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!

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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: Ironman Mont Tremblant

It’s been more than one month since I raced Ironman Mont Tremblant and I’m finally getting around to writing up my race report. It’s a bit overwhelming thinking about how to sum up a 13+ hour day in one blog post, which is part of why it has taken me so long to get my thoughts on the blog. I also went on a trip to Europe post-race, which was AMAZING, but I will have to write about that another day. In any case, here is my race report.

The hubs and I headed up to Mont Tremblant on the Thursday before the race. My friend, Taryn, who I have mentioned many (many!) times before on this blog was racing, as were a few new friends I’ve made through a local women’s multisport group (message me if you want more info on joining up with that group!). I met up with two of these ladies, Sarah and Ashley, before the athlete briefing on Friday night.

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One of my Ignite teammates, Kevin, was also racing, as were several other athletes from the D.C. area. I loved seeing familiar faces in the days leading up to the race in and around the expo and transition. For the most part, I tried to stay off my feet but for a few short workouts to shake things out before the big day.

On Friday, Taryn and I rode part of the bike course together and, honestly, it scared the living daylights out of me. The section we rode was quite hilly and I think I was riding maybe 12 miles an hour average during the ride. Yikes! I went to bed on Saturday night excited about the race, but very nervous at the same time, knowing this would be a much more challenging bike course than I faced in Chattanooga last year. Of course, I hoped for a good day, but you never really know how things are going to go until you’re out there.

Race Day

On race morning, I reminded myself that in Chattanooga, things did not go as I would have hoped on the bike, but I was able to overcome those challenges and still have a great day. As I wrote on Facebook: “The good thing about having multiple flat tires in your first Ironman is that you know you can overcome (almost) any obstacles that come your way on race day!”

I met up with Taryn and we walked together to the swim start.

Before the race, Taryn, Ashley, and I got into the water and warmed up a bit, where we ran into Kate H., who is on Team HPB. It was very comforting to have the ladies to hang out with before the start. Soon enough our wave was called. Ashley and I walked into the water together and off we went. 

The Swim: 1:38:25 (86/112 AG)

I never really felt like I settled into the swim. I tried to get on some feet, but I just never felt like I was on the “right” feet. The swim continues to be something I need to improve on – and I will. Swim conditions were rough, especially during the section parallel to the beach and I’m a slower swimmer to begin with, so I honestly wondered when I got out of the water whether I had even gone under two hours. Yeah, it felt like I was out there a *really* long time. I didn’t wear a watch, but when I looked at the clock at the swim exit, I knew that while I was slower than I had hoped, I was not close to 2:00 (thank goodness!).

The run from the swim exit to T1 is quite long. I saw Jon and Taryn’s husband along the way and I said something to Jon about hating swimming and then scooted into the transition tent to change.

It had started raining as I was running to the change tent. We knew from stalking the weather forecast in the days leading up to the race that it was going to be a wet day, but I was hoping for intermittent light showers.

The Bike: 6:39:59 (47/112 AG)

Unfortunately, it was basically pouring rain throughout the entire bike ride (for me, at least) and I tried to balance riding safely with pushing the pace where I could. As you may have heard, there were numerous crashes along the course. Riding past bloody athletes laying on the side of the road was frightening, honestly, but I’ve ridden in the rain a lot this year and I know how to ride safely in rainy conditions. In addition to the rain, there was quite a bit of wind and I was afraid to ride in my aerobars at certain points during the ride (especially thinking about Alyssa’s windy crash earlier this year). But honestly my number one priority was staying upright and if that meant sitting up a bit, that was fine with me.

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I finished the bike in just under 6:40. The best part of the ride was that I had ZERO flats! I moved up from 86 to 47 in my age group, meaning I passed a lot of ladies on the bike. I was feeling good.

The Run: 4:56:43 (43/112 AG)

I loved the run the Chattanooga, so I was super excited to start my run. I saw Jon again as I was running out of the change tent. I waved to him and off I went.

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The first loop of the run went relatively well. I was pretty happy with my pace, especially since my stomach was not cooperating (this has been an issue for me at every race this year and is obviously something I need to address). However, when I got back to the village at the end of the first loop of the two loop course, I didn’t see Jon and I started feeling deflated when I realized I had to run the entire loop again. That’s when the wheels starting coming off. I really struggled on the second loop. I stopped to walk several times (which I did *not* do in Chattanooga). I was able to coax myself back into running, but I was definitely feeling down on myself for walking. I started spiraling a bit into negative thoughts. I reached halfway in 2:21:41 and really wish I would have been able to maintain that pace for the second loop. 

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I finished the run in barely under 5:00. This is my biggest disappointment and regret of the day. In my next Ironman, I *will* run the entire way. 

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What I liked about this race:

Mont Tremblant is gorgeous!

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We stayed in the village at Tour des Voyageurs, which is right next to transition and the finish line. We were within walking distance to many restaurants and a small grocery store. We parked our car and didn’t have to move it the entire time we were in Mont Tremblant. I would definitely recommend staying in the village if you race IMMT. It’s just so convenient.

I also really liked the bike course. If it hadn’t been raining, I think the bike would have been a lot of fun because of the opportunity to gain speed on the descents. I had to ride conservatively on the descents because of the slick conditions this year, but on a nice day, I think they would have been a blast.

What I didn’t like about this race:

The run is largely on a trail, so there are few spectators to cheer you on. In Chattanooga, I relied heavily on the awesome crowd support to get through my run and I really (really!) missed having that here.

Overall, I am happy with my day and proud to have finished a second Ironman. As always, I wouldn’t have been able to do this without Alyssa’s amazing guidance and support. She is the best! And a huge thanks to Jon, of course, for continuing to support my triathlon goals.

I’m not sure if I will race 140.6 again next year or not, but I know I want to do another Ironman at some point for sure.

Next up for me is the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30, which I am running for Team Fisher House. If you aren’t familiar with Fisher House, a Fisher House is a home where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. These homes are located at major military and VA medical centers nationwide, close to the medical center or hospital they serve. The program began in 1990, and has offered more than six million days of lodging to more than 277,000 families. Fisher House has earned four stars (out of four) from Charity Navigator and an A+ grade from Charity Watch.

If you are so inclined to make a donation to my fundraising effort, please know that we are extremely grateful for your contribution, no matter how large or small. Every little bit helps!

Post-Ironman Recovery and Planning for 2016

It’s now been over two weeks since I finished Ironman Chattanooga and I am still on my post-race high! I’m not sure I can adequately describe my feelings in words, but suffice it to say, the race was one of the best experiences of my life and I can’t wait to do it again!

Since the race, I’ve been taking it easy. My first draft of this post used the word “lazy” but I’m trying to be better about positive self-talk. So, I’m telling myself I’m “giving my body the break it deserves” after such an enormous undertaking.

Truthfully, though, my physical recovery has gone better than I anticipated. The day after the race, I was sore, but I didn’t feel as bad as I had expected. This may have been a result of pounding calories during and after the race, but maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part. 🙂 In the following days, the only thing that really hurt was my left hamstring, which had been bothering me leading up to the race, so that wasn’t a big surprise. The important thing is that it held up during the race itself (thanks again, Peter!).

During the past two weeks, I haven’t worked out much at all. I’ve done a couple of short runs and rides (on my road bike), TRX class three times, some home workout DVDs, and that’s basically it. I initially ate whatever I wanted, too – which turned out to be an embarrassing amount of vegan junk food (I discovered, unfortunately, that there are WAY too many amazingly delicious vegan junk food options on the market!). But after about ten days, I needed to get back to eating more normally. Ten days is definitely the longest I can survive living like that.

I am still a bit out of sorts scheduling-wise. This has been the hardest part of post-race recovery for me. I think I thrive when I’m in a structured routine and not having that these past two weeks has thrown me a bit off-center. My time management is actually worse, even though I would have expected the opposite since I have so much more free time now. I’ll be glad to get back on a normal schedule next week.

Now that the Ironman is over, I’ve started planning out my 2016 season. Choosing races is always so much fun!

As I’ve already mentioned, I’ll be running the L.A. Marathon in February. This will be my 6th stand-alone marathon. I’m excited to focus on running for a while, although I am somewhat nervous about the hamstring holding up. We shall see how that goes.

My first tri of the season will be Rev3 Knoxville (half) in May and then I’ll be racing Toughman Tupper Lake Tinman in June. My “A” race of the season will be Mont Tremblant on August 21st. These will all be new races for me and I’m so excited to experience them for the first time.

I may add a local half marathon or ten miler in the spring, depending on scheduling, and I’d like to go back to Team HPB tri camp in Tucson, as well. It’s always so tricky to fit everything in!

I’m actually super excited about Tinman, which jumped out at me because I spent many childhood summers vacationing in Tupper Lake, New York.

Tupper Lake, NY, circa summer 1988? (age 7?). In my mind, that was a beautiful sandcastle.
I’ll be swimming in that water at Tinman.

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Tupper Lake is an absolutely gorgeous area and should be beautiful for racing. Tinman is also a smaller and very affordable race, which really appealed to me, as well. When my mom told me my parents would come to the race if I picked that one, that sealed the deal for me! They’ve never seen me race a triathlon before, so that’s going to be huge. I’m also really looking forward to setting some new goals for the half-iron distance, now that I have three 70.3s under my belt. I think I’ll have more confidence to actually race them now, too, since I know I can survive twice that distance in a race.

In addition to my parents coming to Tinman, Taryn will be joining me at Knoxville and Mont Tremblant, and Ashley at the L.A. Marathon, so I’ll have lots of company at my races next season.

I really couldn’t be more pleased with the year I had this year and I’m super excited about what’s to come in 2016!

 

Race Report: Ironman Chattanooga

One year ago, I volunteered at an aid station on the Ironman Chattanooga run course. The following day, I registered for the 2015 edition of the race. Every day since, I’ve worked toward one goal: becoming an Ironman. On Sunday, my dream came true.

Thanks for the screenshot of my finish, Leslie!

Pre-Race

We left for Chattanooga on Wednesday, the 23rd. With this being my first IM, I wanted to get into town early to make sure I had plenty of time to get settled and not feel rushed. The drive took about eight and a half hours, which wasn’t awful. When we arrived, I went for a short run to scope out the area. Our hotel location was great! If you are thinking about doing this race, I would definitely recommend staying at the Doubletree. We were just a couple of blocks away from transition and numerous restaurants in every direction (there is also a Whole Foods about a five minute drive away). Our room, although on the smaller side, had a mini fridge and microwave, which always makes race morning breakfast easier.

On Thursday morning, I did a short ride around the Chickamauga Civil War battlefield in Georgia. I had posted in the Ironman Chattanooga Facebook Group (definitely join this group if you plan on doing the race) asking for recommendations for rides without a lot of traffic and several people suggested I drive to the Battlefield and ride there. After riding there myself, I understand why this is a popular place for cyclists. I definitely recommend it as a safe and scenic place to ride for anyone doing the race next year. It wasn’t very far away (about a 20 minute drive from transition) and there was ample parking at the Visitor’s Center. There isn’t a lot of traffic and the cars I did encounter gave me plenty of room. It was also gorgeous and I lucked out with a perfect weather day, too. I felt great and loved the scenery – I really could have kept riding all day!

I just had to stop and take a picture of this scene. Two monuments in a field of hay bales. 

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Later in the day, I went for a short swim at the Chickamauga Marina. This is another place to check out if you’re doing the race next year and want a good practice swim spot (the lawyer in me feels the need to say that you swim at your own risk at the Marina, as there are no lifeguards on duty). The water was super shallow in spots, but it was still good to get in the open water and it felt much safer than jumping in the Tennessee River by myself!

The Marina.

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I also went to the Athlete Village to check-in, pick up my bib and chip, and shop on Thursday. There is an option to do athlete check-in on Friday, but I wanted to get this taken care of on Thursday to give myself plenty of time to figure out the gear bags! My last “to do” for Thursday was attending the athlete briefing.

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On Friday, I got my bags together, drove the bike course, and attended the Team HPB team dinner. Alyssa and three of her athletes (including myself) were racing and it was nice for everyone to get together for some social time before the race. Whiting was in town from Boulder to do the race and Leah from Salt Lake City. We had a great time chatting and getting to know each other.

I checked, double checked, and triple checked my lists for my gear and special needs bags.

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On Saturday, Whiting and I met in the morning to join about 30 other racers for an informal practice swim in the River. We also ran into Leah and her family there. Last year, there was a formal practice swim put on by the race organizers, but they did not include one on the schedule for this year. So, a group of athletes organized a practice swim via the Facebook Group. It was really nice to have Whiting as a buddy in the water. We swam together (she is a much faster swimmer than me, but we kept an eye out for each other as we went), which made it feel a lot less scary. The water temperature was perfect.

After our swim, Whiting and I went for a short ride together and then we turned in our gear bags and checked our bikes. I must say, it felt sort of weird to give away all of my stuff. It’s hard to hand over control of these important pieces of gear pre-race. I did a short run back to my hotel and then we met up with Jon’s parents, who had just gotten into town for the race. We went for an early dinner together and then I went back to the hotel to rest my legs.

Race Day

Whiting and I had planned to meet outside of hotel at 5:15 to walk to transition. I was following her lead since this was my first IM and her fourth. We dropped off our special needs bags and then went to set up our bikes. I will talk more about that later. After we finished up with our bikes, we got on shuttle buses to ride to the swim start.

The Swim

When I woke up on race morning, they had already posted on the official Facebook Page that the race would be wetsuit optional. Alyssa and I had discussed in advance that if that was the case, I would wear my ROKA swimskin. Even though I am not a strong swimmer, I am much more comfortable in my swimskin than my wetsuit, so I was actually pretty happy about this news. More people than I expected decided to wear wetsuits anyway. They started after the rest of the racers and weren’t eligible for awards.

In any case, after we got off the shuttle bus, we walked quite a distance to get to the end of the line for the swim start. This race has a first come, first served-style rolling start. I was so lucky to have Whiting to wait with in the morning before the swim. We took turns holding our spot in line and using the porta potties and stayed together right up until we made it to the dock and it was time to jump in the water. If you do this race in the future (which I do recommend you do!) know that the swim start line moves quickly once it gets started. Be ready to hustle! It’s kind of a frantic start, but maybe that’s better for someone like me who will freak out if I stop and think about what I am about to do.

I had a great swim. I didn’t panic and kept moving. I even tried to get on some feet to draft, although I need to work on picking the right feet (I was either behind someone too slow or too fast every time I tried this!). I am so very glad I did the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim earlier this year. I think that really helped my swimming confidence, since I knew I could swim two miles continuously (even though that was a wetsuit swim for me and this was not). I kept what felt like a steady pace throughout.

My swim time ended up being 1:12:52, which was quite good for me, especially without the wetsuit (it would have been a good time for me even considering the current, which people are saying saved around 11-12 minutes).

When I got out of the water I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to spot Jon! I gave him a shout and a wave. Then, as I was running toward transition, I saw my friend Mindy! I was so excited to see her!11071079_10100292733346851_8929630772715957320_n

The Bike

So, back to the morning in transition before the race began. When I got to my bike in the morning, there was a tube draped across my seat. I thought that was odd, but, at least initially, didn’t think into it any further than that. I put my bottles on my bike and then proceeded to try to inflate my tires. The front tire was fine, but I was unable to put any air in my rear tire. Something wasn’t right with my valve extender, even though it had been fine on Thursday for my ride around the Battlefield. Then I realized my bike was in a different gear than I had left it the day before. Whiting speculated that one of the bike support folks noticed I had a flat and changed the tube out for me. This definitely gave me some pause at the time. After some hemming and hawing, though, I decided that I would just leave the rear wheel alone since surely they had pumped up the tires when they changed out the tube that morning (or, at most, the day before). And, hey, that meant all of my bad flat tire luck was clearly out of the way, since the chances of me getting a second flat in one day would be slim to none, right? I thought I should just be thankful that a “flat tire fairy” saved my day and not stress about it. In hindsight, I probably should have trusted my instincts that something was wrong and taken the time to get it checked out by one of the on-site mechanics.

Fast forward to the race. To make the very long and upsetting story short, within two miles into the bike course I got another flat and from then until I finally got mechanical support at the first penalty tent (maybe around mile 25?), I just could not keep air in my rear tire. It was just one flat after the next. Yes, I did check the tire, but I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. I did try to have a volunteer radio for bike support, but they indicated they were busy helping other people and couldn’t get to me. I felt completely helpless.

All I kept thinking about was this Norman Stadler clip.

As I stopped, I had to beg other racers for tubes/cartridges as they were riding by because I ran out (in the athlete meeting they indicated this was permitted under the rules). People were awesome and I am so thankful for their generosity. I kept thinking that I would fix it (I know that sounds crazy, but I really kept thinking that).

Finally, after several unsuccessful stops attempting to fix the issue myself, I decided I just had to get myself to an aid station and wait for mechanical support, no matter how long it would take, because clearly I wasn’t able to deal with this on my own. At one point, I had asked a volunteer about walking to the next aid station, but he said it was too far. I ended up riding on a flat tire (yes, I know this is bad) to the next aid station where finally they were able to radio to get me help. Spectators kept yelling at me that I had a flat tire as I rode by.

When the bike tech arrived, he inspected the tire and agreed that wasn’t the problem. He took everything apart and found that my rim tape had gotten bunched up (I’m sure there is a more technical way to describe this) and that was causing the flats (in my race wheels, I need the rim tape to protect the tube from the spoke holes in the wheel). I hadn’t even thought about checking that. The bike tech recognized my bike and said he was the one who had fixed my first flat in transition on race morning.

Since I had ridden without incident at the Battlefield on Thursday, something obviously happened either during my short ride on Saturday, in transition over night, or during the first couple of miles of the race that led to the tape slipping. I’ll probably never know for sure what that was, but obviously the timing was unfortunate.

After he finally got everything back together and ready to go, a total of almost an hour of non-moving time had passed. I was worried I wouldn’t make the bike cut off after so many stops and so much wasted time. I wasn’t even sure what the bike cut off was, but I knew there was one and that I was way behind. The mechanic and another athlete who was stopped at the aid station told me I could still finish before the cut off, so after I gave them hugs, off I went.

Once I finally got going, I was really trying to balance the urge to make up time and the knowledge that going too hard too early (I wasn’t even a quarter of the way into the bike leg at this point) would only make my day worse. I tried to work, but not go crazy. I ended up riding at a little over 17 miles an hour average pace, which felt hard, but definitely wasn’t killing me.

My Garmin had autopaused during all of the stops and recorded me finishing the 116 mile bike course in 6:35:35, which would have exceeded my expectations going into the race by almost a half hour (I was thinking I would be right around 7:00).

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Of course, I understand that 6:35 wasn’t actually my time, but I really want to try to focus on the good parts of the day and not let the unfortunate bike issues overshadow what was otherwise a magical experience.

While all of this was happening, Jon had taken over my Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep my friends and family updated on my progress throughout the day (although, some of his funniest posts were updates on his activities). He had done this during my first 70.3 as well.

One of Jon’s tweets from the race.

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The Run

For obvious reasons, I was ELATED to get off of my bike and start running. With this being my first Ironman, I had no idea what to expect from my body on the run. I knew I needed to just take it slow and steady, one step at a time.

I had a blast on the run.

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I really wanted to run the entire way because Leslie convinced me that even a slow run is better than walking. I kept thinking of her and my friend Emily, who I did most of my longer runs with this summer. Emily and I would never stress over pace on our long runs. We would just run and talk and it never felt like a chore and we always got in the miles (or time). I told myself to run relaxed, but steady, just like I was running long with Emily.

I must say that the miles actually ticked by very quickly. I wasn’t super focused on my pace, but knew I was staying in the right ballpark, even with the significant hills on the run course. I was sick of gels, but knew I needed to eat, so I ate things I normally wouldn’t – bananas, pretzels, grapes. When my stomach would start to go, I would switch to pretzels one at a time and Coke. I think everyone’s stomach feels awful at this point in the race and it’s really just about managing that discomfort as best you can.

I kept passing mile markers and once I hit halfway, I KNEW I was going to finish before midnight. It’s funny because another lady I was running with said the same exact thing. We both knew at that point that even walking we would make it.

I finished the run in 4:45:37. That’s actually my third fastest marathon time ever. Alyssa had told me she thought I could run that fast and I thought she was insane. One of the (many) traits that makes her an awesome coach is that she really believes in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves.

Overall my run splits were pretty even (fastest was 10:05, slowest 11:52 on a hilly section). One of the highlights of my day was text messaging Leslie after the race to tell her that I didn’t walk!

When I approached the finish chute, I was so immensely happy. I saw Alyssa and she said something like “you did it!” I was so glad to see her. I was definitely crying tears of joy. The volunteer who “caught me” asked me if something was wrong – presumably because of the tears. I said I was fine and that I was just really happy. The funny part here is that after I finished I was reading through all of my messages and my teammate Bri had read my lips and knew that’s what I said to the volunteer. I love my team!

Emotional at the finish.

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After the race, Alyssa met up with us at the hotel. I was so glad that she had a great race, too!

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I can’t say enough how much I loved this city, the spectators, and volunteers. But for the bike issues, I could not have asked for a better race experience. I would definitely do this race again!

I want to say thank you again to Jon, Alyssa, MooMotion, Bobo’s Oat Bars, and all of my friends and family for their support. I got so many amazing emails, text messages, voicemails, Facebook posts, etc. from my friends before, during, and after the race. I am truly so lucky to be able to do this thing I love and to have such an awesome group of people supporting me. Thank you all!

It Takes A Village

We’re leaving for Chattanooga on Wednesday morning and before we go, I wanted to take some time to say thank you to the people who helped me get to the starting line of this race.

Thank you

First and foremost, I need to thank my amazing husband who has supported me on this journey since day one – really, even before day one, because I don’t think either of us knew where this was headed when I did my very first race (a half marathon) in the spring of 2009. Triathlon is not a cheap sport (understatement of the century), it takes up a ton of my time and energy, and can be emotionally draining. He has put up with A LOT and I definitely wouldn’t be here without him. Thanks, Love!

One of Jon’s signs from my very first marathon. He has always supported all of my running and triathlon adventures, even though he thinks it’s all crazy. 

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I also want to thank my in-laws for making the trip all the way to Chattanooga to cheer me along. I’m so lucky and thankful to have their support!

My next thank you is obviously for Alyssa. There is no doubt in my mind that she has prepared me for this race better than anyone else could – even Brett Sutton himself. I trust in her 100% and I am so thankful to have her in my life as a coach and friend. Alyssa could tell me to walk backward for the entire 26.2 miles of the marathon and I would! Thank you for EVERYTHING, Alyssa – I cannot possibly begin to repay you for what you have done for me over these past two years.

With the world’s greatest coach after PRing my marathon last year.

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I also want to thank all of my training partners – especially Taryn and Emily – who have helped me get through countless bike and run miles leading up to this day. Their company kept my mind off of the miles and how tired I felt. I really enjoyed training with you ladies and look forward to many more runs and rides in the future!

At the Reston Century Ride with Taryn.

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Open Water Swimming isn’t so awful when you have a friend by your side!

I logged lots and lots of miles with Emily this summer.

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And, of course, I owe a huge thank you to my Team HPB Teammates, MRTT friends, and other running and triathlon friends who are either too fast or too far away to train with, but who have offered me moral support and advice along the way – Leslie, Bri, Megan, Ashley, and others.

Leslie kept me running when I wanted to walk during a tough run at camp this summer.

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Riding with Megan in Maryland.

I heart my team!

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I can’t name everyone in MRTT in this post (we have over 1,000 members!), but I’ve gotten so much awesome support from this fabulous group of women.

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I’ve been fortunate enough to be a brand ambassador for MooMotion for two seasons now and I really can’t say enough about the support Melissa has provided me – not only keeping me in beautiful, comfortable, functional clothes for these past two years, but also encouraging me during all of my training and racing. Thank you, Melissa!

I love my MooMotion kits!

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Thank you, too, to the folks at Bobo’s Oat Bars for keeping me fueled on many (many, many) long rides. I cannot even imagine how many Bobo’s bars I have eaten this year! I actually should have counted because I’m sure it’s a ridiculous number!

Fueled by Bobo’s Oat Bars!

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There are so many other people who have helped me get my body and bike in shape for this adventure – Alison at Machine M3 (TRX), Steve and Alex from Transition Tri, and, most recently, Peter Sherry for helping me deal with some last minute injury issues leading into the race.

Thank you, Steve and Alex, for getting my bike in shape for the race!

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Thank you Machine M3 for making me stronger this year (Alison is camera shy!)!

And, finally, a big thank you to all of my friends and family members who could not possibly care less about running and triathlon and who I am sure are SO sick of hearing about all of this and put up with me anyway. You’re the best!

No matter what happens on Sunday, I am proud of the work I have done to get here.

Let’s go!

Training Update – June 2015

With Ironman Chattanooga just 3 months and 16 days away (but who’s counting, right?!) I think I’m overdue for a training update.

My training volume has definitely started to increase, both for Challenge Atlantic City (70.3) later this month and Ironman Chattanooga in September. Things are generally going well and I’m happy with where I am with this much time to go. I’ve had a few struggles with scheduling/ time management/ balance, but I think that happens to everyone in this sport. I know finishing an Ironman is important to me, so I will find a way to make it work, but I also don’t want my family or work to suffer. That’s going to continue to be a challenge, but I am up for the task.

Here is a brief overview of where things are right now.

Swim

As has always been the case for me, my swimming is a bit hit or miss. While I do have great swimming days on occasion, there are plenty of less-than-great swimming days, too. This is definitely the toughest of the three sports for me mentally. I’m plugging away, though, and actually feeling better about open water swimming after Monticelloman and, more recently, the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim. The latter was both my longest continuous swim and longest open water swim ever, at a full 2 miles.

I was definitely tired by the end of the Lake Swim, but I stayed calm (which is HUGE for me in open water) and kept what felt like a fairly steady pace throughout. It was an enormous confidence boost for me to know that I can swim that far leading into Chattanooga. While I certainly wasn’t setting any speed records, I finished in a respectable 1:14:51. I was happy with my time.

I was so glad to have two of my Team HPB teammates at the swim!

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With some Snapple Team ladies before the race.

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A week or so after the Lake Swim (all the training days are starting to blend together!) I swam with Taryn at the Hains Point (D.C.) outdoor 50 meter pool and that was a really nice change of pace for me. I think I will try to do that again when I need a little extra motivation to get swimming.

Yesterday, I did a swim I have been doing for years (this is my third year on Team HPB and this is a regular in our rotation) and had better times than I have had in months (and I think maybe my second best times ever), so I was super pleased with that.

So, generally good news on the swim front!

Bike

The bike is definitely where I have spent the most time and effort of late. I’ve done two long rides – one 70 miler and one 85 miler – both with Taryn. I have another 85 mile ride on tap for this weekend. I actually like long rides (we’ll see if I am still saying that at the end of the summer) and love the feeling of accomplishment when I’m done!

Taryn and I rode through some beautiful areas in rural Maryland on our most recent ride.

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I’ve also started back up with some regular group rides and those are a real challenge for me. I’m in-between groups with one being slightly too slow and one being slightly too fast. I’d really like to be able to stay with the currently too-fast group for an entire ride start-to-finish without falling off the back (or being dropped completely, which is what happened last night) by the end of the summer. We’ll see.

Run

I’m still feeling a bit uncertain about my running. I had some hamstring issues during my spring road racing season and although I thought they had started to clear up, I had a bit of a relapse recently. I’m hoping it was related to some travel and being out of my routine, but I’m not sure. I have a longer run on tap for this weekend and I’m interested to see how the hamstring fares during that one.

Today, I did a speed workout on the track and while I definitely thought I might puke, and at one point debated laying down on the field during a rest interval, I always feel stronger after an effort like that (once the misery subsides).

While I’m feeling pretty positive about where I am in all three sports, I know I have a long way to go and a lot of work to do between now and the Ironman. I’m expecting lows along with the highs, but trying to stay focused on the positives. Speaking of, I recently found out my in-laws are coming to Chattanooga to cheer for me during the Ironman, which is AWESOME and adds an extra layer of motivation for me to train hard and have a great race!

Happy training!