Race Report: Cloudsplitter 100k

Last year, immediately after completing the 50k distance at Cloudsplitter 100 in Norton, VA, I decided that I wanted to attempt the 100k this year. These races always seem so far away when you sign up for them and before you know it, they’re here. After Ironman Canada, I basically had two months to focus on Cloudsplitter, and those two months really flew by. All of a sudden, race week was here and Jon and the pups and I were headed to Norton!

Stepping up to the 100k distance, there were lots of new elements included in my race planning. One of those is that I would have two friends who would “pace” me for portions of this year’s event – Kim and Jess. For me, that would mean keeping me company throughout the night, reminding me to eat and drink, and keeping me moving, although not really at any specific-pace.

Kim arrived in Norton on the Thursday night before the race, so she joined me for my shakeout run on Friday morning. During the run, who did we see but my favorite City Manager, Fred, who I met at the race last year! We chatted briefly and then went our separate ways, but I wanted to mention this because Norton is such a special place and I hope that comes across in this post. Everyone is so darn friendly and the fact that Fred remembered me from last year is emblematic of that. In any case, after the run I got my feet up because of my wonky knee, and Jon and Kim headed to Walmart to do some shopping. I needed some food for the crew stops and Jon wanted some warmer clothes because the weather was colder than we expected and would be even colder on the mountain where he would be crewing for me. When they got back, we drove to two of the three crew stations that they would be driving to during the race.

Checking out Bark Camp Lake, which I would visit twice during the race.

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Friday evening was the athlete briefing. Jess joined us for that, and I picked up my bib – number 1000! We all enjoyed the bluegrass band and a warm welcome from the City of Norton. My favorite part of the athlete briefing again this year was hearing from the biologist about what a special place High Knob is biologically for both plant and animal species.

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I did not sleep well on Friday night. I normally don’t have sleep issues before a race, but this time I did. After lots of nervous tossing and turning, the alarm went off and it was time to get moving with my usual race morning breakfast and routine.

One of the many awesome things about Cloudsplitter is that the race doesn’t start until 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, so we didn’t have to rush. We were able to walk to the start from our hotel, which made race morning super easy. It was definitely chilly, so it was nice to wait inside at the Farmer’s Market until the race started.

Nervously waiting for the start.

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The first segment of the race, just under 10 miles, went perfectly for me! I was 100% on point with my nutrition. I was running everything that was runnable and speed hiking anything that was too steep or rocky to run. I even met a super friendly woman who was doing the 50k and we chatted about races and it really helped pass the time.

Before I knew it, there was my crew at the first aid station at High Knob Recreation Area, and I was filling up on a food and on my way again.

Chatting with my new friend Shelley who was racing the 50k.

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I felt similarly strong during the second segment of the race. My nutrition was spot on and my energy was high. I had one scare with the knee around mile 15 where it really started acting up, but I was able to keep moving and get through it. I saw my crew again at Bark Camp Lake at just under 20 miles for a short stop and on I went.

The third segment of the race was extremely challenging for me. This section had something like 30 water crossings (it felt like a billion trillion, but I’m guessing 30 is more accurate…). You had no choice but to get wet at several of them. I fell twice slipping on wet rocks. I knew I was slowing down a lot and I was starting to get mentally tired. Between watching my feet, watching the trail markings, and navigating the water crossings, my brain was starting to get fried.

I got back to Bark Camp Lake at just under 30 miles and had to use the bathroom, so I handed Jon my poles, ran to the bathroom, and then tried to quickly fill up on food/drinks/gear for the next segment of the race. This was a disaster. I was mentally drained and was digging through the giant tub of food, clothes, and equipment looking for my headlamp, chews, etc. I couldn’t find anything. I was frustrated and complaining to Jon about why he didn’t have everything laid out for me to just grab and go (yes, I should have been thankful he was there doing this for me and I’m not proud of losing my temper with him). Things were spilling everywhere, including an entire bag of pretzels. I was so frustrated and upset that I left the stop without my poles and by the time I realized it, I didn’t want to back track.

This is when my mental downward spiral started. I was so mad at myself for leaving the poles and at Jon for not having my stuff laid out. I was mad that I didn’t have a pacer (I could have had a pacer for this section of the race, but lost one of my pacers a few weeks before the race). Not only was I mentally in a bad place, but also physically. I had been relying heavily on the poles to keep weight off my knee, on the steep inclines and declines, and during the water crossings, and not having them definitely slowed me down. It was starting to get cold and dark. I stopped eating. I started walking sections that were runnable. I mentally quit. I sent Jon a text saying I would be dropping out at the next stop.

In ten years of racing, I have only DNFd one race EVER and I was literally unable to walk in that one because of injury (this was during a marathon back in 2012). I am not a quitter. But I really, truly, was ready to pull the plug in this moment.

Just before I got to the next crew stop (back at High Knob Recreation Area around mile 49), I ran into Jon. He had walked on the trail in his street clothes to meet me. I told him I was stopping.

He said exactly the right thing. He said that I just needed to get to the crew stop and eat some food and there was no pressure to do anything. He didn’t say I had to finish. He didn’t say Kim and Jess came all this way and would be disappointed not to run.

Jon said I could call Alyssa (who was in Hawaii for the Ironman World Championships) if I wanted to, and that she said I just needed to eat (I immediately regretted giving him her cell phone number…).

I cried a little. Jess and Kim were asking how to help. They gave me some space which was exactly what I needed. I ate some food. And the next thing I knew, I was changing my clothes to continue. I still don’t know exactly how that happened.

Jess getting ready to run with me. She brought me back from the brink!

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Jess and I left together around 8:00 p.m. and she was amazing. I was in so much pain by that point and in such a mentally bad place, but she was playing music and telling me stories and making me laugh. She took over navigating so I just had to follow her and could give my brain a break. She navigated all of the water crossings, so I just needed to follow her lead and could completely stop thinking. She took all of the stress off of me and put it on her shoulders and there is absolutely zero chance I could have finished without her.

The section I ran with Jess ended up being longer than we expected (the entire course was long to begin with (68.5 miles for a 100k), and then was longer still). We had also gotten lost a couple of times and I have to give a shout out to Hannes Gehring, the guy who came in second in the 100 miler, for helping us get back on course when we got turned around at one of the water crossings and were literally walking in circles. You should follow him on social because he is pretty amazing – uphillswagger on Insta.

We kept thinking we were close to the crew stop and it wasn’t coming. I was freezing and starving. I think I talked to Jess about soup a dozen times.

We got to the next stop – Devil’s Fork Parking Lot – around 3:00 a.m. and I put on a zillion layers of clothes. I ate some soup and a warm grilled cheese sandwich. All of the volunteers were amazing at this race, but the ladies at this station were particularly awesome. I sat by the fire a bit to try to warm up, but the minute I walked away from it, I was cold again. I wanted to leave with a towel wrapped around my legs I was so cold (which, yes, was ridiculous, but I really wanted to do it). Instead, Jon gave me his brand new Walmart sweatshirt to tie around my waist to keep my butt warm (this idea was brilliant!). This photo really says it all. I was not in a good place.

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Kim was on deck and off we went. It started raining shortly after we started. That was the last thing I needed, but luckily the course was quite easy terrain-wise in this section and we were just able to speed hike without having to worry about water crossings or tricky terrain. I was getting colder and colder and wishing I had more clothes. Moving quickly was the only thing keeping me warm, so I just tried to keep the pace up. This last part is honestly a bit of a blur because I was just so tired and cold. Have I mentioned I was cold?

Soon enough it was daylight and I knew I was hours (and hours!) behind my goal finish time. We finally got off the trail and onto the paved road which would take us to the finish line and who came along but Jon and Jess driving to check-up on us. They were shocked by how close we were to the finish. I really wanted to try to trot to the finish (it would be offensive to jogs to call it jogging) and for the most part I sort of did. We crossed the finish line in just over 25 hours.

Kim tried to give me a high five at the finish and I just gave her a big hug (even though I am sure I smelled AMAZING in this moment – sorry Kim!).

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We ended up at around 70 miles and supposedly more than 16,000 feet ascending and the same descending, although my Garmin died around 17 hours, so these are estimates.

The finisher medals were absolutely stunning. This is definitely the most beautiful racing medal I have ever received.

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I finished around 9:00 a.m. on Sunday and spent the rest of Sunday doing exactly this back at the Holiday Inn:

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The only thing making sleep difficult was the pain. Everything hurt. By Monday morning, though, the most painful thing was clearly my big toe on my right foot. I ended up having to go to Urgent Care not once, but TWICE on Monday because my foot was swelling and my toe was so painful. I debated how graphic to be with the pictures, but I decided to just include this one of the swelling. I had that heat-sensitive nail polish on, so you can see my right foot was hot.

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I ended up needing to get my nail drained and was put on antibiotics and painkillers. I was finally able to put real shoes on late this week.

I learned so many lessons during this race that I feel like I have to go back and make it right. Not next year, because I’m racing Ironman Wisconsin in September, but maybe 2020. I have unfinished business at this race and I just can’t let it go. Even writing this post has made me mad again about some of my mistakes!

On a more positive note, I continue to be amazed by the kindness and generosity of the people of Norton and if you like trail running, hiking, or mountain biking, you should most definitely plan a visit there! I told Fred that even if I don’t race next year, I will be back to volunteer!

Finally, I have to thank Alyssa, Jon, Jess, and Kim for their support at this race. I truly wouldn’t have kept going without them and I am so thankful that they put up with me during the low points. I know that wasn’t fun for any of us.

I am registered for the JFK 50 next month, but I may take a pass on that and focus on my efforts the Rehoboth Marathon in December, depending on how my recovery goes. We shall see.

 

 

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Cloudsplitter 100k Training Update

I have some spare time for a change (more on that later), so I thought I’d post a quick update on Cloudsplitter training.

First, a bit about Cloudsplitter. I did the 50k version of this trail race last October and I immediately fell in love with the City of Norton. I knew I had to go back and for one year I have been planning to return to tackle the 100k (actually 68.5 miles).

A few pics from last year!



After the Ironman at the end of July, I did take a bit of down time, but then started my 100k training because the clock was ticking! I had only two months to prepare for my first 100k and third-ever ultra marathon.

As it turns out, I’ve actually really enjoyed the variety of sessions Alyssa has given to me during this training cycle. I’ve done road running, trail running, treadmill sessions, stairs, and an adventure on the Appalachian Trail. My favorite workout was an 18 mile progression run, which I shocked myself by nailing, even though the last several miles were uphill. I did one 31 mile road run, which was a huge confidence booster.

Post 31-mile training run. 

My lone Appalachian Trail adventure photo. I was so proud of getting through this section that I had to take a picture!


Everything was going great until last weekend, when I started having some knee pain during my last long run before taper. As a result, this week has been a super down week – lots of easy spins on the bike while we give the knee some time to recover. Definitely not ideal, but it could be worse. 

In any case, I want to focus on the positive, which is that after a year of waiting, the race is just a week away! My friends Jess and Kim will be pacing me for the last 30 miles or so. My husband, Jon, is crewing and in charge of making sure I get all the food I need (story of our marriage!). I’ve tried to be somewhat organized and put all of the relevant information they will need in a big binder with directions and information and times…we shall see how close I am to hitting any of those times, but that’s just going to be part of the adventure, I suppose!

I leave for Norton on Thursday, the race is on Saturday and I hope to finish early Sunday morning. Positive thoughts appreciated!

And, finally, speaking of positive things, this has nothing to do with Cloudsplitter but we got a new puppy and nothing makes me happier than Scout!

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Race Repot: Ironman Canada

Let me start by saying this is a super long post and I apologize in advance about that. I just have so much to say about my experience at Ironman Canada and in Whistler. I don’t blame you for skimming and/or just checking out the pics!

Backing up a bit, as I said in my last post, we arrived in Whistler late afternoon on Wednesday and did a number of “to dos” on Thursday, including athlete check-in, picking up my bike from Tri Bike Transport, and attending the athlete briefing. 

After all of that was done, on Friday, Jon and I finally had a chance to be tourists in Whistler. 

Canada is the best!

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Friday: Gondolas!

On Friday morning, we walked from our hotel, The Crystal Lodge and Suites, on the “Village Stroll,” to Whistler’s gondola (Mont Tremblant gets a lot of credit for it’s adorable village, but this one is even bigger) and bought two day passes for the gondola. We took the gondola up to the top of Whistler, which is about a 20 minute trip. The views on the ride are beautiful, but at the top of the mountain (Whistler Peak), the views are truly breathtaking.

Snow in July!

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First sight stepping off the gondola!

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Mountains for DAYS!

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After snapping some pics, we took a short (less than half a mile) downhill hike to the chair lift that takes you up to the new Peak Suspension Bridge.

If I’m being honest, the chair lift was a little scary. There is just a thin metal bar preventing you from falling to certain death.

Once you get to the top of the chair lift, you can walk across the bridge. It’s purely an out and back now, although they are working on constructing a viewing platform at the far end of the bridge. The bridge sways in the wind and my husband is afraid of heights, but I have to say he was very brave!

The suspension bridge

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After we walked across the bridge we took the chair lift back down to Whistler Peak, did the (this time uphill!) hike back to the gondola, and then took a second gondola, the Peak-2-Peak to Blackcomb. Again, this was included in our day ticket which was about $60 Canadian.

Taking the chairlift down from the bridge

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The Peak-2-Peak is incredible as well. You travel over this beautiful light blue river and so many pine trees. 

Peak-2-Peak views

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There is a food court on the other side (Blackcomb side) and I was so starving that before I fully surveyed the landscape, I had already gotten in the taqueria line. HOWEVER (Steven A. Smith voice), you should learn from my mistake and instead walk past the food court to the restaurant – Christine’s – so you can sit outside, overlooking the mountains. 

Friday was awesome and I am so glad we spent the day just having fun. It definitely kept me from fretting about the race all day, too, which was a nice bonus!

Saturday: Shake Outs, Bike and Bag Check

The awesome thing about Whistler is that the Valley Trail makes it easy to walk or ride almost anywhere. I decided to forego the shuttles on Saturday morning and, instead, ride to T1 to check my bike and bike gear bag. It was maybe a 2-3 mile ride along the trail and super easy. While I was there, I went for a short swim in Alta Lake to get the feel for the water and my wetsuit again. After the swim, I took the shuttle to T1 to check my run gear bag.

Because of bears, we were not allowed to leave any nutrition in our gear bags or on our bikes. I was nervous about this at first, but #spoileralert it worked out completely fine on race day. 

Athlete guide bear warning!

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I went back to the hotel, changed into run clothes, and went for a 30-minute shake out jog. While I was doing all of this, Jon went for a scenic ATV ride, which he loved, so if you have family in Whistler and want to keep them out of your hair before race day, I definitely recommend this. 

After his ATV ride, while I was watching Netflix with my feet up, Jon went to Walmart to buy an insulated lunch bag for me to put in my bike special needs for my two bottles of liquid nutrition and Coke.  

Race Morning

I woke up at 3:15 on race morning to give myself plenty of time for breakfast and coffee before transition opened at 4:30. Breakfast went fine, but packing was sort of a mess. I discovered that I accidentally froze the Coke I planned to put in bike special needs. It was frozen SOLID and I was worried it wouldn’t defrost by the time I needed it. Then, as I was making my bottles, I tried to shake one only to have the top come flying off and my nutrition spill all over the kitchen. Finally, as I was about to walk out the door, I realized I couldn’t find my Garmin. It’s not like I couldn’t race without it – thankfully, I know I don’t need any gadgets to get through a race (thanks, Alyssa), but I did want to have it to track my nutrition on the run, especially. I ended up finding the Garmin and getting out the door around 4:35.

I walked to T2 to drop my nutrition in my run gear bag, and luckily-enough realized before it was too late that I left my bike jersey there, too. That would have been DISASTROUS so I am so glad I figured it out before boarding the shuttle to T1. 

The shuttle ride seemed MUCH longer than the shuttle ride on Saturday. Someone on the bus said we were taking a very round about way to get to Rainbow Park, which might have been the case. 

T1 Set-up/Swim Start

I can’t remember exactly what time I got to T1, but I had a number of “to dos” to accomplish there and I was trying not to forget anything. I filled my bottles, put air in my tires, lubed my chain, and then walked to my gear bag to put in my gels and my aero top.

At this point, I was starting to feel pressed for time and I still needed to get my wetsuit on. I found a small patch of grass to try to get my suit on (you need room for this torture) and I made a small pile with my chip, safety pin, gel, Garmin, and cap nearby.

After struggling to get my suit on (only if you have ever done this yourself do you know how awful of a task this is), I tried to walk back through the throngs of athletes to my place at the start only to realize I dropped my Garmin somewhere. Now, the start is VERY crowded. We were packed in there like sardines, so you can imagine how unpleasant it was to try to retrace my steps looking for my Garmin, feeling like I was running out of time. Sure enough some random guy said “Did you drop a big watch?” (that was a low-blow making fun of my very out-of-date and style Garmin, if you ask me, but I digress…). He proceeded to tell me that they had it at morning clothes bag drop-off. So back through the crowd of athletes I went and sure enough, they did have my Garmin at the bag drop. In the process, I dropped my pre-swim gel (yes, seriously).

I walked back AGAIN, found the gel, and then my spot among the 1:31-1:40 crew. Whistler has a rolling start, which means you need to line up based on your estimated swim time. I have not done as much swimming this year as in prior IM training cycles, so even though swim conditions were rough the year I did Tremblant, I figured my swim times would be comparable. I stumbled across some very lovely ladies waiting for the start. We all chit-chatted and it was nice to keep things relaxed before the race (no one in the 1:31-1:40 coral is too intense, as you can imagine…). I asked one of the very friendly ladies to zip and close my suit for me.

Soon enough the race had started and we were moving toward the water.

The water is quite shallow at the start and lots of folks walked pretty far into the water. I know that it’s always better to swim as much as you can, so I tried to start swimming almost immediately.

By about the second buoy I could feel my suit coming undone in the back, so I treaded water for a bit as I fixed that, but then got back on my way. I sang a song in my head to distract myself (I am a nervous open water swimmer).

For me, the swim is always about just getting through at a slow and steady pace and while I loved the rolling start initially, it’s of limited benefit on a two-loop course, and even less so when there is a 70.3 race starting mid-Ironman swim. Not only did we have the fast IMers lapping us, but also the first few waves of the 70.3 men, which was not pleasant. I got pummeled, especially at the buoys. I learned my lesson and took the second loop MUCH wider so that I would be out of traffic.

I got out of the water in 1:39 (my slowest IM swim), got my wetsuit stripped, grabbed my bike gear bag, and headed into the change tent. The volunteers were awesome and I tried to move swiftly, but thoughtfully, so that I didn’t miss anything. 

Bike

I felt very shaky at the start of the bike (combo of nerves and adrenaline, I imagine) and there was a notable descent with some turns right from the get-go heading back to the village, so I sat up and took some deep breaths and told myself to just calm down and take it easy until I could settle in. The 70.3 athletes were sharing the course as well and things were quite congested for most of the first lap. Temperatures started warming up fairly notably about half-way through that first lap and together, the climbing and heat really started slowing me down in lap two. 

I will say that, especially in these conditions, I did not like the fact that you either had to do special needs early or late, not right at mile 56. I ended up stopping at mile 70-something and I had been out of my liquid nutrition for some time by that point. My Coke was completely defrosted in the heat and that was a great treat. I took my two bottles out of the insulated lunch pack and then I had the brilliant idea (if I do say so myself) to take the two ice packs out and put them into my jersey pockets. I am still so proud of myself for that! I’m fairly certain I’ve never loved Jon more than I did in that moment. I also took my zip-loc baggy of pretzels and I was on my way.

Speaking of Jon, I saw him three times along the bike course, which I loved. That is one nice thing about a multi-lap course.

Even on a perfect weather day, this bike course would have been challenging (8000 something feet of climbing supposedly), but with temperatures in the mid-90s, in the full sun with no shade, it was especially challenging. By the third lap, I was picking up both water and Gatorade bottles at every aid station and I was stuffing bottles down my shirt so that I would be sure I had enough. 

As they had explained to us at the athlete briefing, the course is really 3 and 1/3rd loops. There was a split with a sign that said to continue straight ahead for laps 1, 2, and 3, but to turn right for the finish, and I was SO glad to finally make that righthand turn. 

I dismounted, handed my bike off to a volunteer, and walked into transition. There was no jogging happening here. I was double-fisting water and Gatorade as I stopped to complain to Jon about the heat, and then picked up my gear bag and headed into T2. 

Double fisting water and Gatorade as I walk into T2

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Walking into the change tent in T2

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Run 

I also walked out of T2. It was so hot and I was worried about what the run might bring. I walked to the port potty to pee for the first time since the swim (not a good sign), and then to the sunscreen station. All of a sudden a lightbulb went off and I realized I left my salt in my run gear bag. I told the volunteers and they started digging through the bags trying to find it. There was no way in hell I was going out on that run course without my Base. I ended up going back into the change tent and finding my volunteer/bag/salt in there after several minutes of searching, thus an almost 10 minute transition time! Whoops!

I finally got going and I started to jog and it was apparent pretty quickly that it was going to be a hard day. I told myself I would not be walking and I would just “trot” along because even a super slow run is better than a walk. I started counting cadence in my head “1-2-3-4 trot trotty trot trot” (yes this sounds insane – totally The Shining-esque – but it really did distract me!). I allowed myself to walk through every aid station to drink, put ice in my bra and pockets, get ice dumped on me by the volunteers, and to eat something. I walked a couple of steep hills, but other than that I really did just keep trotting. It sounds so silly to be proud of this, but I am so damn proud. I could have walked that entire run and finished in 17 hours, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to have any regrets.

After Mont Tremblant I had given Jon a lot of shit about not coming out to cheer for me after the first loop of the run and luckily, he learned his lesson. I saw him not once, not twice, but THREE times and it was such a huge boost to me. Running near the village was great anyway because of all of the spectators and the very large aid station nearby, but there is something extra special about seeing your hubs out on the course and having him give you a few words of encouragement. 

The volunteers were awesome as well. They were literally dumping cups of ice on us as we went through the aid stations. I’m sure it wasn’t fun for them to be out in that heat all day either, so I really tried to thank everyone as I went through.

For the last 2-3 miles of the run, I started feeling very lightheaded and nauseous (which I know is a sign of dehydration). I told myself to just keep moving and the sooner I could get to the finish, the sooner I could get to my husband. I did worry about passing out, but I thought about 2015 CdA and I knew my friend Ashley (and others, including Alyssa and Leslie) had finished that race in temperatures that were 10 degrees warmer. I just kept going. 

Luckily enough, some sections of the run course were shaded and you could really feel the temperature difference in those areas. 

At one point on the trail, a spectator told me I was only 2.5 blocks from the finish, but unfortunately, that was only true for spectators. The race course looped around the village and even though it sounded like we were SO close to the finish at one point, I could hear the announcer’s voice getting farther and farther away as I ran. The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t say anything about the distance to the finish if you are unsure of the actual race route.

Soon enough, I saw the finish and I got emotional. It was such a brutal day and I knew I had given it all I had. I started to tear up a bit, but kept things together. There was an older guy crossing the same time I was and I knew that might mean I wasn’t going to have a great finish line photo, but I didn’t even care. I just wanted to finish.

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I moved through the finish area very quickly and reconnected with Jon. I told him I felt like I was going to pass out. We walked very slowly, arm-in-arm, back to the hotel room, as I was chugging water. He had already taken care of getting my bike out of T2 and to Tri Bike Transport AND getting my morning clothes and gear bags back to the hotel room – husband of the year for sure!

Check out the salt on my visor/sleeves!

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Monday: Green Lake and The Nineteenth Hole

Thankfully, we planned for an extra day in Whistler after the race, which was awesome! We didn’t have to set an alarm for Monday and it gave us one more day to explore. I took Jon to Green Lake so that he could see what I could see during the run. It’s actually amazing how different it looks without all the athletes and the aid station.

Green Lake 

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After that, we decided to find somewhere outside to have a late lunch and we ended up at the golf course. The food was fantastic and the views even better. 

My final thoughts on the race are this – everyone raves about Mount Tremblant, but in my opinion, Whistler blows that course and venue completely out of the water. Yes, the multiple loops aren’t ideal, but the course is just so beautiful, and the volunteers and spectators are just so awesome. (2) Even though this was my slowest Ironman BY A LOT, I am very proud of the effort I put in on race day to get across that finish line. (3) Finally, this training cycle was extremely difficult for me, as I faced a number of personal and professional challenges, including the death of my much beloved, almost 13 year-old, Yorkie, Alexander Hamilton. I couldn’t have gotten through it without the support of Jon, Alyssa, Megan & Jen, my boss, Teresa, and others. I am so thankful for them.

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Next up for me is the Cloudsplitter 100k in October!

I Heart Whistler

I’m writing this as I sit on our hotel balcony, sipping coffee, and gazing at stunning snow-capped mountains.

Morning Views

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I had intended to post a training update before arriving in Whistler for Ironman Canada, but it’s fitting that I didn’t have time to do so. Unfortunately, that has been the theme for this training cycle – having the best intentions, but not being able to fit it all in.

In any case, Whistler is everything I hoped and dreamed it would be. The views are incredible, and looking up at mountains never gets old. Today is my “be a lazy tourist day” in Whistler, so keep your eyes on my Insta stories (@stefgranlund). I should have some great pics, as we plan to ride the gondola up the mountain and then take the peak-to-peak from Whistler to Blackcomb.

Jon and I arrived in Whistler on Wednesday, and after two big travel days (we drove to New York and flew out of Newark to Vancouver on Tuesday), I am very glad to have an extra day in the schedule to relax. Yesterday we got a lot of our “to do’s” done – athlete check-in, picking up my bike from Tri Bike Transport, spending a small fortune at the expo. Tomorrow, I will do a few shake-out workouts and drop my bike and gear bags, so I want to really savor being able to relax and unwind today.

Olympic Rings at the Expo

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Finally, to answer the FAQs I’m getting over text and Facebook: yes, I am nervous; the water temp is 69 degrees; and race day weather is going to be hot (mid-90s).

Checking Out the Swim Venue/T1

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I hope that my next post is about my successful completion of a third Ironman, but you never know what race day will hold. My goal is to smile and enjoy the day, and not worry about my time. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

Race Report: Tupper Lake Tinman 2018

When I crossed the finish line at Ironman Mont Tremblant in August 2016, I would have never guessed it would be almost two years before I would cross the finish line at another triathlon.

That fall I started a new job in a new field. I threw myself into work 100% and was working a lot of extra hours. I stopped training. I gave up my coach. And the one triathlon I had registered for in 2017, I DNS-ed and volunteered instead.

I was able to get back into running seriously enough to finish some races as 2017 came to a close, including the Cloudsplitter 50k, but it was a triathlon-free year. One of my best friends, Megan, and I joked that 2017 was “the year work won.”

During my volunteering stint at the 2017 iteration of Tupper Lake Tinman, I signed up for the 2018 race – frankly, because it was so ridiculously well-priced, in addition to knowing I wanted to get back into triathlon in 2018.

Fast forward to this year. I’m trying to get myself back into shape for Ironman Canada, but dealing with some other stuff (as we all are). I headed to Tupper Lake not sure what to expect of myself. At the very least, I was looking forward to a week away with my mom and Megan.

My mom and I drove up to Tupper Lake on Thursday and the weather was GLORIOUS!  We stopped for lunch at the Adirondack Hotel in Long Lake. We could look right out at the water and it was amazing.

We left there and headed to Tupper, where we checked into our hotel. We were there all of 30 minutes and I was already in a lawn chair by the lake soaking up the sun.

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Friday was another beautiful day. I went for a short spin on the bike around Tupper Lake to make sure everything was okay with my race wheels (which have also been sitting around for 22 months…) and my new cassette. I went for a short shakeout jog with Megan and then we got into our wetsuits and went for a short swim to one of the race buoys and back (one of the many benefits to staying at the motel next to the race site). The water temperature was perfect and we both felt good.

We went to lunch at Big Tupper Brewing (get the apple pie bites if you go there!!) and then to packet pick-up at the local ice rink.

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Megan and I registered so early for the race last year that we were bib numbers 12 and 13 – AND THE NUMBERS ONLY STARTED AT 10! As has been my experience in both of the years I have come to the race, everyone associated with the race is SUPER friendly and the vibe is very low pressure, which I love.

On race morning, we only had to wake up at 5:00 (VERY late in race day terms), since we were so close to the race site. Even though the weather forecast had predicted otherwise, it was raining when we got up. We knew we had plenty of time so we tried to wait-out the rain before setting up transition. Even though the rain did let up a bit, we decided to just put all of our stuff in plastic garbage bags like you would do at an Ironman to keep everything dry.

The nice thing about having such low bib numbers is that we were in the very first row and wouldn’t have any problems finding our stuff!

The weather was chilly on race morning and we were glad to be in sleeved wetsuits to keep us warm before the start. I had the pleasure of meeting Amy Farrell from the Coeur team, who I follow on social, before the swim start. Megan and I said our good lucks and waded into the water.

So, issue number one for me was that the water is really shallow where you start and I should have filled my wetsuit with water, but I didn’t because of the fact that it was only to my knees. I should have known better, but this is why you have a race to shake off the cobwebs before doing your first IM in two years!

Additionally, I did not listen to my coach and start at the back of the swim, so that’s on me. Hand up. I wanted to swim with Megan, so I lined up with her mid-pack and that was dumb. The swim start was quite rough and I immediately regretted that decision. It really through me off and it took me a long time to recover. #listentoyourcoach

On top of all of this, 1.2 miles was much longer than I remember! I’m kind of kidding, but kind of not!

Suffice it to say my swim this year was SIX MINUTES slower than my 2016 swim. OUCH! I will leave it at that.

I was so thrilled to get out of that damn lake and move on to my bike. Megan was still in transition when I got there and was waiting for me. If you know her at all, you know that is SO Megan! She is too nice for her own good! I yelled at her to go (twice!) and she finally obliged.

I tried to move swiftly to get everything out of my garbage bag. I struggled a bit to get my bike gloves on, but with the rain I really wanted to wear them to help me grip my bottles.

I ran out of transition, said “hi” to my mom as I mounted my bike, and then off I went. Shortly thereafter an ambulance came by – lights flashing, sirens blaring – and the only reason I mention this is that the bikes that didn’t pull over for the ambulance to pass encompass everything everyone hates about triathletes.

The bike course has some notable hills, but going out, I was able to keep a strong effort once I got going post swim (that always takes me some time). My race plan did not include going all out on the bike this time around and I did feel like I was able to strike a good balance between working hard and holding back ever so slightly. I was trying to remind myself to drink, even though it was cold.

On the way back, my speed slowed and I’m not sure whether that was a result of all of the passing I had to do on the way out (#shittyswimproblems), a nutrition issue, and/or a result of the wind, but knowing my goal for the day was to come in around 3:00, I wasn’t overly concerned. That being said, I know my biking is stronger than that right now, and I hope that shows in Whistler. I did have some issues getting into the big ring on the ride, and I will obviously get that looked at before Canada next month.

One thing I should note is that the roads are open to traffic for the race and in some places the shoulder is quite rough. If you haven’t ridden around a lot of cars, you should before the race, and you should get used to looking for traffic before passing (I cringed a few times as I saw athletes oblivious to what was happening around them).

The bike was relatively uneventful. I had one guy who kept passing me and sitting up. I really wanted to say “Bro, you doing intervals?” but I didn’t. I also saw one young woman with an older guy (her dad?) pulling her the entire way, which really pissed me off, but what can you do?

I came in from the bike, saw my mom again, racked my back, grabbed my bike stuff, made a quick porta potty stop, and off I went for the run.

I did not feel great for the first few miles. This is not an easy run course and I was feeling that. The negative thoughts started rolling in. Then I remembered the old “smile even though you’re feeling shitty” trick. I started talking to the volunteers and other runners and sure enough it worked. Around mile five of the run I reminded myself I was supposed to be trying to run fast and I snapped right out of my funk and started moving. It was bizarre. It was as though I had the longest warm-up ever to an 8 mile run.

I definitely do not remember the run course being this hilly in 2016, but it was a bitch. I was so proud of myself for keeping up a strong pace even with the hills. one of my miles was an 8:37, which is great for me on a hard course in a 70.3! I ended up with a 2:03 run, which I was quite pleased with.

I ended up with a 6:00:12 total race time compared to 5:56:51 in 2016, which, all things considered is pretty good.

I can’t say enough about how much I love this race. There is TONS of on course support – plenty of aid stations on the run (which is such a huge help to the athletes), and during the swim you are never far from a paddle board or canoe. The town really seems to support the race, which I always love to pay back in turn by patronizing all of the local businesses that support the event. Huge thanks to the race director, volunteers, sponsors, and the town of Tupper Lake for another great race! I will most definitely be back in 2019 for the 37th Tupper Lake Tinman!

If you want to join me, you should sign-up soon. If you register between now and Tuesday, June 26th, you can use the code RACEDAY10 for 10% off the earliest registration. Guys, that’s 145 bucks (including all fees) for a 70.3!! Registration is available at: https://register.chronotrack.com/r/40259.

Hope to see you in gorgeous Tupper Lake next June!

 

Two Month Countdown to Whistler

I haven’t posted a training update since March. Two weeks after publishing that post, we found out that one of our two dogs had a serious issue with his heart. Within two months of that diagnosis, we had to let him go. His kidneys were failing and, I’ve learned, it’s very difficult to treat heart and kidney issues concurrently. He was almost 13, which isn’t that old by Yorkie standards and we thought we had many more years left with him. It’s obviously been a very difficult time for our family, especially me. When I first moved to D.C., before I had a job, or met my husband, it was just the two of us all on our own. He was the best snuggler and always greeted me when I got home from a morning run. My heart is broken.

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I’ve never made this blog about my personal life. It’s always been focused on my training and racing (and sharing a few recipes) and I don’t plan to change that now. But, sometimes, life interferes with training. And sometimes it does so in a very big way. Over the past two months, I’ve missed a bunch of training sessions and many of those I’ve done have lacked focus, with my mind wandering to other things. Ironman training is never perfect and I’m not going to beat myself up given these circumstances. It is what it is and that’s going to have to be good enough.

Despite all of this, with just about two months to go until Whistler, I’m actually feeling quite positive about my bike. I did my first triple digit ride of the season at the end of April (103 miles with 7,000-ish feet of climbing), followed by the Tour de Skyline (210 miles with 18,000 + feet of climbing over two days), and then the Mountains of Misery century last weekend (which ends with a four-mile 12%–16% graded climb to the finish). That gets me four triple digit rides already for the year, with lots of climbing, which is just what I need for Whistler!

Skyline with the besties!

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Skyline 2018!

My running is fine, in the truest sense of the word. Nothing to write home about, but no major concerns either (knock on wood). I’m hoping it will stop raining at some point this century so that I can get out for a few good trails runs. While I’m focused on Whistler right now, I intended to finish my first 100k trail race in the fall!

Swimming is swimming. I’m actually looking forward to the open water swim at Tupper Lake Tinman later this month, since that water is gorgeous and it will be my first open water swim in 22 months. Hope I don’t sink!

So, that’s where things are for me on the training front with a little less than two months to go until IM number 3!

 

 

 

 

 

March Training Update

I am long overdue for an update on the blog and, unfortunately, I finally have time to post one because I am on a bit of a training hiatus, but let me back-up a bit.

After a shitty year on the training/racing front in 2017, I was super excited to get started with my 2018 training. On tap for this year, I plan to do the Tour de Skyline in May, Tupper Lake Tinman in June, and Ragnar Trail West Virginia in August, all of which I have done previously. My two big races for the year are Ironman Canada in July, which will be my third Ironman (God-willing), and attempting my first ever 100k trail run at the Cloudsplitter 100 in October. As part of my bike training for Whistler, I’m planning to do the Mountains of Misery ride with Megan in May. 

Part of the issue I had with getting my training done last year was motivation – I wasn’t really excited about anything. So, that I’ve taken care of with the schedule I mentioned above. I am truly excited about all of these events and I want to be in good enough shape to enjoy them. The motivation is there.

The other major issue I had last year was time, which is especially challenging with the work I do. My job is not a 9-5. I have a lot of weeknight and weekend events to attend and I have no offsetting flexibility during the week.

This year, I switched gyms in an effort to make workouts more convenient to my office. I can get in the pool there an entire hour earlier than my old pool, and it’s only 5 minutes from my office, so my commute is already taken care of before I swim. On the really big workout mornings, I pack coffee to drink along with my Bobo’s bar on the way to the pool, so that takes care of breakfast, too.

I started back with a real training schedule on 1/1 and while the 4:30 a.m. wake ups were a shock to the body, I loved being tired and sore from training again.

Back at it on the treadmill.

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Unfortunately, I only made it through about 2.5 weeks of training and then injured the cartilage in my ribs (totally a freak injury). Rib injuries are painful. I would say I wouldn’t wish one on my worst enemy, but truthfully, it’s the perfect thing to wish on your worst enemy! It’s that bad. Even sneezing hurts.

I took a few days of total rest and then was able to do some work on the trainer, but I didn’t swim for almost a month and only did a few baby runs in that time.

Actually missed being in the pool during the rib injury.

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I finally started getting back on track after the injury and then my routine was disrupted again when I went to California on a work trip over the long President’s Day weekend. I was working 18 hour days on this trip and really just wore my body down. I took a red eye home that Tuesday and then went to a work event that same day. I didn’t let myself have any downtime and I think it just all caught up with me.

I ended up getting sick and just couldn’t get better. I would have one okay day, and then exercise for two hours and work a ten hour workday and wonder why I felt sick again the following day. I actually took a sick day from work and stayed in bed an entire day (my first sick day ever at this job), but even the day home didn’t do me any good.

I tried getting out for a run one Sunday afternoon, but regretted it on Monday when my cold was worse again.

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I finally got to the breaking point and went to local urgent care clinic. The NP who originally greeted me in the exam room was lovely, but I guess she was in training. Her boss came in – a spunky older lady – and read me the riot act. She basically yelled at me and told me that I have a “Type A” personality and needed to give my body a break or I was going to end up with pneumonia. She told me I wasn’t allowed to run for 8 days. I replied “how do you feel about swimming?” and I actually thought she might reach across the bed and grab me by the neck and kill me. This woman meant business. I left with five different drugs and strict orders to rest. Not what you want to hear with less than two months until Skyline.

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Rest for any more than two days is too much and I am currently driving my husband and coworkers crazy because I don’t have training as an outlet. 

For my sake, and theirs, I hope to be back at it soon!