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race reports

never settle: IM Vineman Race Report

Sharing thoughts of my heart and courage at IM Vineman. That 140.6 race I completed on July 30, 2016, my “A” race of this year.

Here’s how it all went down.

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Ever feel like you want something so badly that you can almost taste it? I believed I could do well at IM Vineman and have a PR and get  on the podium. I had never been in better condition to do this distance, mentally and physically. SO prepared.

Cue Race morning.

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It was chilly, foggy morning in Guerneville. At the race start, temps were reading in the high 50’s. We were staying a 10 minute walk from the swim start at Johnson’s Beach and it made logistics so much easier. It’s a point to point race and we did not have to worry about driving and getting to the start like so many people did. sweet! I highly recommend staying near Guerneville if you do this race, parking is kind of a nightmare on race morning.

THE SWIM

The 2.4 mile swim was in the Russian River, which was beautiful.  The backdrop on race morning was something I will will not soon forget… the redwood trees lining the river.. breathtaking.

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There aren’t many IM races where you can watch the swim from a bridge.

The amateur race start was at 6:45 AM, a rolling start.  let me just say, I am a HUGE fan of the Ironman rolling start (thank you Ironman!). I started with the wave that was 1:00-1:10 estimated swim finish, which was perfect.  It was the first time I’ve done an Ironman swim that was not chaotic.  It was what seemed like a ‘casual” entry, with me and thousands of my friends. I was not scared at all, no punches, no kicks, just SUPER calm. It was an out an back and also very shallow and some spots, where I had to adjust my stroke not to scrape the rocks at the  bottoms. This was by far the most calm IM swim I’ve ever had. The algae was a little gross.. chunks of it floating in the water, but I had to just get over it. At times, a lot of people were actually walking, I just kept swimming, despite how awkwardly shallow it was. I did a steady effort and felt comfortable and within my limits the entire time. When I got out of the water, I looked at my watch and was like holy s*it, 1:03!! I planned to do a 1:06, so I was so pumped! A 3:00 minute IM Swim PR!

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Being an AWA racer definitely has it’s perks. My bike bag was set up right after the pros, and it was easy to find exiting the water. I grabbed it quickly and ran into the changing tent.  I still  need to get faster at T2, ugh! I just find it’s hard to get my stuff together after swimming… one day!

I ran out of the changing tent, grabbed my bike in the 1st row (sweet!).  The bike mount was at the bottom of the hill, some people were walking their bikes , I chose to ride up the hill, making sure I was in a low gear for that ! It was there when I saw Brian cheering for me.

THE BIKE

As I started the bike ride, my first thought was “it’s COLD!” The air was still in the low 60’s and it felt really cold. I opted not to wear my arm warmers for aero reasons, but as a result I was very chilly for the first hour or so. The sun was not out in the beginning and there were some hills, going down them was freezing! After a mile or so, I noticed my power meter wasn’t working. I thought it might have something to do with the area (bad service, in the woods) but no…. the battery was dead. *note to self* check power meter battery before racing an ironman.. lo and behold. they don’t last forever. Mine decided that July 30th, the day of my biggest race of the year, it was going to die on me.

I had a choice, I could  get pissed off about the power meter not working, I could freak out and get all worried, or I could accept it and move on. I chose the later. This is where mental toughness and race experience comes into play. I knew what level I was supposed to be working at, I knew the watts, my legs knew what these watts felt like, so I went by feel and perceived rate of exertion.  I was supposed to ride at 70-75% effort, and I tried my best to accomplish that. I also looked at heart rate and made sure it was staying steady and not spiking on the hills.  I made sure not to go out too hard in that first loop, I was ok with a few girls passing me, knowing that I might have a chance on the run.  Brian had told me I was 6th after the swim, and this gave me the confidence in knowing if I had a strong bike, I could run some of the girls down in the Marathon later…

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The bike ride was GORGEOUS.  Albeit, I couldn’t enjoy most of it since I had to stay tucked in aero- turtle turtle turtle:) The Vineman bike is very undulating, lots of rollers and some sharp turns. It’s not like other races I’ve had where there’s long screaming downhills (think IMMT).  It was challenging, but fair.  There was one significant climb at mile 45 and again at mile 95 ish, Chalk Hill (the one hill of the course everyone talks about. Well it couldn’t even compare to what I’ve been training on in VT and NH, it was really no problem at all. Plus I LOVE climbing. I rode through hundreds of vineyards and enjoyed the sights on the climbs. People were out cheering in some of the sections, which was so fun! For most of the bike ride, I was riding alone, it was quite empty out there. I think with the rolling swim start, it really spreads people out – not complaining!  There were a few mishaps on the bike besides the power meter malfunction: I dropped my chain once and I took a wrong turn late in the race. I had my head down and missed a turn off – oops! I also hit something with my rear wheel at mile 107, later to find out that it was a nail in my tire. It decided to hang on until after the race (are you kidding me?!) and I didn’t get a flat during the ride. I heard a noise had had no idea what it was… thought I might have a flat but it never happened… until later.. Wow was I lucky.

Bike time: 5:39 (goal was to break 5:35, so it was a bit of a let down, but I’ll take it give I did not have a power meter to work with)

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After the bike, I moved quickly to T2. I was almost the only female in the changing tent (a good sign?) and the volunteers were incredible.  I swear I had four women helping me all at once, it was awesome.

THE RUN

By the time the Marathon started it was hot and the sun was out.  I had no idea what to expect on the run course, since I had not driven it (like I did the bike course).  It was unexpectedly hilly and three loops. I loved the three loop course because you could really figure out where your competition was.  Run a steady marathon was the name of the game. Ironman races are won in the last 10 miles, this is where you are either hurting or thriving.  I have been in the hurt before during those last 10-13 miles, when I’ve gone out way too fast in the beginning. I did not want to make this mistake again and I would not do anything but “run easy” during those first 10 miles. I followed my heart rate, focused on drinking what I could pouring water all over my head and back.  
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I had worn the Coeur Zele top for the bike and also wore it on the run., wow what a game changer!! It was a hot day and I felt cool, amazing! The fabric makes you stay extra cool on the run when you pour cold water on yourself, like magic.

“Steady Eddy” was the name of the game.  I felt super smooth the entire run and some fellow racers even commented on how good I looked “you’re making this look easy” this one guy said.  Brian was back at the “hot corner” tracking me and the leaders of my AG. By lap 1 he told me I was in 4-5th place, by lap 2 I knew I was in 5th place, by the start of lap 3 I was 4th place.. and gaining on the 3rd place girl. I kept calm and focused step by step on what I was doing. I started to think I would be “ok” with 4th or 5th place, but who was I kidding, I really wanted top 3. During the third lap I was getting tired, but still was able to crank up the pace a bit, telling myself, I have waited all year for this day, I have worked too hard for this, I have busted my ass for this race, it’s supposed to hurt, it’s supposed to really hurt, everyone is hurting.. I have trained on hills just like this… I knew I was about to make something happen, it was just a matter of “when.” Mile 22 was the final turn around, I had 4.2 to go and I could tell the 3rd place girl was slowing down when saw her before I turned and I was gaining.  I continued up and down the hills I wasn’t seeing her anywhere. There was one really big hill at the last mile of every loop, wow that burned! After the hill it was a nice downhill towards the high school, where the finish line was.  I ran through “hot corner” and people were cheering loudly.  I knew I was in 4th place and I had begun to accept it… sort of..

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After I rounded the corner into the finish area, I could see a pink tri kit, the one of the girl I knew was in 3rd place. I figured I could catch her, I knew I could.  I sprinted my ass off to catch her.. I caught her.. and I kept on going…  running as fast as I could, I ran my heart out… I passed her and she wasn’t hanging on… down the finish chute I went, so proud!

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Final Results:

10:34:09

3rd Place Age Group: 30-34

4thh Place Amateur Female

8th Place Overall Female (including pros)

18 minute IM PR for me!

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At the awards ceremony the next day, I could have gotten the first roll down to Kona (#1 took her slot and #2 was already going).  I decided to pass it up (so hard!) since we had plans to go to Australia for 70.3 Worlds.  I will get back to Kona one day, I just know it!

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**A VERY Special thank you to Coeur Sports andE3 Triathlon Coaching for all that you did to get me to this podium at Vineman! **

race reports

Raleigh 70 point 3 {Recap}

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, or even a blog post for that matter.

Here we go…

Raleigh was kind of a beast, but I loved it.

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A few things about Raleigh 

  • It’s hot
  • It’s humid as f*ck
  • Point-to -point race
  • The people are really nice
  • The city is really clean
  • It’s SO GREEN everywhere, and so lush. Now I think I know why they call it the “city of oaks” ?
  • It’s a tough race
  • Rolling hills for dayssss..but not as bad as the course profile makes it out to be
  • No shade on the run – think Kona-like conditions
  • Pizza at the finish line!

Our adventure down to Raleigh started with a long road trip the Thursday before race day.  You know things are good with your significant other when you are still laughing after 11+ hours in the car… that’s all:)

Thursday night, after driving 7+ hours, we stayed in Fairfax VA . I got to see one of my best college gal pals in the AM on Friday, then we were on our way to Raleigh.  Four hours later, we made it to Raleigh, did all the check in stuff, registration, spent more than we needed to at the athlete expo. I talked to the head referee, who was way cool, and got my wrist brace officially approved. I had been emailing him to make sure it was OK to race with a wrist brace on my arm.

Thumbs up!

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Friday was all the typical pre-race stuff, including a carb load dinner , which I think we both got food poisoning from (awesome).  If it wasn’t the food, it was something we contracted during our travels, because we both spent all of Friday night and Saturday feel ill (I’ll spare the details). Grrrreat.  Because getting sick is great for staying hydrated before a hot race, not.

Saturday morning started with a pretty shake out bike ride on the Greenway and a short run… then is was off to carb load!  The only thing was, we didn’t feel like carb loading. In fact, we could barely eat our pancakes. I was so nauseous… way worse than my typical pre-race jitters nausea. The pancakes were a struggle, and to be honest, I wasn’t even that full for a carb load.  I spent the rest of the day hydrating like a champ and relaxing as much as I could. My carb loading faves are non-fiber and low fat foods such as: pretzels, fig newtons, sports drink, bread.. and more bread… basically nothing that’s healthy for you, but is great for loading up for race day.

Later that afternoon we drove out to Jordan Lake (40 min drive) to drop off our bikes at T1. We weren’t allowed to swim in the water at the lake, but I touched it with my hands and it was WARM. Kind of like sitting in a warm bath tub feels like… this mean’t no wet suit! A “small” detail I didn’t know about Raleigh until after I signed up: It’s a point-to-point race.  It makes for more details to tie up before the race and a little more confusion.  There were two transition areas, T1 at Jordan Lake and T2 in downtown Raleigh.

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The transition area in T1 was gorgeous! I got a money spot thanks to my AWA standings (thanks Ironman!)

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After sweating our butts off during transition set up, we drove on the bike course for about 30 miles (highly recommend this with any race) and it was cool to see what to expect the next day! Then is was back to the hotel for vegging out and trying not to be on our feet as much as possible.

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race reports

Kona part I: race morning + the swim

Not every race can be a good race. With the good races, there must be bad races every once in a while. The bad ones are what really tell us what we are made of.  These are the races that make us an athlete.  That test us, push us to the brink of exhaustion. These are the races where the term ‘blood, sweat and tears.’ comes from. The races where you want to quit with all of your might, but somehow you are able to dig from way deep inside you and somehow finish a race you never thought you would be capable of finishing… where every single muscle in your body just wanted to give up, but your mind did not. 

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that race was Kona

Kona caused a lot of joy…. but also a TON of hurt. It just hurt in so many ways.  It hurt emotionally, physically, mentally, it just f*cking hurt.

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I went into Kona with different expectations than IMMT.  I had to be honest with myself, knowing that I had just raced an Ironman in August and that my body may not respond in the way it normally would on race day.  Two Ironmans in seven weeks – NOT easy. Given my numbers leading up to Kona, Coach was confident that I could still race a competitive time at Kona, however, the training weeks leading up to Kona post IMMT were the toughest weeks of my life.  It was really, really hard to get my head in the game and focus.  I was going through some really hard personal things (divorce, selling the house, interviewing for new jobs…) all while training for Kona.  I worked as hard as I possibly could during this short period of time, like the little worker bee that I am, but my heart was losing the desire.  So, at a time when I should have been very happy and excited about getting ready for Kona, I was just kind of numb. But like time always does, it moves on, and with time things got better…

Before I knew it… race morning was upon me!

RACE MORNING KONA

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It was pitch black outside when I got to the transition that morning, but we were soon treated with a beautiful sunrise.  I made my way to the bag drop areas and the body marketing stations.  I ended up walking right behind Rinny that morning…“are kidding me?!” so freaking cool. I wished her good luck:)   The body marking stations are just like what they look like on TV. I keep having all of these ‘pinch me ‘ moments. Unlike most races, they use the body marking tattoos and they really make everyone feel special.  After getting marked/tattooed I made my way to my bike to make sure everything was good to go.   I had a moment to myself where I walked over to the water and just took a few deep breaths. I was about to race in the Ironman World Championships, wow, just wow.

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After the porta-potty madness, putting on sunscreen and braiding my hair, it was time to make my way to the swim start. I said goodbye to Brian and Coach Jorge and headed to the swim start.

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me and brian before I embarked on my journey:)

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race reports

aloha kona: the calm before the storm

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On Monday October 5, 2015 after a 16 hour travel day from BOS to LAX to KOA, I arrived in Kona.. and boy was it hot and humid!

I have never seen my ankles so swollen from a plane ride, but I was happy to be in Hawaii for the first time ever and smelling the salty air.  I used this awesome bike back from BIKND and it was fantastic… highly recommend it.  My bike counted as  luggage for American Airlines, not bad at all.  I just paid the additional bag fee and sent my bike on it’s merry way.  Best of all, it arrived in Hawaii all in one piece, safe and sound.

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Arriving in Kona there was so much so much buzz; triathletes all about, nervous excitement all around. Even the airport that night was flooded with triathletes from all over the world. Soon I realized that I was there with the BEST of the BEST.  This was not just your average triathlon setting… this was the Superbowl of triathlon and I was part of it.

I spent the days leading up to the race doing practice swims in Kailua Kona Bay, short recovery runs on Ali’i Drive and bike rides on the Queen K.  I also spent time (and money) at the expo (probably too much) and some QT with my Coeur ladies. Oh and how can I forget the infamous underpants run! I’m pretty sure I walked around with a perma grin on my face the entire time leading up to the big day.  Since I was there to mostly have fun, and not race for a PR, the pressure was off.  I wanted to do well, but more than anything, I was there for the experience.

Here’s what I was up to before the Big Dance:

Tuesday before the race was all about registering, checking out the expo and then just relaxing.  IRONMAN gave us these totally awesome Kona backpacks/dry bags.  Also buying everything “KONA” at the expo #sorrynotsorry

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I  enjoyed my first practice swim that afternoon from Dig Me Beach.  It was everything it looks like on TV and more. There were so many people swimming along the course that it looked like a freeway for swimmers.  I made time to have some fun in the water with the go-pro, after all, it was an easy swim.  This also included a visit to the infamous coffee boat (I don’t drink coffee but it was fun to look at). My first reaction to the water in Kona was the water is “SO SALTY.”  Seriously, the saltiest of ocean water I’ve ever tasted. While swimming in the bay I couldn’t help but notice all of the tropical fish, coral and beautiful water that surrounded me.  I was nervous of colliding with someone because I was in awe of where I was actually swimming.

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race reports, races

some reflecting: IMMT and punching my ticket to Kona

Finally… I’m feeling the desire to write again. 

I wanted to write about all of this sooner.. but I had a lot of ‘life stuff’ going on right after Ironman Mont-Tremblant. I also wanted to write lot more about the race day and everything that followed… but other things had to take priority, and that’s ok 🙂

To make a long story short… THIS moment was the proudest moment of my life:

Achieving the DREAM of Kona Qualification at my 2nd ever Ironman at IMMT!

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There were only two slots this year in the 30-34 AG.  I finished 2nd place, missing 1st place by under two minutes.  Of course that had me thinking: “I wish I didn’t have to use that porta potty at mile 40 on the bike”… I could have taken 1st! I went into the race thinking I could do it, believing I could do it. I DID IT!

Overall time: 10:53:39

2nd 30-34 AG

11th Amateur Female

26th Overall female (including Pros)

35 minute PR from IMMT the prior year (25 minutes taken off my bike alone!)

All of this was achieved on a very hot day (rare for late August in Quebec).  It was in the mid-80’s and almost Kona-like conditions during the second half of the race. And while I would love to recap this race from start to finish, I am going to go with an abbreviated version instead.

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Swim: 1:07:25 

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Bike: 5:47:49

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Run: 3:50:02

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Punching my slot to the Big Island had me feeling like I was on top of the world!!!

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When I qualified at IMMT with a 2nd place age group finish, I had no idea what would be in store at Kona.  I had just raced my heart out and had the race of my life (including a battle during the 2nd half of the marathon for 1st/2nd place).  I executed my plan (mostly to perfection). I had confidence going into that race, knowing I could get my Kona spot and I wanted it badly.  When I earned my Kona slot, I was given a lei that I was so proud of… I practically wanted to sleep with it on.

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Then, a week after a race reality hit that I would have to continue with training and my season was far from over.  Two Ironmans in a seven week time span.. could it be done? How would my body respond? There were emotional highs and lows during this time, there were doubts… doubting myself and asking if I could really do back to back Ironmans like I was about to do.  At one point it all became too much and I even said: “I wish I never qualified for Kona.” I know that sounds insane, but it was very, very overwhelming.  My body was confused.  After Tremblant my legs were craving a break that I couldn’t really give them (sorry legs).

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On top of the fatigue from IMMT, I was dealing with some tough “life stuff” i.e. divorce that was affecting me from an emotional standpoint, this made training even more difficult and at times it was hard to get my head in the game. There were lots of tears during the Kona training block, not because I didn’t think I could do it, but it was just very emotional for a lot of reasons. After my last long brick workout, I stood on the treadmill and the tears were flowing (it also didn’t help that Bon Iver was playing on Pandora). I had exceeded my own expectations and I got through the toughest mental and physical training block of my life.

Racing two IM’s in two months would be a challenge for sure, but I was up for it.  Once IMMT was over, I took a few weeks to rest and then I picked things up for about five weeks prior to taper week before Kona. Before I knew it, it was taper week. Those weeks between my two IM’s were some of the fastest moving weeks of my life. I feel like I blinked and I was putting my bike in it’s bike box for the airport and making my packing list for Kona.

In the few weeks leading up to Kona, I started to feel like I was actually ready to race again. My speed and power were coming back and my doubts were disappearing. The fears were not really the race itself i.e. the distance.  I knew I was capable of 140.6 miles.. but it was the heat, wind and crazy conditions that Kona is known for that scared the heck out of me. And let me tell you, Kona is everything it’s cracked up to be… but you have NO idea what to expect, NO matter what anyone tells you, until you actually experience it for yourself.  I watched all of the Ironman videos of the world championship from years prior… I read articles… listened to input from pros. but nothing, I’m telling you nothing prepares you for this race other than the race itself….

stay tuned….

 

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