Monday, December 22, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Now I'm at my dad's house in a desperate attempt to facilitate a run outside on traffic-free country roads that are still decently packed tomorrow morning, but it looks like we're in for more snow tonight. In fact the only pictures on the 10-day weather forecast are snowflakes. I'd like it to be known that I'm not complaining about snow in this post. Lots of cold, feathery, light snow is perfect for holiday cheer (and for skiing). If it's still doing this in April, I'll be writing something reminiscint of 9 blogs ago, but now it's time for celebration. Even though my ability to run outdoors is presently compromised, yay for snow! I can't wait for my brother and sister to come home so we can do some ultimate sledding (full-contact sled racing down my dad's driveway). Aaron and Bri have joined in the action in years past, and I fully expect optimal conditions this year.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Dee's modified version
Thursday, November 27, 2008
We trained a bit (including one beautiful evening ride through paradise valley) ate a lot, attended all the requisite meetings, and just when it was time to do nothing else except get nervous, my all-star support team of Phaedra and Shelby showed up. My pre-race mindset was so remarkably different than it has been before any other ironman this season. I knew that I could be strong over the distance, but didn't know how much speed I would have after a lackluster 5 weeks of training since Kona. So I didn't worry about it, and instead I got in a hard-core ab workout laughing hysterically with S&P for hours on end. In addition to the laughing there was a bit of dancing.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
"Well Coops, if I were you, I wouldn't have even raced."
"Well, your number was obviously terrible. 139?! First of all, it starts with a 13, and if you add all the numbers together, you get 13 again!"
So nutrition/pacing/heat issues/etc. didn't foil my race after all, it was just my number. It's so easy! Unfortunately I don't believe in superstition, and the reality is that I'm responsible for what did and didn't happen in Kona this year. Besides, my number in Sooke was 1309 and I had a great time there. Just to prove to myself that the whole 13 thing is BS, I booked seat number 13C on my flight to Phoenix next month. It was one of the few aisle seats that didn't incur an additional charge - go figure.
Before getting into the gritty details of race day, I should first mention how awesome it was to return to Kona. I got in on the evening of Saturday the 4th, with less of a delay than most others I know. It was so deliciously familiar and exciting. Picked up the Ford Focus rental and headed straight to my favorite Thai restaurant for veggie curry before checking into the Seaside for the night. I was excited. I knew that the time change meant I would wake up super early the next morning and get in pre-dawn swim with fish and coral and turtles and (hopefully) dolphins.
Everything contrasted with last year's experience wherein I arrived after dark in a foreign landscape with no idea where I was going and really no idea why I was bothering to race on zero fitness. Last year, I was really not excited for race day. This year, I couldn't wait. Last year, I was the recipient of the amazing hospitality of Rick and Karen Rubio who wholeheartedly took me in an introduced me to the town and its people to an extent that I never would have known otherwise. This year I was initially flying solo and doing so with a naiive confidence.
I wasn't really alone though. The next several days were spent training with the Lifesport Kona camp, picking up a continual stream of friends and family from the airport (including fellow athlete Aubre), and running into friends and acquaintances everywhere. In fact every errand, training session, meal, etc took way more time than I allotted for such activities because I always ended up talking to someone ad largum.
And then it was race day. Aubre and I got up at 4:00 am to eat breakfast, have a moment of pre-race calm, and take the Ali'i shuttle into town. Aubre's enthusiasm is contagious and we both headed for transition with high hopes and focused excitement. Body marking and setting up T1 was smooth and easy. I got a pre-race hug from a body marker named Lu who was Shelby's boss back in her skydiving days. It was sweet. I then found myself with nothing left to do. I usually rush around until the absolute last minute with a panic that I carry through the swim start, for better or for worse. With all of the pre-race details taken care of, I plopped myself down next to Craig Alexander to keep my feet up until my swim warm up. Why not begin the day seated next to an incredibly talented athlete, I thought. Poor guy had cameras in his face the whole time. He's obviously good at dealing with the pressure.
As per my coach's insistence, I did a much longer swim warm-up than I used to do (which was basically none), and was feeling pretty good in the water in my hot new 20" Speedzoot. Right before I headed to the start, a giant turtle swam underneath me. Linsey wasn't far away, and I waved her over. It was so peaceful floating over huge turtle right before the insane beginning of what would be a long day of racing. Katya joined us to gawk, and we all surfaced grinning. "It means we're going to have a good swim," Linsey said. Linsey did have a good swim. In fact, she had a good race. 5th place is pretty darn good, I'm told :)
I found a good start position towards the inside, but because the pro start is so much smaller than the mass start,, crowding really isn't an issue and it's much better to seed oneself aggressively. My start was the best I've ever had and after pushing 200 m hard, I settled in with a good group of about 12 people. We worked well together, bu there was the inevitable fighting for feet and more contact than I like. As swimmers battled me for a draft, I kept dropping back to get on the feet of the aggressor. We made it around the far turn buoys pretty uneventfully, and just after we turned to head home I felt like our group slowed substantially. I looked up to see what happened to realize the the swimmer whose feet I was on had lost the group. Panic set in and I tried to catch the group, but it was all for naught and they steadily pulled away until out of sight. It was the two of us for a while until another group of swimmers caught us. Yay! I repeatedly tried to cut into the paceline of swimmers, but, understandably, people weren't too eager to let me steal their drafts. Fair enough, I thought, and tacked myself onto the end of the paceline. Bad idea. Not 100 m later, the exact same thing happened, and the person in front of me dropped off the back of the pack. I didn't do a very good job of learning from the first experience! I stayed on her feet for a while before realizing that we'd probably be better off I just sucked it up and pulled us in. So I did. And I was really, really angry with myself. 1:10 in the water. Four minutes slower than last year, and I know I'm a better, fitter swimmer.
I at least had confidence in my ability to ride a bike. Of all 3 disciplines, I've improved the most in cycling this summer, and I was sure that with smart pacing I would ride back into the mix. I'd been dealing with an SI/piriformis issue for a while, and was expecting an uncomfortable ride, but discomfort shouldn't slow a person down in a race. My focus for the first 10 miles through town was to get my heart rate to settle and not get caught up in the insanity of riding through town on fresh legs. I think I did a good job of that. As people stood to power up Palani, I stayed seated and felt like a dork as I lazily pedaled up to the Queen K. There weren't many distinctive moments during the ride. I stayed pretty focused on not over-riding, as can be my tendency, and spent a great deal of time dropping back and dropping back and dropping back as huge packs of age-group men streamed by. It was frustrating to have my rhythm continually broken by trying to follow the rules on the crowded course, but I trusted that all that dropping back was better than a 4 minute drafting penalty. There were motorcycles everywhere.
Conditions on the bike course were much tougher than last year. Granted, last year my goal was to survive rather than to race, but the heat and winds this year were much more intense. I was SO thirsty the whole ride. Normally, I have to force myself to eat and drink when riding, but on this day, all I wanted was ice water all the time. I knew that the gut can only absorb so much fluid, especially in extreme heat and under extreme physical exertion, but it was hard to refrain from constantly chugging water. I supplemented with Gatorade and my tried and true nutrition plan of a GU every 20 minutes. I'm not sure what stimulated such a strong thirst reflex, as I thought I had done a good job of hydrating all week prior to the race.
With screaming glute and a raging thirst, I put my head down and ground through what for me is the toughest part of the bike - the last 30 miles along the Queen K. A super strong quarter wind, lava everywhere, and an SI joint that was less than thrilled at the thought of another 1.5 hours in aero position. I was proud of how focused and positive I was able to stay, especially now that the field had spread out and fewer AG men passed.
With less than 4 miles to go, I approached another cyclist who had slowed on the hill. I moved left 2 meters to pass him (pros are not allowed to slipstream like AGers are). I probably moved to within about 8 m (10 m is the legal distance) when he sped up. I decided that I wasn't worth killing myself with so few miles left to ride and moved back to the right and abandoned my effort to pass. I heard a motorcycle behind me the whole time, but didn't think I would get in trouble, because I hadn't actually moved in to the draft zone, and if I had, I would have barely done so. Besides, there is the rule (no riding within a 10x2 m zone, 20 seconds to complete a pass once initiated) and the spirit of the rule (don't gain an unfair advantage by slipstreaming behinds someone), and I certainly hadn't violated that latter. Nonetheless, I violated the former and got pegged. My first ever red card. Did I deserve it? Probably, I broke the passing rule. Had I gained an unfair advantage? Certainly not, but everything I've learned suggests that arguing with the referees is pointless, so despite being devastated, I tried to make it a positive experience. I would be able to spend the 4 minutes in the penalty tent cooling down, getting medical assistance for my bleeding heels, stretching and fueling . . . what a joy!
Part of me wished that I had just sat in the middle of those giant packs of men during the ride out to Hawi - the ones that the motorcyclists just told to "break it up," because it's too hard for them to single out and penalize everyone. Herd mentality. At least then I would have felt genuinely deserving of the penalty. Instead, I was really discouraged. Especially when I got to the penalty tent and we weren't allowed to eat, drink, go to the bathroom, get medical assistance, or do anything useful. So I swung the stopwatch in circles and listened with great compassion as everyone told their drafting sob stories. We were a grumpy bunch, and we were obviously all innocent :) I really do understand that the "spirit" of the rules can really only come about by enforcing the technicalities, it's was just a tough lesson to learn. 5:29 for the bike. 11 minutes faster than last year, and average HR was 4 bpm lower than Cd'A. It was still slower than I had anticipated, but maybe I'm just crazy.
After the penalty I thought I would be really refreshed and that my heart rate would have calmed down for the start of the run. My goal was to really build through the run, even if it meant running 9 minute miles at the start while my HR settled. Running up Palani out of transition I saw so many familiar faces. Aaron, Cassy, Andy, Bri, Manny, Teri, Tanya, Heather G. . . . I wanted to explain to them that it was okay that I was so slow, I was going to speed up later and pick off all of the women who went out too fast and suffered as a result. Dropping down to Palani, going slower and slower, and the HR just kept rising. Run slower, HR rises. Repeat over and over. By mile 2 I was running 9:30s and feeling increasingly awful. Then my stomach started to cramp and heave. Oh boy. A bit of undigested bagel. Really?! That was like almost 9 hours ago! Mile 3 aid station and all I want is ice water, but should probably try to get some Gatorade down. Heave it all up. I wanted ice water. Shuffle to the next aid station and go through the exact same thing. Who said that insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?
Did I mention that it was really effing hot? The clouds that had shaded and cooled Kona all week were absent on race day, and I was roasting. Around mile 5 I faced my greatest fear. Walking. "The more you walk, the more you will walk" is advice that I really believe in, but my stomach and lethargy left no other option. I thought that if I walked long enough to get my HR down, I might start to absorb some nutrition and get back into a groove. No dice. Until about mile 14, I settled into a eat, walk, jog, vomit routine. Then the chicken broth came out. I'm willing to put aside my vegetarianism for chicken broth in the latter stages of an IM. The stuff is magic. By mile 16, the vomiting had stopped and I was actually running 8:30s down to the energy lab. I had known from mile 2 that my competitive race was over, but it finally became evident at that point that I would at least be able to finish the event. And even though I had very little to give, I wanted it to be finished ASAP, because I was really not having a fun day.
Coming out of the energy lab I was happy to see Dewain's txt message "Run like Ashenafi." I smiled for the first time all day, even though I'm quite sure Ashenafi would be killing me if he were racing. I even found a buddy to run with for several miles until the 22 mile marker when I was abruptly stopped by another wave of nausea. I am amazed and disgusted by how much coke, chicken broth, and ice water, I had consumed in the previous 6 miles. It gave me a whole lot of respect for my stomach capacity. But that was my last puke of the day. Even after a slow, discourging, painful day, 4 miles seemed like no problem. They were slow and ugly miles, but I got them done. And I ran down Ali'i drive towards the finish line with a whole new respect for the course and the conditions. Run time: 4:34. Yup.
I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I finished that race, and ultimately, I think I was too scared to quit. Scared to learn that I might be the kind of person who chooses the easy way out. Scared of how disappointed I would be at the awards ceremony the next night, knowing full well that I would be disappointed regardless. I was scared about what others would think. Rachel Ross, who flew by on the run and encouraged me to (briefly) run with her. Liz Fedofsky, who rode her bike along the course and made me stick to it. The random spectators and aid station volunteers who watched me vomit and then offered the glib, albeit truthful "keep going, you can do it." Kona kicked a lot of people's butts' that day, and a lot of pros were smart, pulling out of the race and saving their bodies for Florida and Arizona. I honestly don't think any less of them. From a career standpoint, there is absolutely no reason to beat oneself up on a course that won't offer any prizemoney or glory, especially when a DNF will look better on the resume than an 11:23. But then there were the pros like Belinda Granger, one of the fastest girls in the sport, who trotted down the Queen K chatting to friend. I saw Hillary Biscay ask a walking male AGer to run with her "I'm not going very fast," she offered. And it was inspirational to see Rutger Beke finish 3rd after walking the marathon last year.
We all have good days and bad. It's what keeps sport interesting and passionate. Bad days aren't fun, but they're amazing learning experiences and they make me truly appreciate the good ones. I'm going into IM AZ with one motto: "have fun!" Granted, having fun for me usually involves being competitive, but this one is really just the icing on the cake. It can't be my "A" race because that happened rather unsuccessfully on October 11th, but I can run with a smile on my face.
These are the only race photos so far. When I get my act together, I'll show pictures of Hawaii and my lovely family and friends.
Bike boxes make great tables in long airport queues
Monday, September 29, 2008
From Monday, September 29:
Che giornata! I love Mondays. Typically it is my day off of training and rarely do I have to work. Aside from the obligatory class time and homework, today was a beautiful, sunny blank slate of a day. Last minute Kona preparations were in order, as was a giant pile of soaking laundry (I've been overdressing in an attempt to heat acclimate). My first order of business was to address a wee issue with my bike, so I called Robin, my boss at Fitness Fanatics, for a consult, and she immediately got to work and on the phone with Scott. Lo and behold, I have a new Scott Plasma frame headed my way on Wednesday. It doesn't leave a lot of time to get all of my components switched over and then packed up for Kona, but I am so lucky for the opportunity to head into this competition with a brand new frame and the peace of mind that my machine will be in perfect working order. I spent the entire walk home from the bus stop (all 10 blocks of it) thinking about all of the people who have stepped up to help me get to Kona happy, well trained, nourished, and just shy of broke. Now that no one reads this blog anymore on account of my delinquent posting, I figured I would take the opportunity to thank my supporters. This isn't an insincere sponsor-pushing segment - it's a thank you to the people responsible for the services and products upon which I depend.
The goodwill of others today wasn't expended in the morning's bike lobbying. I abandoned the Cataldo Cougars (the elementary xc team that I help to coach) in the middle 0f their time trials this afternoon for a last minute PT appointment with Mike Lauffer at B&B Physical Therapy. I went to several physical therapists last summer in a desperate attempt to heal my unwieldy knee, and finally found a gem in Bill Codd at B&B. Ever since I started going there, I've found the entire staff to be helpful, interesting, and best of all, healing. I'm remarkably fortunate to have their support. The best part is that is was fun. Not a modifier traditionally associated with PT, I know. Even as Mike had his elbow lodged squarely in my burning piriformis, I chatted about racing, training, ice baths and Moms in Motion with Mike, Bill (runner extraordinnaire and enthusiast), Lanaia (Bill's protege and also a stellar runner), and Kirsten (all around triathlete stud who runs the local Moms in Motion chapter). Sometime Bill has me close to tears with his crazy core strengthening workouts, but I still chalk it up as good, clean fun.
After PT it was off to the Spokane Club for a sauna session. This was not so fun, but I'm still trying to get my body used to heat. The Spokane Club is the nicest gym in town and I get to go there! The only downside is that I spend way too much time lingering in the locker rooms because they are so nice. Given that my old gym was closed for reconstruction all summer and that the public pools were only available when I was at work, being able to swim anytime at the Spokane Club has been a lifesaver (triathlon saver?). The athletic director Jerrod Crowley lined up some great triathlon training clinics throughout the summer where I was able to "earn" my membership and meet a lot of the members. It was really fun to see more people get involved in triathlon and to get them really enthusiastic about the sport. My thanks go to Jerry O'Neill who lobbied for my membership and sponsored me as a new member.
The two other local businesses who have offered endless support and encouragement are the Metabolic Institute and Runners Soul. The Metabolic Institute offers all kinds of metabolic testing (VO2 max, lactate threshold, resting metabolic rate, etc), and nutritional analysis and counseling. They have make themselves endlessly available to me and never cease to send good luck wishes before big competitions.
Curt, the owner of Runners Soul, was probably my first ever "sponsor," and I'm sure I'm not the only local athlete who can make that claim. He is perhaps the most involved small business owner in the area. Most of the things he does for the community I only learn about in roundabout ways. Curt donates shoes to underprivileged children and teens for high school cross country, track, and Bloomsday. He has a microphone in hand at most local road races and triathlons announcing the finishers as they cross the line. I've seen him out hoofing the streets setting up the BRRC race courses. He has a fleet of Spokane Chiefs and Spokane Indians tickets that he donates to local schools and charities. He sponsors our local NPR stations and heavens knows how many schools and individual athletes he supports. He's even helping our women's xc team (the Spokane Swifts) as we prepare for the national xc team championships in December.
Of course no thank you list would be complete without including my amazing friends and family. Thanks to my dad who unwittingly paid for my first year's worth of triathlon entry fees with absolutely no idea what was to come from the innocent little pastime. If I'm thanking him for paying for things, I should probably also include his essentially paying for my entire life prior to my financial semi-independence. My dad also does lots of cool things like toting my gear to his house on Lake Coeur d'Alene so I can ride my bike there and sometimes he drops off his garden fresh potatoes, tomatoes, grapes, zucchini, raspberries, blueberries, snowpeas, and green beans on my doorstep. He also takes me out to dinner at Gordy's, which is so yummy. And he loves me, which is a good quality in a dad :)
I wouldn't know where to start thanking my mom. She bestowed upon me not only her mitochondrial DNA, but also a competitive spirit and is responsible for probably every ounce of me that is a good human being. She cried when I announced that I would like to compete as a professional triathlete someday (she thought it would be a waste of a brain), but I'm pretty sure that she would be proud. I'm definitely sure that every single day I wish she was still here. And I promise to use my brain.
My brother and sister have shaped me more than anyone else on earth. I am at my most primal state of goofiness with them, and am occasionally surprised at how similar our mannerisms and facial expressions are, even after long periods apart. Andy is one of the more enthusiastic people I have ever known and has driven to Coeur d'Alene for all of my ironmans. He's the exuberant guy with the video camera. Andy's wife Bri is now a triathlete as well and he still manages to be enthusiastic about sport. Cassy is a way cooler version of me + a bit of hippy. Among the many ways she enriches my life is her passion for and interest in music. If I'm ever in a new artist drought, I can count on Cass to introduce me to something worth listening to.
The friends. Phaedra and Shelby warrant special mention as my most ardent supporters (and believers). They deserve a post unto itself. Troy was a most excellent riding companion this summer, but his wife Eve is perhaps even cooler. Morgan, Jim, Holly, Robin and Manny at work are the best people I have ever worked with. I genuinely enjoy all of their company, and can't wait to see how Morgan and Manny do in IM next year. Katie and Conrad abandoned me for Colorado, but I forgive them so long as they come back some day. Roger Thompson and his wife Jessi are absolute staples in our local tri community, and I owe Roger a great deal in the moral support and model athlete department. Annie was the first pro triathlete I ever knew, and I still call on her regularly when I need to bounce ideas, frustrations, or excitement off on somebody. Annie knows the ropes and has a wicked sense of humor to boot. Aubre is my idol. She is the most contagiously friendly and good person that I know, and she also happens to be the most naturally athletic friend I have. The Sullivans are my second family and people that I know I can count on for anything. This includes one particularly frustrating ride through a scary electrical storm last spring. Aaron and my dad were working and there was lightening everywhere, so Julianne and Camrynne drove out to Spangle to collect my wet muddy self and bicycle from underneath a railroad overpass. The homestays. The Antonneaus in Racine and Dewain and Judy in Victoria. My "away" races were so enriched by having these families to stay with, and I think I've made longtime friends in doing so. Coach Dan proved himself a worthy friend as he listened repeatedly to my teary post-race digestion with endless calm and reassurance. Oh, he heard a bit of it during the race as well - when he passed me. The same goes for Coaches Paul and Mark and the rest of the Lifesport crew who let me hang out with them all week even as I transformed from excited, happy Haley to disappointed, teary Haley. I really appreciate the support.
Then of course, there is Aaron. In an attempt at IM redemption, or perhaps just an attempt to do some justice for the months of uninjured, quality training I spent leading up to Kona, I signed up to do Ironman Arizona on November 23. I felt it necessary to check with Aaron before I registered, because I understand that training for and competing in ultra-distance events is physically and emotionally taxing in addition to being seriously time-consuming. Aaron has never given me any indication that he begrudges any of that, but I wanted to make sure that he wasn't festering. To the contrary, he fully supported my decision to do the race, and he continues to be the best possible teammate I could have. He is my best friend, and I could get a lot sappier, but I don't want to embarrass him. All I'm going to say is that I realize more and more each day how lucky we are.
I'll try to post a race report soon, and I'll also try to keep the blog more up-to-date as Arizona approaches. Whoever is left reading at this point . . . thanks.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Post race celebrations couldn't have been better - a shower followed by SUSHI! The kids played on the slip-and-slide and the adults gorged on raw fish and beer. It was an awesome evening. Being that this is being posted so late after the fact, it makes me incredibly nostalgic for long summer days. Not only was the evening after the race supreme, but the next day Kris gifted me a massage certificate! Does it get any better?! If Aaron hadn't been convalescing at home with a sprained ankle and knee, I might not have left. Indeed, I was very sad to do so. Thanks so much to everyone who made me love Racine - I can't wait to come back!
It's off to bed now, but I promise more updates soon. Troika, Coeur d'Alene Olympic, Sooke International, and the awesome week spent at training camp in Victoria, BC with my Lifesport teammates. I should have the blog up to date by December. I still maintain that my favorite ever triathlon was my first, but I'm presently as excited about the sport as I have ever been. It's amazing what healthy knees and a solid training block will do for the spirits. Can't wait for Kona!
Thursday, July 31, 2008
The best imaginable friends and race supporters. Shelby up from San Diego, Aaron and Kali (the dog), Laura D, and Roger and other Tri-fusioners yelling out splits over a megaphone. Phaedra was busy taking the bike pic above.
I ran my first few miles too quickly. I knew that I should start out at a slower pace, but it just felt WAAAY too slow. Familiar story. So naturally I convinced myself that I could hold that too-quick pace for the entire marathon and heck, why not just go ahead and win the dang thing. Obviously, I paid the price later. Again, familiar story. The majority of the run is a bit of a blur, with the majority of the memories being of running through so many familiar faces in town and then seeing my lovedest ones on the outskirts of town. I also remember Desiree Ficker motoring past me at a pace that seemed appropriate for a 5 km race. My lead bikers were rad (they changed frequently as I got passed by 3 successive women and then repassed one). There are some real perks to racing as a pro!
My original lead cyclist. He didn't last very long . . .
Unfocused eyes. Must have been a rough patch.
In the end I finished 5th. I was really happy. My final time, 10:08, was 34 minutes faster than last year and I secured my first ever pro paycheck. Best of all, it was a really fun day. It sounds corny, but I felt genuinely loved by my friends and family who came out to support me, and I was grateful to be able to smile back at them. Most of the time. Miles 4-8 of the marathon were really tough physically and mentally, but the finish line gave me shivers. I know I could do it more descriptive justice if I weren't writing about it 1.5 months after the fact, but the knowledge that I have a lot of races to catch up on is making me want to wrap this entry up. I do need to thank the special people who not only helped me get to the start line, but made my entire day epic. Aaron, Phaedra, Shelby, Laura, Andy & Bri, Dad, Roger & Jessi, and of course my friends who were out there on the course with me: Conrad, Katie, Troy, Aubre, Sam, Rick, Amanda & Michael, Robin & John, Kelli, Al, Keats, Tim, Vicky & Martin (haha) . . . congrats to all.
Post-race with my little Phaedra. Supporter and organizer extraordinaaire. I only hope that someday I'll begin to be able to repay her for everything. Notice the giant camera lens? She and Jessi Thompson are responsible for the majority of my photos of this event.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Still in my sweaty run singlet, Aaron and I then headed straight to dinner with Eve, Annie, Conrad, Katie, Annie's parents, and the genuinely missed Dan Schremmp who is interning in the optometry department at Shopko in Boise this summer. That guy is hilarious. It was a great way to relax, chow and enjoy (?) some excessively loud live music. If you're an Idaho voter with interest in the senate race, LaRocco is all about "change" and has a really loud rock cover band supporting him. For what it's worth.
Then it was time for all of the obligatory last minute race prep, which wasn't too difficult given that we had already set up our bikes at the Lucky peak reservoir and dropped off our run gear bags. Eve, Annie, and I did, however, need to ensure that our neoprene swim caps were in good working order. We're still waiting for Triathlete magazine to come begging for a photo shoot.
Race morning was cold and windy, and being on the western end of a time zone, the sun didn't come up until it was nearly time to start the race. I got a ride to the start with Conrad, Eve, Annie, and Katie, who was a champ shuttler/supporter. Being with responsible sorts of people, we were there very early, and I found myself wandering aimlessly for a long while. Lots of time spent dreading the cold and increasingly choppy water.
That's me wearing my neoprene swim cap underneath my hoodie for extra warmth and protection from the wind.
I really did not enjoy the swim. Not only was it very cold, but there was serious chop on the water and my brand new goggles leaked the whole time. With my whole body immersed in ice water, I at least wanted my eyeballs to stay dry. No such luck. Heading out to the first turn buoy, I considered for a second what it would be like to stop, raise my hand, and be saved from the discomfort, but I pushed on knowing that it was merely that. A remarkable thing happened during the swim however, and I was actually surrounded by a handful of women for a while. Even though I felt like my whole body was discoordinatedly flopping, flailing and essentially not going anywhere, there must have been others in a similar state of stagnation. A few times, I stopped to empty my goggles and had no trouble catching right back up to the others. Then, my only regret of the race happened. A girl with whom I had been swimming mostly side by side made a move for the group ahead, and I had to make the split second decision of whether or not to go with her. In the end, I was a coward. I was already feeling so distressed by the cold and my eyeballs that I make the decision not to push the pace and fell away from her feet. Then I decided to re-empty my goggles. For this act of un-bravery, I was rewarded with the view of that woman swimming ahead to two women ahead and I then watched the three of them pull farther away with each buoy. I won't pretend that the outcome of the race would have been remotely different had I tried to stay with that girl, but I do know that I need to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable in the swim.
The photo below isn't terribly interesting except for the fact that there are actually women behind me exiting the water. I think maybe they were even on my feet the whole way? The picture also does no justice to the chop. Even the top swimmers' swim times were five minutes slower than would be expected.
My goal for the race was to push myself on the bike, which is something I haven't been able to do so far this season. That is likely due to the fact that only now do we have enough (marginally) decent cycling weather behind us for training, and partially due to the fact that my legs haven't been feeling terribly spunky on the bike so far this year. It was a good goal to have, because my legs felt great on the bike. I wore a heart rate monitor for the first ever time in a race, and I learned that I race at a much higher heart rate than I even knew was possible for me on the bike. Very interesting. Regardless, it went really well, and I thought it was a fun course. Fast without being completely flat, and open enough to be able to see my competition (another first). I moved from 13th to 8th place on the bike and my bike time was very much on par with the top elite women, so I was thrilled with that. I was passed by one woman named Teri Albertazzi who had a crazy fast bike split and who additionally turned out to be a super-nice person. That is always fun.
The run course was pretty fast with the exception of a few tight turns and hairpins that were a bit awkward. I loved the support on the course and there were some really scenic bits along the river though Boise's green belt. I felt really good on the run and just tried to run a consistent pace that would score me a sub 1:30 run split. The weather was probably in the upper 70s and overcast with brief sprinkle sessions. Perfect. Even though Boise is 7 hours away from Spokane, a lot of Spokanites made the trip to race and to support. It is always special to hear my name shouted by people I know at an "away" race. Katie, Natalie Gallagher and Steve Kramer were notably awesome. Thank you for your support and vocalizations guys. Steve snapped the picture below. I love that it captures some of the awkwardness of racing. Normally, somebody would have to pay me to run through orange gatorade (and to litter!), but with four miles left to run, who cares?! Did I mention that the aid station volunteers were fantastic?
In the end I held that 8th place position, but had no idea until the finish line that I had been so close to the rest of the field. When I saw Kate Major, Desiree Ficker, Linsey Corbin, and Teri Albertazzi still milling around in the finish area, I realized that they hadn't finished much earlier. It's was a bit gutting to learn after the fact that I was only a minute away from 5th place and $1000, but I was happy with my race, and that's priceless, right? Right? Oh, I barely got my sub 1:30 run split (1:29:38). Annie, in her first ever 1/2 ironman ran even faster, which testifies to her athleticism and potential at the distance.
Aaron's wave started WAY after mine, so I had time to get my post-race massage (awesome), change my clothes, and to catch up with Annie and Eve before heading back to the finish line to cheer him in. The timing was great, and he PRed his run and overall 70.3 time (without a ton of focused training, I might add). Everyone I know was happy with their respective races, which made for smiles all around. Less than a week after a nasty bike spill, Conrad finished 5th in his ultra-competitive age-group, Annie finished 9th pro in her first ever 1/2 Ironman, and Eve won the entire masters division in a sprint finish that involved flying elbows. Very exciting.
After crashing Eve etc.'s hotel room for showers afterwards, Aaron and I had to hit the road in order to be back to the Can in time for work/school etc. on Monday. We made a last minute decision to take the scenic route home, which is technically 100 miles shorter, but over an hour longer due to the narrow and windy roads. It was a fantastic choice and I recommend the route to anyone travelling that direction. The landscape was stunning and the stormy conditions and late day sun added phenomenal texture. It was so much more exciting than driving through the Tri Cities! The only low point was trying to find somewhere besides Subway to eat in Pullman at 9:30 on a Sunday night, and then proceeding try to eat a Subway sandwich while driving a stick shift home. I think Aaron will be finding peppers and cucumbers in his car's various crevices for months. Molly, can I join you in the "Subway'ed out" club?
All in all, it was a fun race. My "it" was intact, having Aaron along was immensely enjoyable, Spokane represented in a major way, and I am feeling happy and grateful to be healthy heading into this Ironman Coeur d'Alene. Fourteen days, yay!
Many thanks to Steve Kramer for the pictures and encouragement, and to Katie for the pictures and all other kinds of associated race support. She and Conrad are now officially engaged, so congrats to them!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
The run stunk. I never ever felt good. I spent the first few lightly rolling miles just trying to get my heart, stomach, and breathing under control in preparation for the ruthless hills that I knew were to come. Just as I seemed to do that, the hills indeed began. So did the heat. It was probably only in the low 80s, but to us northerners, we may as well have been vortexed to Death Valley. We had a weekend once when it got above 60 and have otherwise not been able to train in anything with short sleeves. Booties remain the standard on the bike.
Disheartened from the omission of the naked aid station at mile 4 (it cracked me up last year) I inched up the mile long, cambered dirt hill thinking "after this, everything else will feel easy." Wrong again. Somehow, in the midst of feeling awesome last year, I neglected to notice how tough all of the subsequent rollers are. I fell off the pace pretty substantially from miles 6 - 10. I actually swore off the race ever again at that point, but I reserve the right to retract that swearing off. A couple of gels at mile 10 restored a bit of wind to my sails (glycogen to my muscles?) and I pushed through to the end. I didn't realize it until after I got home, but I actually ran almost 2 minutes faster than last year, so I am retrospectively pleased with that fact. It just felt so slow.
Pushing down the finish chute my lips and fingers went numb and began to tingle. That's usually the sign that I've reached my limit. 12th place finish. Same as I would have been last year had I been racing pro. I'm really excited to do Boise so I can stop comparing all of my performances to last year!
Now the ode to my peeps. It turns out that the Spokane contingent pretty much rocked Wildflower! Jeff Blackwell, Sam Piccici, and Molly Obetz were all 5th in their age-groups, Ben Greenfield was 4th in his, Phaedra and Sean Linder were 8th in their age groups (Sean hadn't run in weeks due to a hip injury and still had a great race with painful aftermath, and Phaedra had a stomach bug), and Troy was 9th in his. These are huge age-groups, by the way, so everyone from our community was in the top 10% of their respective divisions. That is especially phenomenal given our cold spring and the difficult, hot conditions in California!
My carpool and camping mates, Sean, Troy, and Molly deserve special credit for being phenomenal company. They were even courteous enough to eat their post-race double doubles outside the car. Our campsite (above) wasn't exactly the paradise we scored last year, but it's amazing how a patch of grass can become home. Sean even sacrificed his tent fly so we had something to sit on. Unfortunately, this didn't provide much in the way of shade or peace from the early morning parking directors with megaphones. "Why did Ken send those guys down the hill?!!" When there are 30-something hours of driving, several nights of camping, and a mere 5 hours of racing, the race itself is almost seems like an afterthought. I cannot believe how well the trip has gone both years. I do not like sitting in cars, and the hours on the road flew by (perhaps that's easy for me to say since Troy did all of the driving). It may have been our reminicing about Conrad and his love for horses, the sagacious advice of Dr. Laura, or Molly's constant narrative (I can clearly see yr nuts!), but regardless, it was so fun I think I might just have to do it again.
Many thanks to Laura D. and Troy for the pictures!