Monday, September 17, 2012

One more burst...

I did something on Saturday that wasn't necessarily the smartest athlete move but it certainly feels like it was the best thing for me.

Saturday was the annual Lobsterman Tri in Freeport, Maine. I do love the race. I've done it a number of times. Not last year, because I was getting ready for Kona. And this year, it wasn't on the plan because it was only 6 days after the Vegas race.  My husband Mark, however, does it each year without fail. My brother and sister in-law often do it and lots of friends too because it's basically the last Tri of the season here in Maine. ( it was in the 30s here last night..... time to get out of the open water!)
Also... In a way, I grew up in Freeport.  I didnt' live there but my Grandparents did, my parents do now, we have a cottage on the point across the way from where the race is held. The venue is gorgeous being right on the ocean. There's really no better place for a race in Maine.  You get the point, I hate to miss it. However, I was prepared to spectate and cheer for Mark this year.
But then.. my brother Jeff had a great idea! Let's RELAY it!!! YES! I honestly didn't hesitate. It was his 40th Birthday that day and for his own personal reasons, doing the whole SBR wasn't in his cards.  He asked our friend Paige to swim ( great swimmer ) , Jeff would bike and he wanted me to run.
Ok... well... hmm... 6 days post a Half Ironman. Yikes. I knew it wasn't ideal. Or Smart.  As hard as it sometimes is, I DO appreciate and respect the need for rest and recovery post- long endurance race.
Nah.. I'll do it! What a great way to help my little bro ring in his 40s with my parents there, my kids, Mark on the course, I thought it sounded like fun.

Race day came and while I could walk just fine by Wed, there was still loads of fatigue in my legs.  When I jogged to warm up, well, it wasn't pretty.  No light and fresh race day feeling for me!
That's ok.. I would the best I could.

Paige had a good swim and handed the chip to Jeff.
Jeff Rocked his bike and came in several minutes off his PR for that course and ahead of when I expected him.
My turn.

As soon as I hit the race course, something happened.

I had another chance. This was my official last chance to end 2012 racing on the note I wanted to end on. My race in Vegas was fine.  Sure. The times were quite a bit off my norm and certainly off what I hoped to do. I knew half way into that race to flip the  garmin around and not worry about it. I didn't realize nearly everyone was slower than normal but I did know the field was suffering. I knew after to keep it all in perspective. I am mostly happy with my 11th place finish at a big World Championship event. (The sting is the fact that girls #9 & #10 were RIGHT there within a min or two.... that bugs me... )   I walked away from that day knowing I gave me all I had, that day. I know in my head that 107+ degree heat for someone from New England, is simply, very tough.  And that is that. I was sucked dry and as a result...

I could NOT run hard!!!!  

THAT is what was bugging me. I wanted to RACE that run and push myself out of my own skin. That is how I race 70.3 races. I am running my heart out. I don't pace.. I don't hold back... I am racing hard.
On 9/9, in Vegas, I wasn't doing that. I was strong and steady and proud of that, but I was not racing with the push that I usually have.

So... when I hit that course on Saturday, despite my fatigued legs all body from the week before, lightning zipped through me and I took off.

I was a woman on a mission. I ran my heart out. Did I PR a 10K? No.. but I am really happy with what I did.  I pushed beyond what I thought I could do that day. In fact, around mile 1.5-2 my quad started to seize. The tired legs were there but I had pushed that so so far back in my brain that I didn't notice. But my left leg was rebelling. I was still moving 'fast' but I was limping. The pain was intensifying and the muscle was growing tighter and tighter. I wondered what would happen.. if I'd be forced to back way off and even walk. I tried to ignore it and magically, it loosened enough to hammer on.
Mile 4 is my favorite with a 6:07 split! I was psyched!!
I chased down anyone in front of me ( I DID have the R on my leg for the relay so it wasn't the same as really chasing them down but it was a game I was playing in my head.)
I wanted revenge.. revenge on that run last week. I needed to get out there, run my a-- off and prove to myself that yes, I can in fact, Still run hard and fast.  I got through that 10K in 42:20 and feel so so happy and like I redeemed myself a bit. In my own head... it just made me feel good. I was pushing hard and running out of my comfort zone for that day.  Just as a race should be...
THANK YOU Jeff for getting us on that relay!!! It was JUST what I needed.

Now.. I really rest....

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ironman 70.3 World Championships 2012--

What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas. Isn't that what they say? I'd like this one to stay there please.

I was naive going into this race. I was level headed
and calm. The stories of heat and hills didn't worry me.  Why not? I can't answer that. I rationalized that the dry air vs humid air we have here in the Northeast and that I've dealt with twice in Kona is much worse so the desert heat would be tolerable.
Yeah, right.

Mark and I travelled alone and arrived Thursday night around 6:00. When we walked outside from the airport, it hit me in the face. HEAT! It truly felt like an oven door had opened and I was thrown in. We got in the car and it read 99. Ok..I'll get used to it in a few days.

Friday and Saturday were typical pre- race days.  I was really happy to have some Maine / NE friends there with me!!  Two TriMoxie Athletes ( Marisa and Tammy ) earmed spots to race at the Mooseman 70.3 in June so they were there and our good friends Mary Lou Lowrie and Nat Steele were there too!!  MaryLou raced there last year so they had some great advice and tips for us.  I really enjoyed everyone's company and support those two days.  The weekend was definitely fun because they were there.

Let's get to the race.
Up and at 'em at 3:40 and into the transition area for final preparations. Nat followed us down bright and early and got our tires pumped. (Thanks Nat!!!!! ) I was so relieved about that.. I am uneasy pumping my disc so this was comforting to have his caring hands on the rig before I hit the roads.
One snaffu....  my garmin was frozen. It turned on, but never left the garmin welcome page.  Hmm...
I wandered around trying to see if a new spot would activate it. nothing. I looked for Nat. He was gone. So... I had a chat with myself.  And actually, I was fine. I was completey calm about it. No power. Ok... Ange, you can ride your bike. Go out and just do what you know how to do. I know what it supposed to feel like. I know what to avoid and what to aim for by feel. I truly didn't really care!!! I was mostly annoyed that I wouldn't have the computer to tell me what mile I was on. THAT helps me. I plan fueling and aid stations and count down to the run.  But, it would be fine.  I was truly 100% ok with it.

I was heading back to T1 to snap it on the bike anyway when I saw Tammy's husband, Mike.  I said Hi and then remembered...HE is a computer whiz!  Suddenly, I cared again.  And, he fixed it. :)  Almost. It was completely reset and all data from the past erased. That's ok. The main thing is that it wasn't synced to my SRM so I would have to do that when I hit the course.


I got ready to go. We were lined up in order of waves ( I was #8) and let into the water with 5 min to go. The wave ahead would go... we'd line up at the in water start and then go from there...
Mark had a great view on the bridge of the hotel overlooking the swim course. Here we are lined up and ready....

Corralled for the swim start 
that's me waving.... feeling nervous for sure... but ready to go


I didn't know I was being watched with a zoom lens.... 

Focusing... or.... wondering if I REALLY had to get into that brown water.... 

Time to dive in and line up... this photo doesn't show it but the water is Brown... it's not  good. It smelled and was full of dirt and who knows what else....  I hesitated here before taking the plunge... 

40-44 women at the start 
And we're OFF!! That's my left arm right under the flag. 

that's me in the middle... my right arm is in the air...
Hi Mark!!
looking off the bridge at part of the swim course
 the swim course

THIS photo shows the water color a bit more.. That's my trying to pass someone from an earlier wave. You couldn't see anyone until you were ON them... there was zero visibility in the water.

The swim: 

I took off in the front of the pack and pushed really hard... I felt good. My body responded well and things were great. I was up front with another girl and worked to stay with her. I breathed on both sides here and there to attempt to find my position in the pack. I couldn't see very much. Besides the fact that the water was brown and smelly ( yes, it smelled ), it was dark. It was truly impossible to see Anyone until you literally hit them. No bubbles.. nothing. So, I tried to look around a bit but it was useless.  I just swam hard and sighted the best I could.  I got kicked or punched, not sure which, in the mouth and thought about how a fat lip would look. I forgot about that quickly but my lip is still sore.  The swim is always a bit of a punching match.  But after a few minutes I was alone. Again.  I had clear water 95% of the time which is nothing to complain about.  My pool was closed the last 3 weeks of the season so I did nearly all my swimming in open water. I felt natural out there because of it but wished I'd had more opportunity to push the speed. In the end, my swim was fine.  29:XX which is a min or two slow for me but who really knows. You never know what line you take, how it's measured, how the 83 degree water temp affects you, and so on... all courses are different so as long as I was under :30 and in the lead pack, I was fine. It's a long day and this was just the start. 
I struggled to get up the ramp at the finish because it went from Nothing to the edge which was way up in the water.. you had to climb up on it.  Oh well.
The run to T1 is Long!! I had a knack for choose long T1 runs this summer.  Mont Tremblant, Rev3 and now this. I gathered myself and got ready for the ride. The ride...that's the part that I stress about every time.  No looking back now.. time to ride. 
I took time to get arm coolers on and was out pretty fast after that. Again, another LONG run UP a steep hill with switch backs to the mount line. I was stuck behind 3 people who were basically Walking?! I finally  worked my way around them and ran out.
Good... let's go. 
you start UP a hill... for about a mile? Mark and Nat were on the side of the road and I yelled Hi.  They're awesome. Love those 2 out on the course together. They end up everywhere and are always so loud and supportive and it's just comforting to see friendly faces.  

I guess it was good to climb for a bit because I could mess w/ the darn garmin. I had to toggle through all sorts of pages/ settings etc to have it Search for my power and then had to reset the view so I could see the power instead of "Time of day" or "accuracy." Grr... WHY did it stop working on RACE day??? It worked fine the day before!! 
Finally, it was set. Though it wasn't correctly set to 'me' with my settings. Oh well... I had my distance, cadence, and power. I was fine. 

So.. off I rode.  In and around some loops to get us in the other direction and headed towards Lake Mead National park.  Uncharted territory.  

I was happy. Feeling good. I did have a cramp in my right side. Hmm... I ignored it. 
At the beginning of this ride, we go down...... and we go fast. As we entered the park, the terrain engulfed me. The mountains are massive. For as far as you can see it's the red rocks of the desert. I am not sure I can describe it and I have no photos because, well, I was riding and there are no spectators there. All I could think of was that it felt like a Ride at Disney's epcot center. You know those 'rides' that make you feel like you're flying through some landscape of the earth? It felt like that. I loved it. 

And then.... boom. The road turned and the descent was done. Time to climb... and climb... and climb... and climb. 
Did we Ever get to go down again? Not really. Maybe a little. There was NO point where we could just cruise and ride. It was the slowwwwwest ride of  my life. The temps were climbing  and there we were. OUt in the desert.  The park was open to the public for recreation and trucks w/ boats on trailers were flying by us with no regard. I was scared more than once.  Really? For this World Championship event they couldn't cut us a little slack for a few hours?  

I didn't feel bad... but I also didn't feel great. I just felt ...there. I was there. I was drinking a lot. One thing the Dry air did is cause my mouth to just feel parched constantly. I felt like all the fluid was being sucked out of my body. My lips were cracking... my eyes were stinging.  I was completely on top of taking salt, and gels and drinking loads of fluids.  

But when I saw the 28 mi mark on my computer and looked at the time... I swore. are you kidding me???? 

Can we please stop climbing so I can RIDE THIS BIKE FAST!!!????    
I was getting a bit grouchy... and then apathetic.... and then mad... and then apathetic.. and then I'd rally and see what I could make up and then I'd become resigned to the fact that this was NOT going to be a good bike split. 
was it just me? or... is everyone going slower than normal??
Finally... we were out of the park that wooed me 45 miles earlier. I wanted out. We were on our way to T2 which was in a different location than T1.  As a result, what went up didn't necessarily go down and the  elevation gain was in fact more.  Probably not by much but still.  Later, I was also reminded about the altitude compared with home. Ok... good to know that was another factor. And, of course, the heat. My garmin recorded a high of 97 on that part of the day. Just getting started.  

The last few miles were strange. I just couldn't move fast. I felt fine but I wasn't going fast... power was low and well... blah. I rode into T2 and was happily surprised to see Mark and Nat again.  Again, they lifted my spirits.  

They took my bike and yikes.... the body was trashed. My lower back had been hurting during most of the ride and when I got off, that + my legs both hollered NOPE! NO running for you!! great.

I went into the tent and regrouped. I got a bunch of ice into my shirt and started to head out.. and get this. That garmin read: Low battery. WHAT???  It was fully charged when I dropped the bag off. I am guessing it got bumped in the process and ran low. Luckily, I guess, it did work through the whole run. 

I took off from the tent and yay! I could in fact run. I was ok!! I ran out with a girl in all back whose bib read: Amy. She was FLYING!! I mean, Flying.  I even said something to her because I was so impressed and expected to see her disappear. And, she did. temporarily. 

It's a strange run course. You start down hill, turn back about a mile later and head up hill for 2 miles, back down for 2, up for 2... three times. Something like that. It winds around here and there. Some parts are worse than others. At one point you run around the amphitheater near the finish on concrete and it's Scorching hot on that surface and SO bright.

The run went something like this.... 

I felt good at first. I was surprised.  I knew I had 3 loops so I made a plan. I'd run the first loop and get my legs in run mode, get cooled off, start with calories and see how I was doing. Loop 2 would be hard, the middle miles always are. So I would concentrate and focus and work on digging deep. This would be the fight.  Loop 3.. .bring it home. Give it all I had and get in there.  The big picture plan was to start picking off the girls that had passed me on the bike. I wanted it back. 

It started out just like that.  First, I started passing some men. Tall skinny fast-looking men that I KNOW had passed me on the bike. It always happens.  byebye... :)  Mark and Nat were standing on the road at the beginning of the loops so I saw them a lot.  I smiled some, told them I was hot, told them it was kicking my a--, and tried to find out how Marisa and Tammy were. I had been seeing MaryLou so I knew she was ok.  

Up the first section and time to go down... yay! Down hill running.. .time to go fast. 
Um.. Legs? Let's GO! Instead.. I felt like I was running in molasses.  sigh... 
This must be at the beginning...

I just persevered and hoped it would get better.  Instead, it got hot. Very very very hot. Hotter than anything I've ever felt. No, it wasn't humid. But the heat and sun were So incredible intense.  Turns out, it was107 degrees. I have never run in air like that in my life.  It sucks you dry.  

I stopped and walked at every aid station. I was very aware of keeping myself cool and hydrated. For performance and for safety.  I put ice where I could and carried it in my hands, I dumped water on myback on my head and drank some, and I drank perform every single time. I popped salts too.  Over and over and over.   

My running was ok. It wasn't fast, but it was good. I was very very steady and felt quite strong. I felt in control. Again.. I couldn't turn on my speed like I like to in the run. I usually run So hard in these half ironmans but that day, I knew I had to just stay consistent so I could survive in the heat. 

I'm not sure exactly where, but around mile 5, I passed fast Amy! Ha! I was psyched. I passed a few more ladies in my group as well.  Our ages were nearly all worn off so I was going by memory and gut feeling.  I was definitely passing a lot of people who were shuffling along. The whole field was wearing down in the sun.   So while I was slow, I felt like I was holding on stronger than many.  


I wonder now if I was too careful? Was I too conservative with it? Did I really need to take so much time cooling? At the time, I do think it's what I needed.  I kept with my plan too. I ran every single mile, I ran up all the hills and I pushed harder on the way down. But boy... those stops added up.  Around mile 8 I moved to coke. I wasn't miserable with the perform, in fact, it tasted pretty good. But, I thought it might give me an extra burst. Unfortunately, I got to the next mile and they were out. Out of ice. Out of coke. Next station.. same... grrr...
Mile 10 came along and without warning, or change in effort, my heart started racing. Things got a little blurry and I felt sick.  oh oh..
An aid station was within 1/2 mi so I got myself there and did the whole cooling thing again. It helped.
Alright Ange,   5k. Bring it in.
I ran as hard as I could at that time. It wasn't fast but again, I was moving. My pace was hugely decreased by all my stops but it was what had to happen in those temperatures. It was an inferno. It was intense and absolutely burning hot air.  This Maine girl, with 3 kids who need her, had raced a smart and careful race in that heat and I had to respect myself for that. I had to cut myself some slack for the results.

I was finally left with 1 mile to go and I pushed so hard.  I had a feeling I saw 2 ladies my age JUST up ahead but I couldn't quite get them. If only... if only I hadn't slowed for all that ice. No Ange...don't go there. I had to get that out of my head. I did what I had to do at the time. I did the best I could at that time.

In the end, I was 11th in my age group. I've done 10 Half Ironmans if I am counting correctly.  My time was about the same as #1. Hmm...
I'm a much much stronger athlete now. So, that stings. And yet I know that if I did this course, in these temps  way back, that time would have been waaaaaaaaaaay slower.
I am frustrated that the conditions resulted in a bike and run time that I can't even really look at. And yet, I also appreciate that it wasn't just me. I spoke to many many others after the race and it was across the board. We all said the same thing.  This World Championship course in Vegas is Not a PR course.. it is tough. I think possibly, the toughest course I have ever done. Yes, the course is harder than Kona.  It had the feel of an Ironman.  A 140.6 mile Ironman... I can only speak for myself but my mind was on survival mode. It was all about staying strong and steady and tough.  Fast racing had to take 2nd fiddle that day.  It wasn't meant to be.  I wish I could walk away from it feeling 100% satisfied and psyched to end the season that way.  Instead, I feel accomplished and proud to have held on. I am being forced to think of this race with my head rather than my heart. My heart wanted more. I think I had more. I know I let myself off the hook here and there while on the course because I knew I couldn't win against those elements. I backed off in order to be smart and safe.  I guess that means I'm growing up a little? Or, did I weaken? No.. .I am not weakening.  I learned a few lessons and I conquered something new and harder than ever before.  Days like that drain me. Some of my love for racing  was sucked out of me that day. I felt powerless when I couldn't fight back even though I wanted to.  It confused me and has left me wondering... what's next?

As each day passes, I feel myself being pulled just a bit back in the right direction. The direction I am familar with.  I need a break right now but I am not done yet. I have a bit more fight left in here and that's what I intend to do.

Sunday humbled me.  I've had a number of great races over the past couple years and I guess in some ways I was due for a wake up call.

It was what it was. Not my fastest and not perfectly executed but I know I was strong mentally and somewhat physically that day so I have to walk away with my head up.

I have the greatest family... and this is what matters most.  thanks Cameron, Tommy & Nick