Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Michelle & Kona: Take Two

It's 2 weeks post-race. Time to get this post up! Subconscious (or probably more truly, consciously) I have been avoiding this. I have to face myself and sometimes that's not so fun! This is the Ironman World Championship Race. I have been there twice and she has kicked my ass twice! Here goes.

First off. I MUST thank the sponsors of Team EVOTRI. I love my teammates and am so grateful to the sponsors we have. What I have been able to obtain through their sponsorship has made my training and racing so much more effective and enjoyable. Thank you to ZIPP, SRAM, CycleOps, Hub Endurance, and Quintana Roo. Also, I love my coach and probably don't tell her enough how much I appreciate her work.

I love the Big Island and the town of Kailua-Kona. It is truly a nostalgic and mystical place for triathletes. Going back for a second time brought this all home to me. There is something unforgettable about Ali'i Drive on race week watching the runners and cyclists going back and forth on the side of the road. It's a tri geek's version of people watching at the mall! Driving the course pre-race and seeing the lava fields and long rolling roads stretched out before me brought back a lot of memories and goals for the future. The prerace check-in and banquet were a bit less of a blur. Swimming in the bay left me feeling good about myself and in control. Then again, the heat and humidity when out for a few short runs had me wondering again what I had gotten myself into!

In the end, however, mother nature and my own psyche have a way of combining to become a powerful force.

I know nothing about trade winds and island weather other than the race is always hot and windy. But, the weather forecasters for days before the race were talking about "swells" and "tradewinds moving back in for the weekend". What the hell? I don't know what any of that means! All I did know was swimming the few days before the race felt more up and down than it did 2 years ago. Then again, I thought it might be all in my head and I just wasn't remembering things correctly. Ha! It was going to be a nasty day.

Pre-race all went as planned. I had to laugh. All racers were weighed after getting body marked and on our way to transition. When I was standing in the port-a-potty line afterward, the discussion focused on how all our weights were up 3 lbs. Really, who the f cares? We are all such self-absorbed geeks, it's hilarious! Myself included! I was able to meet my family by the fence line under a Banyan tree to chill out before getting in the water which was fabulous. I am so thankful to them for being there!

For the swim, I seeded myself smack dab in the middle. Really, the swim went well. The water was not clear at all. I couldn't see the bottom. Unlike 2 years ago when I remember entertaining myself with watching the fish and corral underneath. Afterward, talking with a local I heard that the water was choppier or swellier or whatever you want to call it more so than usual. I came out of the water with a 5 minute improvement. I was feeling good and satisfied with my effort and on the race went.

For the first 80 miles of the bike ride, I was in heaven. I was back on my own bike which I had been without for 2.5 weeks as I shipped it out to Kona. It was a beautiful day and I was feeling good. My power was on target. Not overriding, not underriding. I was keeping up with my fluids and taking in my electrolytes. There was wind a couple of times on the way up to Hawi and the turnaround. The 6 miles up to Hawi, with the climb and the wind, were tough but I was in control. At the turnaround, a descent follows for a few miles and this was an absolute joy. I love descending! (who doesn't?) It was drizzling a bit here so visibility was a tad sketchy. But still all good. And I can go down hill. I was passing and passing and passing. Fun! However, the fun came to a screeching halt the last 30 miles into town. It was like God turned on the wind tunnel and I was going straight into it and it never shut off. I tried to hang in there. I really did. I knew this too would come to an end as I often tell myself to get through hard times. But, it never did. The wind just kept on. Then the deluge of passing bikes started. One after the other, after the other. I became discouraged. I am saying this out loud (in print) and not proud. I gave up. Ugh! Gasp! Kick my ass! But, it is true. I remember vividly saying to myself, "I am sick of this shit! I am supposed to be on vacation!" See, I wasn't out to win my age group or even come close. I was looking for a solid performance and this wind had f'ed that all up! I was so discouraged with myself but couldn't muster up the guts to work harder. I limped it into Kona and tried to mentally switch gears. Now, I needed to realign my goals and in a hurry.

The run turned into an effort of mental stamina. I was dejected by my bike performance and just wanted to walk. But, I knew that would just piss me off more. So, I made a deal with myself. Truly, the run portion of any Ironman turns into me making deals with myself! I allowed myself to walk each aid station. Spread out over 26 miles that's about 25 minutes of walking. Well, that will slow down your marathon time, like it or not. I'm not complaining about my run. Nothing surprising at all happened. I drank, walked, ran, kept moving. Never did I feel like I was going to die or puke or tip over. Just the usual, familiar, pain and suffering! I just focused on going forward and finishing.

I had a goal of finishing in the daylight. That did not happen. I was coming out of the Energy Lab when the sun went down. That hurt....bad. It was the first time in my Ironman racing that I have put a goal out there and it didn't happen. I was dreading this. I've done 7 Ironman races and #7 was not my lucky number. I've had this feeling for a long time that my luck would run out eventually. It has too. Nothing always happens the way we want it to even though we care and try. Life doesn't work that way.

But this sounds all like a lot of bawling, crying, and carrying on. Not so. By the time I had finished the race, I was fine with it all. I was glad it was over and vowed to myself that my value was not based on the result of this race. I tell you, I went through more emotional upheaval during this race then I can ever recall in other races. Calm, happy, sad, pissed, dejected, apathetic, determined, and content. That is amazing to me that one day can be filled with so much drama!

A lot of these race reports are filled with numbers and data. So, here's a little of that. I finished 12:06 something. What will haunt me is that this was 21 seconds SLOWER than 2 years ago. That number I will remember. Yes, the conditions were worse, blah, blah, blah. But still, I wanted to be faster. I was 60 something out of 80 something in my age group. Also not where I wanted to be. What's done is done. I'm happy to be moving on.

Most importantly, my family. I saw my husband, mother, sister, and her IM virgin boyfriend throughout the course in town many times and they were truly a blessing. I thought about them and also other people in my life a lot throughout the race. That's really what kept me going. Thinking about others and not myself. I really appreciate all the sacrifices my family has had to deal with over the years to allow me to participate in Ironman racing. I love you all.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pharmie's 13th Consecutive Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon

Here's Sarah's report on her 13th consecutive(!) Twin Cities Marathon. Awesome!

Sunday was the running of the 31st Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. It also happened to be my 32nd birthday and the 13th year in a row that I've shown up at the start line of this race. As I mentioned in my last post, I was excited to be able to run this race with my coworkers Laura and Tzivia.

My coworker Jared asked me the Friday before the race if I was nervous or if this was "old hat" by now. I answered honestly that the distance doesn't really scare me anymore. At this point in my life, I'm not going for marathon PRs. My goal out there was going to be to have fun, and I was hoping to see Laura to her first marathon finish.

After some tasty pasta on Saturday night, our alarm went off at 6 AM on Sunday. One of the things I love about doing a close race is that my race morning alarm clock was actually set later than my normal work week alarm. Steve, my brother Matt, his girlfriend Angela (who was running her FIRST marathon), my cousin Ben, my Aunt Nancy, and Steve's parents all caravanned to the start. We stopped to snap a pic of the racers before heading our separate ways:

Angela, me, and Ben trying to stay warm!
Tzivia, Laura, and I had planned to meet at a specific gate at the Metrodome. It was one that Tzivia's friends were also meeting at. Unfortunately, it also happened to be THE MAIN GATE THAT 11,999 OTHER MARATHONERS WERE ENTERING AND EXITING. It was a terrible place to meet, and after 25 minutes of searching for Tzivia and/or Laura, I realized that there was a good chance I wouldn't find either of them. I made my way out to the starting line. A little bit of dread started to set in. I realized that the race I was planning to run with a couple of really fun girls was maybe going to be a solo race. I really don't mind running alone, especially since I have a gift for making race friends, but that wasn't what I'd been mentally preparing for. At the back of my corral, I spotted Tzivia! She told me that she had been with Laura but Laura had gone back to look for me one more time. The corral was filling up fast, and Tzivia decided that she needed to get in line. "I can't be behind the 5 hour runners," she said. "You don't want to see how big of a mess I'll be if I have to start back there."

I waited. I waited some more. Dread was setting deeper and deeper in the pit of my stomach, and then I spotted Laura! I was so relieved that I nearly cried. This was going to be a great race after all. Laura and I got in line. We positioned ourselves off to the side. I had been so busy looking for my ladies that I never got to make one last trip to the porta potties, and I hoped this wouldn't come back to haunt me (it didn't).

Laura and me just after the start

We were pretty excited to get started!
 The start of the race FLEW by. I pointed out some of my favorite traditions - whooping under a tunnel in downtown, running by the Basilica while its bells were ringing for all of the runners, and seeing the lakes. We laughed and shared fun signs were reading, we talked, and we ran. Literally before I knew it, we were closing on mile 6, then mile 8. I was feeling good. The weather was still chilly at just over 30 degrees, but I was glad I'd decided on shorts, mittens, an ear band, a sleeveless top, and my Evotri bike jersey. We saw Laura's husband Jared at mile 11. He was biking bits of the course, and we'd see him countless more times before we crossed the finish line. I knew to look for my family at mile 15. When I saw them, my jaw dropped. My mom was there with the rest of our cheering section! She was able to take a few hours off of work to come watch the race.  What a fun surprise!

My mom holding up some extra Gu. Let it be known that
Mint Chocolate Gu is nectar of the Gods

She gave me a big birthday hug, I shot a smile to the rest of my family, and we were off again. I was so excited to see them all that I forgot that I was going to leave my mittens with them!

Mile 16 is always the hardest mile for me at a marathon. The pain has started to set in at that point, and 10 miles to go seems like an awfully long way.  This year was no exception. The crowd was AMAZING out there, just like it is every year. People have huge speaker systems to blast fun music, bands come out to play, families make fun signs to come and cheer, and neighbors have fun block parties. I tried to focus on all of the fun and a little less on any pain that was creeping up on me. I was wearing my SI brace, and though my sacrum was starting to ache, I found that tightening the brace every once in a while brought it back to manageable.

Soon we were at mile 20. "Only a 10K left!" I chirped to Laura. She smiled and agreed that we were going to do this. We weren't talking much any more. We were just focusing on the hills coming up, soaking in the sunshine, and pushing forward.

By the time we hit Summit Avenue, I was feeling good. Laura was starting to suggest that I go on ahead, but I didn't want to hear it. We were going to finish this together. We spotted a few supportive coworkers who had come out to cheer along with other friends as we made our way toward the Capitol. Though our time started slipping, I was thankful that my training was good. That 22 miler a couple of weeks ago made a HUGE difference in my physical and mental endurance. I focused on keeping my stride smooth and even. My legs were starting to ache, so I told myself to put them on autopilot and focus outside myself. I offered Laura encouragement, high-fived the little kids, and thanked the spectators for coming out.  I laughed at the signs and one guy's T-shirt that said, "Free kittens at the finish." The race was flying by, and I was soaking it in.

I looked for my family at mile 25.5. Henry and my sister Annie had joined them:

Henry sporting his new "old man" sweater

I was still smiling like a lunatic after all of those miles!
We crested the hill and ran down to the finish line. It's always such a beautiful sight with a huge American flag waving over our heads and the Capitol in the background. We crossed the finish line, high-fived, and hugged. We finished in 4:23:52 - a pretty average time for me, and one that I'm proud of since I felt great and have been trying so hard to find balance between work, being a wife and mom, and endurance sport.

I made my way back up the hill to find my family - medal around my neck, chocolate milk in hand, and a smile on my face. Running a beautiful marathon in your city is a great way to celebrate a birthday. The icing on my cake? Getting a giant birthday hug from this guy:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sweet Does the Ironman - Twice!

Chris recently did the unthinkable and race not one, but two full distance races two weeks apart after a four-year break from the distance. Better yet, he did it on minimal training while raising two kids and painting his house.

Here's a snippet of his thoughts of making the decision to race his first race:

I was very surprised that a new Midwest Ironman race had somehow gotten under my radar.  As I poked around the website, I liked what I saw and started forming the seeds of a rather crazy idea.
It seemed ill-advised to do an Ironman crash course training block and then taper all within two months (not to mention a tough half two weeks before).  I talked it over with my wife and pointed out that all my IM training would be compressed into two months and would primarily consist of only six key long workouts: 3 long rides and 3 long runs.
And then thoughts on parlaying the effort into a second full race:
Racing two ironman races, two weeks apart, after a 4 year hiatus from long course racing was a huge gamble. This was not some haphazard, macho, lookee-what-I-can-do endeavor, though.  Instead, it was a series of carefully calculated risks. The first gamble was that I felt I was in far better shape than my performance at the Michigan Titanium showed. Cedar Point was a slightly easier course and race conditions would almost surely be better than the heat I had to deal with in Grand Rapids. If things went right I thought I could race faster than 2 weeks earlier and potentially set a lifetime best.

Read about how each race turned out: Michigan Titanium & Rev3 Cedar Point