Monday, September 26, 2011

ChesapeakeMan Ultra Distance Triathlon

Let me just start this race report by saying I'M A MOTHER F'ING IRONMAN! Okay, now that I've got that out of my system...


Rusty picked me up at about 1 PM in DC, and we started the drive to Cambridge, MD, which is an hour or two away. We hit heavy rain, construction, accidents--you name it, and it slowed us down. We didn't get to Cambridge until 4 PM, so we went straight to the hotel to check in and then straight to a restaurant to eat a big meal.

I had a ginormous calzone with veggies and no cheese at the pizza place next door to our hotel. Delish! I couldn't eat the whole thing, but I gave it my best effort! A lot of the research I did on pre-ironman eating suggested eating your biggest meal around 4 PM the day before the race so that it has adequate time to digest before the race. The strategy worked well for me--I didn't have any stomach issues that night or in the morning.

After dinner, we headed to the race hotel to check in and attend the course briefing. Check in was fast and efficient. The expo was super-small, though! They had just a couple vendors. All race-day necessities were there--CO2 cartridges, tubes, gels, chews, powders, body lubes, etc.--but there were a lot fewer extras like clothes, keychains, and coffee mugs like they have at Ironman-brand events.

I only bought one thing at the expo, and I only bought it because they kind of left us no other option.

A Rack Jacket is a cover for the top of your bike made out of ripstop nylon. It has drawstrings and velcro on the bottom side of it to keep it tight around the top of your bike. It protects your bars and seat from water damage, and it also keeps water out of your head tube and off of your cycle computer. It was forecast to rain all night, and we weren't allowed to use plastic bags to cover our bikes because they inevitably blow away and litter the area. Rack Jacket it was!

After checking in and purchasing my Rack Jacket, Rusty and I went to the course briefing. It was very helpful and very laid back, and we were able to ask a lot of questions. If you don't usually go to course briefings, I highly recommend going. I learned a lot of useful tips, and it really helped to settle my nerves!

We left the course briefing and went to the swim start, which was also the site of the swim-to-bike transition (T1).

Seriously, you can't take a scientist anywhere. He's already looking for bugs in the water.

We took my bike to the mandatory bike and helmet inspection and got the green light to get ahead and rack it. I put on the Rack Jacket, racked the bike, and then headed back to the hotel to pack my transition bags and get some sleep! I drank a bottle of water, repacked all of my bags, and it was lights out at 9 PM. That's not to say I went to sleep at 9 PM, but I certainly tried! A lot of my research also suggested getting a good night's sleep two nights before the race because you probably won't sleep well the night before. Very true. Definitely worked for me.


Alarm went off at 4 AM, and I was up and ready to go! I immediately scarfed a whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter and a banana. Although a lot of websites suggested consuming only liquids on race day, I didn't think I could make it without a little solid food in the morning. I had had good luck with English muffins, PB, and bananas in the past, so I knew I'd be okay. Just a quick shower, and then we were out the door!

We stopped at the bike-to-run transition (T2) at the high school to drop off my T2 bag, and then we headed to swim start.

It was about o'dark thirty when we got to swim start. Specifically, it was 5:30 AM. I was glad to have gotten there so early, though. There was no line for body marking or for the port-a-pots, which was super-nice. The line for the port-a-pots was so long later that it ended up delaying the race by 2 minutes. No joke! I was glad to get in and out without waiting in line at all.

I took the Rack Jacket off my bike, made some last minute adjustments, pumped up the tires, and put my fuel bottles in the cages.

I coated myself in BodyGlide, wiggled into my wetsuit, dropped the BodyGlide into my T1 bag, and handed the bag off to a volunteer.

The bags were on racks in numerical order so that a volunteer could hand us our bag after we ran out of the swim exit. After they hand you your bag, you head to a changing tent where you kit up for the bike. You put your wetsuit and swim gear back into the bag, and then the volunteers deliver it to the finish for you to pick up with your bike. We had the option of laying stuff out next to our bike as well, but I opted to put everything in my bag.

In my T1 bag: small towel (a golf towel is the perfect size), bike shoes, bike socks, race belt, Garmin, sunglasses, helmet, bug spray, BodyGlide, and chapstick. I had my bike clothes on under my wetsuit, and I was pretty sure it would be hot enough to leave the arm warmers at home. All in all, I was happy with what I packed.

"Bug spray?", you ask. Yes, bug spray. Some serious, high-DEET Jungle Juice. Part of the bike ride was through the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge, which is, in fact, a swamp, and the race director said that if you blow a tire out there, you have about 30 seconds before you get devoured by mosquitoes. That's not a fun way to be before a marathon!

Rusty and I chatted and people-watched while we waited for the race to start.

Around 6:55 AM we sang the national anthem, and then it was time for all triathletes to get in the water!

I kissed Rusty goodbye and floated out to the buoys.

The starting line was between the two white buoys. The water was shallow enough that we could stand while we waited, and the bottom was course sand. The horn blew at 7:02 AM, and we were off!

The course was two loops around a misshapen rectangle with two very long sides and two very short sides. The water was brackish, dark, and dirty, and there was almost zero visibility. It was hard to see my own hands in the water while I was swimming! All sighting definitely had to be done above the surface. Going out on the first long side, the water was pretty calm. It was a little choppy, but that's to be expected when you're swimming with about 500 of your closest friends! I made the turn at the end of the first long side and then at the end of top side, and I was feeling pretty good. Coming back on the other long side, though, it got tough. The waves starting hitting us on our left sides, which made navigation pretty tricky. It also makes you feel kind of seasick! I had to keep telling myself that you don't finish any faster by panicking; you finish faster by moving your goshdarn arms and swimming through that mess. After I rounded the corner after the second long side I was back in the shallow area, and we all kind of waded to the next buoy, catching our breath and waving to our spectators. The waves were bad going back out on the first long side again, but after I rounded the turn at the end of the first long side for the second time, the water calmed down a lot, and I cruised to the swim finish.

That's me. In the front. With the arm.

It took me about 1:30 to finish the swim, and I was so happy to get out of the water! We exited up a boat ramp, which was SUPER-slippery, and volunteers called out our numbers so that other volunteers could hand us our T1 bags.

I had grand plans to relax in transitions and take my time, being I had no real time goal for the race except to finish, but that just didn't happen. I was not all together mentally when I got to T1, and I just went through the motions that I had gone through in my head over and over and over in the past few weeks. Wetsuit off, goggles off, cap off, socks and shoes on, race belt on, Garmin on, helmet and sunglasses on, a little BodyGlide, a little chapstick, a little Jungle Juice, and out the door to my bike. I was out in about 6 minutes.

All smiles when I jumped on the bike!

The first part of the bike course was an out-and-back. Like the rest of the course, it was flat, fast, and oh-so-tempting to just fly on. So, I did. Oops. I knew I'd go out too fast on the bike, and I totally did, despite my best efforts to slow the hell down. Around the 25-mile point, I was averaging about 17 mph and felt pretty amazing! I held it up for awhile, but around the 50-mile point, I started losing steam.

At one point in the refuge, the road was underwater for a few tenths of mile, and that was not only hard to bike though (it was almost a foot deep in some places!) but it also soaked my shoes and socks, which made biking uncomfortable. Additionally, after the water, there were a few miles of really poor quality roads, and then about 10 miles or so that were straight into 11 mph winds. By the time I hit the high school and the special needs tent at the 65-mile point, I was a little demoralized, and my average speed had dropped to about 16.4. I didn't pack a special needs bag, so I just moved a fuel bottle from my under-the-seat cage to my down-tube cage (I was fueling with watered-down Hammer gel, mixed in bottles, 100 calories every 20 minutes), kissed Rusty goodbye, and headed out for another (shorter) loop.

My goal on the next loop was just to keep my legs spinning in smooth, even circles. Not push!push!push!push!, but smooooooooth, round, even circles. I had done training rides up to 6 hours, and, just like clockwork, after 6 hours, my body started rejecting the bike. The last hour and some change were brutal! My neck seized up, and I could barely turn my head. My butt was killing me, and even my knees were complaining! It was hard to stay positive, but I remembered that Rusty would be there at the end, and I'd be able to change my clothes and spend some time on my feet once I got to T2. I just had to finish the bike! Through the water again, over the bad roads again, into the wind again, and then I was done. 112 miles. Holy crap.

Again, I meant to take my time in T2, but I just went through the motions again. In my T2 bag: small towel, run socks (Injinjis), run shoes, run shorts, sports bra, t-shirt, visor, BodyGlide, chapstick. The only thing I wished I had had in T2 was another bottle of Jungle Juice to spray myself down with. I had sweated off most of the Jungle Juice that I applied in T1, and the mosquitoes were brutal on the run!

Oh, the run...

There was no way that I should have been running. It's just not human and just not natural, but I was doing it. I was running! It wasn't fast, certainly, and I stopped to walk every once in awhile, but I ran most of the marathon. Triumph of the human spirit? Lack of remaining sanity? Indomitable pride? I think it was all three. I ran better and further during the last leg of my ironman than I have in most of training runs. It's mind-blowing and life-changing, seeing what your body can do when you push it.

That's not to say it was easy--it was brutal at times. The course was three eight-ish-mile out-and-backs. The first out-and-back wasn't too terrible, but when I got to the finish area to turn around and saw Rusty, I realized I had two more laps to go, and that was kind of disheartening. The second lap was okay--I jogged with a guy named Brian for most of it, and that help pass the time--but it started to get dark on the way back in, and the mosquitoes got brutal. The mosquitoes were approximately the size of small birds, and they kept getting stuck to the quarter-inch-thick layer of BodyGlide, sweat, marsh water, bug spray, and more sweat on my arms and legs. They weren't all biting me, but still annoying nonetheless. And, when I say dark, I mean DARK. Black. No lights, middle of the swamp. I could barely see the road I was running on, and they gave us glow-stick necklaces so that cars wouldn't hit us. Yikes.

Once I started the last lap, though, I knew that I was going to finish. Even if I slowly walked the whole final loop, I would finish well before the 17-hour cutoff time. If I jogged at least have of it, I would make it under 16 hours. Knowing that, it was easy to keep moving. There was no pressure. Throughout the run I took in a gel every 2 miles and a cup of water at each aid station--there was an aid station about every mile--and I kept that up through all three loops.

The race clock said 15:41 when I ran over the timing mat.

I can't believe I'm an ironman! Holy crap! I got my ginormous medal and sat down for a minute while everyone fluttered around getting me things and talking to me slowly like I might be retarded. "Hiiiii. Con gra tu la tions! Here, I'm going to put this cold towel on your neck... What do you neeeeeed?" Fair enough. I might be retarded. I just did an ironman.

Rusty came and congratulated me, and we walked to the high school's gym where they were giving free massages. The massage was amazing! I'm pretty sure that's the only reason I'm walking today! Bless the masseuses giving free massages. They had to touch some nasty bodies. When I walked up to the table the masseuse asked me, "Do you want to take off your shoes?" I asked him, "Do YOU want me to take off my shoes?" He laughed and said he had smelled so many nasty feet today that he was sure mine wouldn't be shocking.

The locker rooms in the gym were open for people who wanted to take showers, but I just wanted to go home. Rusty and I started heading back to DC. We got a couple miles away, and then I decided I was hungry, so we stopped at a Denny's. Turns out I wasn't hungry, but the highlight of my night was the waitress doing an imitation of one of the other triathletes who had come to eat there earlier. When she saw me, she said, "Oh! You must have done that race today!" I asked her if other athletes had been in, and she said, "There was a guy in here earlier with funny socks that came up to his knees, and he had a bandage here [she pointed to her neck], an ice pack taped here [she pointed to right knee], and he was walking like this [she leaned back with her hands on her lower back like she was pregnant and walked slowly, kind of swinging her hips and barely bending her knees]." It was spot on.

Hope everyone's having a happy race season! I have a 10K this weekend, so I'll be reporting again soon. :)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Oh, Hi!

As I say at the beginning of all posts recently, I apologize for my absence! Law school definitely interfered with life for a minute there. However, I can now happily say that that problem won't happen again! I got hooded yesterday!

It was awesome! I now have two months of intense studying before I sit for the bar in late July, and then I'll be a real attorney! (But please don't ask me about your legal problems! I can't give you advice over the internet!)

Anyway, since my last post (seven months ago!), so much has happened. I won't bombard you with everything now, but there's been a lot of racing, a lot of training, and a lot of traveling. I'll get you caught up soon!

At the moment, I'm just finishing up my first week of Ironman training. Yep, Ironman! I know it's insane, being I just started running a year and a half ago, but I know I can do it if I stick to the training. I'm a pretty fierce chick! I was looking for a fall race, and I found an iron-distance triathlon in Maryland in September called ChesapeakeMan.

I'll actually be living in DC in September (Yes, I'm moving! Another story to tell...), so it's quite convenient. I started a 20-week training plan from on Monday, and I'm loving it so far. It's hard work--don't get me wrong--but I love training. Since Monday, I haven't really been able to do anything except sleep, eat, drink water, and rack up mileage. Seriously, if I sit down for more than five minutes and am not eating or drinking water, I fall asleep, no matter where I am. It's crazy! I hope it gets easier in subsequent weeks!

So far, training has gone like this:

Monday: run and swim
Tuesday: bike and run
Wednesday: swim
Thursday: long run
Friday: bike and swim
Saturday: REST!

Tomorrow I have a long ride, and then Monday starts Week 2, which follows nearly the same pattern. The workouts are specific as to time and/or distance, but I can get into that later.

Honestly, I had almost completely forgotten how much I love triathlon training. I spent all of last summer training for a fall triathlon too, Ironman 70.3 Augusta, and never in my life did I feel healthier. I was eating right, training a couple hours a day, practicing yoga regularly, and I felt like I just glowed all the time.

Even when I was dirty!

Although I've been consistently training for endurance running events since Ironman 70.3 Augusta, I've slowly let myself go. I ate junk for a couple days after my race because I felt like I deserved it, and then I never really stopped. I pretty much quit biking and swimming. I practiced yoga maybe once a week, but I was mostly just going through the motions. Despite the fact that I trained for and ran two marathons and a 50K ultra-marathon between then and now, I quickly became out of shape. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and I was forced to confront the fact that I had put on almost fifteen pounds and could barely walk up a flight of stairs. It was definitely time to start triathlon training again!

I'm not going to post a picture of me now, which would essentially be a picture of what I consider to be "Overweight Me." I could, but I don't want to give anyone the wrong idea. I'm overweight for what I consider to be a good racing weight, and the subject of healthy weight is definitely one where your mileage may vary. Healthy for me isn't about what my body looks like but what it can do, and, right now, it can't do anything!

I'm hoping to drop between fifteen and twenty pounds before ChesapeakeMan in September, and I don't imagine it will be too difficult. I lost two pounds in the first week! The workouts are only getting harder, and I'm just going to keep eating better. I'm eating about 80% raw at the moment, and I'm absolutely loving it. I know I don't talk about food much on this blog, despite it's title referencing my choice of diet, but I certainly will if anyone has any questions about what it's like to train for an Ironman as a mostly-raw vegan. Just ask!

The last thing I'll address today in order to get you mostly caught up is a new and important character in the story of my life. My darling, Rusty.

Rusty and I have been dating since last fall, and I have a feeling you'll be hearing a lot about him in the future. He currently lives in Baltimore for work, so he and I regularly travel between here and there so that we can spend as much time together as possible. Also, I totally got him addicted to running, so you'll get to hear about his races, too, from the perspective of a spectator!

That's all for today. I have to go clean my apartment--my landlady already wants to start showing it to people, even though I'm not moving out until July!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My first 26.2!

So, I ran The North Face Endurance Challenge marathon-distance trail race on Saturday. My first marathon was an AMAZING experience! AMAZING.

However, so many things went wrong! So many things, though, that I had to laugh at the end of the day. Alternate titles for this post could be:

(a) Why You Should Invest in Trail Shoes for a Trail Marathon
(b) Why I Can't Seem To Do Anything the Easy Way

Let's start with (b) Why I Can't Seem to Do Anything the Easy Way. Running 26.2 miles is no easy feat for most people. In fact, it's estimated that only 1% of Americans finish a marathon in their lifetime. It's a long race, both in terms of distance and time. It's a race for which one trains really hard, and, most of the time, one trains by running on streets, which is the surface on which most marathons are run.

So, what on earth possessed me to think, "Hey, I think I can run 26.2 miles--how about I try to do it for the first time on single-track hiking trails?" I don't know. I just don't know. I did a half-Ironman for my first triathlon and a trail race for my first marathon. I just can't seem to do anything the easy way!

I guess I initially thought that there wouldn't be too much of a difference between running on a trail and running on the road except for the surface composition. WRONG! This marathon wasn't on a running trail; it was on a hiking trail! That means it was almost all ascents and descents (4796' total elevation change), and there were parts that were just NOT runnable--you know, like parts where you're climbing over boulders.

Check out the elevation chart from the runner's guide:

Needless to say, this was no easy race! Let me start at the beginning.

First, I had a minor disaster with my Zipcar, which I took to the race. Zipcar is a (usually) awesome car-sharing service. I reserved the Zipcar for the whole day, but when I went to pick it up at it's location, it wasn't there! I was already late at this point and starting to panic. I very angrily called the Zipcar people, and they put me in another car immediately, but the other car was parked about a mile down the road. Grumble, grumble. I walked to the other location and started heading to the race. Thankfully I made it on time!

I had just enough time to pick up my packet, stretch, jog a bit, and prep all my gear.

By the way, I don't have any pictures to document what I'm about to say, but I need you to believe me. If you are wondering what sport has, by far, the HOTTEST male athletes, it's trail running. No other sport even comes close. Rugged, ripped, tattooed, and rough around the edges. Wow.

Anyway, a few minutes before 9:00 AM, we had a pre-race pep talk from Dean Karnazes, which was really cool! I mean, it was cool that he was there. The pep talk freaked me out! It started like this:

Dean Karnazes: For how many of you is this your first trail race?
(I and some others raise our hands.)
Dean Karnazes: For how many of you is this your first marathon-distance race?
(I and some others raise our hands.)
Dean Karnazes: [Laughs hysterically.] You guys are insane!

That was my first cue that this was going to be a rough one. I didn't pay attention to much after that. I just started silently panicking.

The race started promptly at 9:00 AM. I stuck to the back, knowing that I would be one of the slowest. It took awhile for everyone to settle into the single track in the proper order, so I actually had to stop and wait a minute at the trailhead.

Let me take this opportunity to discuss (a) Why You Should Invest in Trail Shoes for a Trail Marathon. Trail shoes have thicker soles and much more traction than road shoes, making it easier to stay stable on all kinds of terrain. They also usually have reinforces toe boxes so that you don't damage your toes when you repeatedly kick things sticking out of the ground.

I really should have got some!

First, I stubbed my toes on roots and rocks approximately 25,000,000 times. My toes hurt SO BAD by the end of the race! Worse than that though, the lack of traction on my Nike LunarGlides caused me to take a nasty spill around mile 3.5 while I was running on a rocky stretch, disguised by a layer of pine straw. My right knee took the brunt of the fall. I walked off the pain for a minute and then got up and kept running. It wasn't really bothering me at all after a bit, but I knew it looked nasty.

When I hit the first aid station at mile 5.6, they sent me to the medical tent to get it cleaned. I hadn't noticed, but it was pretty much gushing blood. Oops! They cleaned it and tried to bandage it, but it was too big for their bandaids. No big deal. The only issue I had with all of this cleaning/bandaging nonense was that I was losing time! Unfortunately, a lot of the med checks were not optional, as I would learn.

This is what my knee looks like now.

It's cleaning up pretty well.

After leaving the first aid station, I hit an awesome runner's high and ran well and strong for a couple miles. The trail became wider and packed, and the hills were shorter and shallower than they had been previously. I started loving it! I thought, "Wow. Trail running is the best ever! I want to do this everyday!" And then, in my endophin-induced daze, I tripped and fell around mile 8.7. Damnit.

When I hit the second aid station at mile 10.5, I had a bloody elbow and hand, and they sent me to the med tent again. I just couldn't win! They kept asking me simple questions and feeding me Gu Brew while they cleaned me. I told them that I wasn't falling because I was dehydrated and woozy--I'm just a clutz without trail shoes! They weren't listening. Boo. More time taken away from me.

Here are my elbow and hand now.

They don't look bad at all, do they? I'm still mad about getting stuck at that med tent.

Leaving the aid station after mile 10.5, I felt great again! I started dragging about mile 12. I hit another high around mile 13. I started dragging again around mile 15. So it continued for the rest of the race. My walk-run ratio started getting higher and higher, and by mile 20 I was just about tapped out. I would have brief bursts of energy and start running again, but it wouldn't last more than a few tenths of a mile.

It was tough mentally. I wanted so much to run--and I did when I would hit the brief stretches of flat trail--but having enough energy to run is not the same as having enough energy to scramble up hills, hop over roots, and dance around rocks. I had trained to RUN 26.2 miles, and I knew I could do it. However, I just wasn't able to run 26.2 miles of trail, and that was hard to take, especially at mile 20, knowing I had 6.2 more to go. I wanted to cry. I wanted to quit. But more than that, I wanted to finish.

It was brutal, but I did it!

Crossing the finish line was all I wanted, and I got it! I'M A MARATHONER!

I still can't believe it. I ran my first mile back in February. I ran my first 5K race in April. 5K in April, then 42K in October! Running is a serious addiction.

I'm already registered for a regular road marathon here in Atlanta in March, and I know that it's going to be a totally different experience. I can't wait!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ironman 70.3 Augusta

Yesterday was the BEST. DAY. EVER. I'm not even joking! My favorite day of my life. Was it perfect? No. There were parts of each event (and each transition) that were absolutely horrible. But, all in all, I wouldn't take back any minute of it.

Pre-Race Day

It all started Saturday. My friend Jess and I left Atlanta around 10 AM to drive to Augusta. Jess is definitely the best spectathlete ever! We got there later than expected due to some horrific roadwork disaster that is going down on I-20 East, but we still had time to do everything. We arrived around 2 PM and immediately got to work.

There's so much you have to do before an Ironman 70.3! First, I had to check in at the Athlete's Village at the host hotel. The line was so long! They give you your packet, wristband, bibs, stickers, t-shirt, gear bags, and goodies. Then, there's a 30-minute course briefing to go over the rules and regs for the race.

Next, on to bike check-in.

There was a mandatory bike check-in on Saturday evening, so I had to take my baby over there and leave her overnight! It was kind of traumatic to abandon her like that, but I knew I'd see her in the morning.

Let me take this opportunity to mention for the first time that I was INCREDIBLY daunted before the race. Standing in transition, I realized that I had, by far, one of the cheapest bikes there. I don't have aerobars, and I don't have bottle launchers (those water bottle holders that go behind your seat). I don't even have bike shoes and fancy pedals! Browsing the bikes in my row, I realized that I was a bit out of my league, equipment wise.

I had to remind myself of one of the things I learned at the Georgia Games cycling race: Better equipment DOES NOT equal a better athlete. I still panicked a bit and looked to Jess and my friend Rusty for encouragement. They talked me down from a couple panic attacks!

After checking in my bike, we checked into the hotel. We were exhausted from hiking around Augusta all day, so we ordered Chinese food and hit the hay early. Like, 8:30 PM early! I think Jess was actually asleep around 7:30 or 8:00!

Race Day

The alarm went off at 4:30 AM, and I hopped out of bed, ready to go! I was so prepared for this day! I had a step-by-step list of everything I had to do in the morning, so I had no reason to panic at this point. I had all of my things packed in separate bags for pre-swim, T1, T2, and post-run. I had a feeding schedule starting from wake-up call to finishing the run. Preparation is EVERYTHING. I live by the proverb, "Failing to plan is planning to fail."

First stop: Transition. I had to pump up my tires and drop off my T1 and T2 bags. I laid everything out carefully on a towel.

For T1 (swim-to-bike transition):
--large towel to lay out under bike wheel
--small towel to wipe feet with
--energy gel to slam before getting on the bike
--small water bottle to wash down the gel
--wicking headband
--calf sleeves
--race belt with bib affixed
--fuel belt with gels

For T2 (bike-to-run transition):
--energy gel to slam before hitting the road
--small water bottle to wash down the gel

I also got my body marked at transition in the morning. They mark your bicep with your bib number and your calf with your age. It's really fun to see everyone's ages when you're racing! That is, until you get passed by a 63-year-old, which happened to me on the run course! Ha! It was still cool, though.

Check out my body marking.

Next, it was on to the swim start, which was NOT at transition. For a lot of races, the swim course is an out-and-back or a triangle, but this swim course was a straight shot down the Savannah River, so the swim start was 1.2 miles down the road from transition. We walked down there to get my timing chip and check out the area.

After I picked up my chip, it started raining. Boo. It wasn't raining hard, but we still didn't want to stand around waiting at the swim start in the rain, so we walked another half-mile down the road to the host hotel to hang out for a bit.

Jess napped for a few minutes, so I moved to the next thing on my to-do list: Plan to distract myself during the run. I knew the run leg was going to be rough. I knew I'd be tired and sore, and running 13.1 miles without music is hard enough as it is! In normal situations, I can let my mind wander for hours and hours without getting bored, but this situation was going to require some planning.

I made a list a self-discussion topics and other mental games to play. Then, I wrote them on my forearm.

I covered all of the topics except potential hairstyles (insuffciently distracting) and my plan for the zombie apocalypse (required too much concentration.) The other athletes I showed it to thought I was INSANE, but it helped me a lot!

After some stretching, it was time to suit up! I covered my legs in BodyGlide so I could pull on the wetsuit without too much issue. It's still not an easy feat! It was still raining when it was time to suit up, so I did it outside the front door of the hotel.

I decided that was good enough at that moment! We walked down to swim start, and I finished gearing up for the swim.

There was more waiting...

FINALLY! It was time to start! One last pic.

I ran down to swim start, and I immediately started to get super-nervous! Not because anyone had better equipment than me, though. In fact, we were all essentially in the same wetsuit. I was nervous because I was about to start an epic quest, and I had no idea if I could do it! I did know, however, that quitting was not an option. I may have hyperventilated. Just a little.

They called my age group. We all hopped in the water and floated to the starting buoys. They sounded the horns, and we were off!

Like I said, the course was a straight shot down the Savannah River.

So, it was still raining during the swim, but it wasn't raining hard enough for it to really be an issue. It wasn't complicating my breathing patterns, or anything like that. It was just mildly annoying. More annoying than that was the fact that I couldn't seem to swim in a straight line! I kept popping my head up and finding myself headed for shore or headed for the buoy line! There were a couple times that I had to slow down, stop getting angry at myself, re-center myself mentally, and then push ahead strong.

When I first caught sight of the finishing gates, I looked around and realized that I was NOT surrounded by other dark green swim caps! I was in a sea of pink and yellow caps. I had no idea what that meant until later, but I now know that the pinks were the fastest swimmers from the wave 4 minutes after me, and the yellow caps were the slowest swimmers from the wave 8 minutes ahead of me!

Jess was waiting for me when I ran up the chute to transition! My official swim time was 29:58 for the 1.2 miles.

It took my 9:52 to get out of T1! It was a long run into the transition area from the water, and it took me a minute to navigate the area to get to my bike. The wetsuit strippers were great, though! There was a line of volunteers inside transition to help us out of our wetsuits, and they were priceless. They grabbed your zipper and ripped it down, and then you sat down, and they ripped the suit off your legs. Took 10 seconds! I geared up with my T1 stuff and tried to get out the gate as soon as possible.

There I go!

Oh, the bike ride. It was epic! I felt so amazing! In training, I'm lucky if I can get home with my Garmin showing an average of 14 mph. I know it's not because I ride that slow but because I ride in the city where I stop a lot, change directions a lot, dodge obstacles a lot, etc. I guess I thought that all of the stopping and starting only accounted for maybe 1 or 2 mph, though, so I told Jess that I'd finish the bike course in 4 hours, give or take 15 minutes maybe, thinking that I'd average about 15 mph. On this ride though, I averaged 17.1 mph! I finished in 3:16:57! Jess missed me at transition because I got in so early, but that's totally okay with me. I was so proud!

On the bike course, I felt like I was flying. Also, I felt like the course was flat as a pancake! Athletes from other areas were complaining about how hilly it was, but, compared to the hills in Atlanta, these were nothing. I took it a little slow in the beginning, just to feel out the situation, but I felt so powerful after the first hour that I felt comfortable turning it up a notch. At about the half-way point I was averaging 16.7 mph, and I cruised into transition averaging 17.1 mph overall.

The downside of the bike course: It RAINED the whole time. Not sprinkled. It's RAINED. At one point, it was raining so hard that if I had been driving a car, I would have pulled over to wait it out. It was kind of miserable at first! After awhile though, I just got used to it. The rain stopped for a few minutes around mile 35, and the only reason I noticed is that it suddenly became quiet. It was sort of creepy. It took me a minute to realize that it was quiet because I no longer heard raindrops hitting my helmet! But, then the rain started again, and everything went back to normal.

I was in T2 for 4:02 before I hit the road for the run. All I had to do was drop my helmet, headband, sunglasses, gloves, and fuel belt, and put on my visor. I slammed a gel and some water and headed straight out.

I felt pretty awesome through the first half of the run course! I ran the first 6 miles, averaging about 10:30 per mile. Unfortunately, I then began feeling the blisters. I was running in socks and shoes that were absolutely drenched! Blisters were forming on every square inch of my feet. I started a walk-run pattern that I kept up until the end. It was BRUTAL, but I finished!

Jess was there to see me run down the finisher's chute!

I was SO glad to be done!

I finished in 6:37:36, which I'm pretty stoked about! I was worried that I wouldn't finish at all! I'm so proud of myself, it's unreal. Even as I lay in bed today, inable of operating either of my legs, I'm still so so so so so happy that I did it!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Onward and upward

Ironman 70.3 Augusta is just 30 days away!!! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.

I've been tracking down some last minute additions to the team.

Like... a wetsuit.

Originally, I didn't think I'd need one. I didn't think that the Savannah River would be that cold in September, but it turns out that it is! I checked out the current temps of the river in the Augusta area, and they're already cold enough to make a race wetsuit-legal.

In case you didn't know, Ironman races are very strict about when you can wear a wetsuit.

    After Sept. 1, 2010, the following changes to our current wetsuit rule will apply:

    •Wetsuits cannot measure more than 5 millimeters thick. A standard variance will be allowed to account for seams and jersey material (non-buoyant).

    •Wetsuits may be worn in water temperatures up to and including 24.5 degrees Celsius/76.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

    •Athletes who choose to wear a wetsuit in water temperatures between 24.5 degrees Celsius/76.1 degrees Fahrenheit and 28.8 degrees Celsius/ 83.8 degrees Fahrenheit will not be eligible for awards, including World Championship slots.

    •Wetsuits will be prohibited in water temperature greater than 28.8 degrees Celsius/ 83.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

    •Full wetsuits are allowed (legs and arms covered)
The water temperaturse now in the river are only peaking around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so it's definitely going to be wetsuit-legal, and probably edging toward wetsuit-necessary for me! I hate being cold in the water.

I looked at buying one at first, but there weren't any even close to my price range. So, I decided to rent.


Love these guys already! You tell them your height and weight, and they'll choose the ideal brand and size wetsuit for you and then ship it to you 10 days before your event. Think they might need more measurements than just height and weight? Nope! They get it right 97% of the time with just your height and weight measurements. There is, however, an "additional comments" section where you can plead the case for your weird curves if you feel the need! I used that space to inform them of my non-existent chest and big ol' vegan booty.

I'm slightly nervous about getting the sucker on and off, but I'm going to practice non-stop after I get it.

Another addition to the team... Jessica.

Jess isn't racing, but I'll tell you more about her role later.

Happy training, everyone!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One day at a time

It's been a minute since I've posted, eh? There are a few culprits that have stood between me and this blog. First, I moved from my darling 3-bedroom house, which I shared with two roommates, to an even more darling 1-bedroom apartment, which is all mine. After many years of living alone, I thought last year that maybe some roommates would be good for me, but it turns out that I'm just not that kind of girl.

I like my alone time. A LOT. For me to be happy, I need a lot of quiet, and I need a lot of control. I like order, and to have the order you want, you have to control your environment. My old house was great, and my roommates were amazing women; but, my new apartment is PERFECT. I'm unpacking so slowly because I'm savoring the experience of putting every single one of my things into its own special place, from which it will only be moved by me. I spend hours just staring at a box--thinking, in perfect and complete silence, about where I want to put the items inside it. It's been amazing.

Also, I've been sad. I found out on August 3rd that I have a stress fracture in my left tibia, and I was so heartbroken. I cried. I tried to be strong. I cried again. I really wanted to hold it together, but every morning when I got out of bed and took my first steps, I remembered the pain that I had forgotten while I slept. That first experience of pain would send me right back into bed where I could pretend it wasn't happening.

The most depressing part about it? I'm smarter than this "wallow in self-misery" nonsense. I know that this isn't the end of my training. I know this means I have to work harder and be stronger than I was before. I know that if I stick to an aggressive cross-training schedule then I won't miss a beat, and I'll still be able to run my marathon in October. I know that this is a blessing in disguise because it gives me an opportunity to focus on my swimming and biking and thus be in better shape for the triathlons in my future.

It's just so hard to think positively when it hurts to walk, you know?

I'm going to get through this, though, and I'm going to get through it by focusing on what I can do now and what I will do in the future. Can's and will's, baby. Can's and will's.

I can do this. I can be strong. I can cross-train every day. I can focus on my swimming and biking. I will get stronger. I will be better. I will run my marathon in October.

I'm a girl who needs to have goals. More importantly, I'm a girl who needs to have detailed training plans, mapping out the best way to achieve those goals (please note my obsessive need for control, discussed in paragraph 2). I've spent the last few days formulating a cross-training plan that will not only keep me strong while I'm off my feet during the next 4-5 weeks, but will also prepare me for--drumroll please--Ironman 70.3 Augusta!

I know that I may not be able to do this. Stress fractures are finicky, and I know that I may not be able to run by the half-Ironman, which is September 26. However, I'm going to try my damndest. The biking is the only thing holding me back right now--56 miles is a lot for me--but this injury should give me a chance to get comfortable with that distance.

I've just got to take it all one day at a time.