot, I want water. Endurance athletes need to watch out- keeping that balance is critical and can save your life.

That was ONE bad run.  But I learned from it so it was worth the experience I guess.  I've had some excellent workouts and runs since that day and I'll have to share another time. This post got too long. I'll leave you with a few pictures from last week on the shore of Maine.


what the boys do on the shore all day....
TV? what's tv?

My ice bath at the cottage. A little Sea water to heal the legs.

Heading off to Farm camp. This was taken moments before little Nick Tipped over from the weight of his back pack.