Monday, December 5, 2016

November Round-Up

Oh November, in which the offseason continued hardcore.

Swimming: 800m (.5 mi)
Cycling: 0 mi
Running: 12.53 mi
Lifting: four sessions (1:00)
Other: one aerobics session (:10), one session of ice skating (1:00), one plyometrics session (:20), race volunteering (6:00), three walks (3:15), two yoga sessions (:40)

I did actually try to swim this month. I got in the pool and got super nauseous. It's weird, any time I take a significant swim layoff my first swim or two back are super rough and I feel very ill. I don't know if it's the chlorine, or what, but it sucks. I force my way through back into some sort of consistency and it goes away, but still. Blargh.

I had every intention of riding my bike this month - I dragged it down to Arizona (went down to volunteer at IMAZ) and everything! - but it just didn't happen. Oops. Plus my rear wheel keeps deflating on me so I think I need to rearrange the tube or something.

I did a few of my mall coffee runs, but on the way back from one, I don't know if it was too much iced coffee or what, but I vomited all over the side of the Cherry Creek Trail. Definitely a day I regretted running to the mall (because that four mile walk home was SUPER unappealing). My running kind of fell by the wayside after that ...

The one perk to this month is I had a variety of "other." More booty shaking around the house (the aerobics), a workout up at the Skirt second Tuesday event (the plyos), walking, yoga, the aforementioned volunteering (got a lot of walking in doing that as well ... also holding the soup tray? will hurt your arm ...), and we actually got back on ice skates again for the first time in a little over two years. That was a lot of fun, and I'd ideally like to do more of that in December, but I might have to do so on my own as the husband needs new skates.

December is officially planned out, so the triathlon break is over. I'm still going to technically consider myself in the "offseason," as while I plan on moving a lot, I'm not planning on a lot of said moving to be structured workouts. I also know I am so damn close to both 2000 mi on the bike and 500 mi running and I'd like to try and hit those ...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Race #12 of the Season: Broomfield Turkey Day 5K

... also known as the dilligaf* race. 

We did this race for a few different reasons:

1. We like doing a turkey trot on Thanksgiving.
2. I had a free entry to a 3W Races race thanks to getting lucky at the Skirt Sports 5K/13er.
3. Free pie.
4. Medal. While in general 5K medals are kind of ridiculous, race bling is still race bling, y'know?

However, we knew it wasn't going to go all that well for a few different reasons:

1. We spent the entirety of Wednesday in a car driving back from Arizona, eating like crap.
2. Re: the above: I ate like crap (when I ate). Poor Brandon slept the whole way thanks to getting food poisoning.
3. Running post-Choo? Hasn't really been much of a thing (maaaayyybe 20 miles?). 

But, whatever, it's a 5K and we didn't care and it's still fun.

We were a tad concerned about the wind driving to the race that morning - it was gusty AF on the way up, but thankfully, the wind mostly died down for us when it came time to run (Katie, up in Superior, wasn't so lucky. Apparently it stayed windy up there.).

I wore my new Skirt Sports Toasty tights which, by the way, kept my ass way toastier than normal (they work as advertised!*), though I'm not so sure it would have been the same for me during a longer run. More experimentation needed.

Brandon and I muddled through the race, going the opposite direction from last year, and finished, with my fourth slowest 5K time.

Final Stats:
Time: 34:58
81/202 AG (F30-39)
317/829 gender
636/1446 overall



* Google it.
** As you know from the sidebar, I am a Skirt ambassador. I get a discount, and can give you a discount, but I bought the tights myself and am under no obligation to say they're awesome. But they are. And the vest might be even more so ...

Monday, November 7, 2016

New for 2017 ...

... I will be part of Team Smashfest Queen!!

 photo Team SFQ_zps1dpskyfi.jpg

I had known about SMASH for a couple of years but I finally broke down and bought a kit on our trip to Tucson in April 2015. Part of the reason why I had waited was that I wanted to try things on in person so as to not fuss with returns and all that (things fit me strangely, okay?). We got into contact with Hillary Biscay, arranged the meet up ... and ... well ... the rest is history!

I ride pretty much exclusively in SMASH now - I wear bib shorts now? Whaa?? - and, as you may have noticed from my multisport race photos from Barkin' Dog on, I finally bit the bullet and bought one of their tri kits. I've raced in five different kits and the SMASH kit is the most comfortable kit I've worn (which unfortunately includes my other love, Skirt). I didn't hop on the team bandwagon in 2016 - I was unsure as to what the team meant/included and we had already decided on TriSports at that point (whom I also still love, but wasn't the right fit for this upcoming year). 

But, when team apps opened up this year for SFQ, I took the chance, and happily, it paid off. Train in SMASH? Been doing so, will gladly continue to do so and will also be happy to continue racing in it!

I also think this is the sufficient motivation to prod me out of my offseason blues, as I am going to be in the company of some seriously awesome women!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

October Round-Up

I decided that October would be my offseason (for the most part), and I have succeeded well in that.

Swimming: 0m (0 mi)
Cycling: 8.15 mi
Running: 10.57 mi
Lifting: four sessions (1:26)
Other: two aerobics sessions (:25), five walks (8:05), two yoga sessions (:35)

The "aerobics" are really just me shaking my booty around the house, but it's been enough to work up a bit of a sweat, so I count them (and "aerobics" is really the best way to describe them in BT). 

Most of my running has been running the four miles to the mall for coffee (with walks back). It's a decent way to get in four miles and lessen my carbon footprint. I finally sort of felt like getting back on my bike, so that's what my one ride was. Well, that and I biked to drop off our ballots. I almost died (okay, not really), but it took a while before I settled back into the rhythm of the bicycle.

Swimming ... just still sounds unappealing. I might make myself go to the pool tomorrow morning, if only to start building some consistency because I think that might be the only way for me to learn to love the water. Again. Kind of. 

In general, I in theory want to get back moving again, but the actual execution has been an issue. Either I needed a break more than I thought, or there's some other underlying issue I need to work through ...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Race Number 8 of the Season - Ironman Chattanooga

This blog post is hard to write.  I’m not going to sugar-coat anything, nor am I going to make excuses or assign blame.  If you’re a first-time reader of my stuff, know this; I’m not a great writer.  I write like I talk. 

So I’ll just get right to the point; I was a DNF at Ironman Chattanooga.  I’m now 2 for 3 in Ironman events, and the reality is this is my 3rd DNF in two years in a triathlon.  Hard to swallow. 

Let’s get to it.

Leading up to the Race
My year has been well-documented prior to this post, so I won’t get into the whole thing, but just a quick update for those who don’t want to read back.  T and I came into the year with high ambition of finishing two Ironmans within 8 weeks of each other.  Ironman Boulder and Chattanooga.  Chatt fell on our 5th wedding anniversary and I promised her we could do that as an anniversary present. 

I spent the first half of the year commuting to the east coast for my old company.  I struggled most of that time to find the work/rest balance and more often than not, rest took priority.  In June, I was offered a chance to interview at Delta Air Lines, and my priority shifted from training for two Ironmans to studying for this interview.  I was successful and had landed my dream job.  I also finished Ironman Boulder on August 7th

So coming into the race, I felt good and de-stressed, but also mentally exhausted.  I had also been battling gastro issues all year.  We think it may have been due to stress (more on this later). 

T and I left Denver on Monday morning in reliable Fiona for a jaunt across the USA.  I had quite a bit of time off from Delta until I was to be back in Atlanta, so this was perfect.  We enjoyed the early part of our road trip.  Stopped in Leavenworth, Kansas to see our friends Norm and Emily and crash with them for the night.  We had a layover day in Nashville where we saw the Country Music Hall of Fame and ate some BBQ.  Then on Wednesday we arrived in Chattanooga.  I was immediately impressed with the town and was excited to be racing there!

What we both were keeping an eye on and trying not to think about too much was the weather forecast.  Late September in the south can be a tad unpredictable, and it looked like this year was going to be interesting.  When I say that, I mean it was forecasted to be over 90 degrees on race day.  The previous two Chatt years wwere in the 70’s and 80’s, respectively, so needless to say this was highly unusual, and made me apprehensive.  I am not a good at racing in heat as evidenced by a DNF last year due to heat exhaustion.  I tried to think positive and remind myself that I have ridden in very hot temps this year and as long as I combat the gastro issues that will allow me to take in fluid, I’d be fine.

Thursday morning we got checked in.  Immediately we ran into some of our Colorado contingent and had a good time catching up with them.  We also played with Normatec boots (because why not?).  One of the Normatec guys remembered me as the pilot from Boulder and asked if I got the Delta job.  I thought that was pretty cool.  Thursday night, we met up with our friend George and some of his friends and went to a sushi place.  The mood was light and fun.  I was impressed with how much sushi George put away.  Seriously, this dude was cracking me up all night!

On Friday morning, we went to get an early morning swim in the river.  Clearly, we weren’t the only people interested in this.  There were several hundred athletes all patiently waiting to get in.  T and I swam a couple hundred yards up river very slowly, and then a couple hundred yards back very quickly.  The water was very warm and I knew I would be okay without my wetsuit.  I did the swim in a backup tri kit and felt just fine.

After that, we met up with our friends Jeremy and Melanie, who had come all the way from Colorado to cheer us on at this event.  Their support was unreal.  We are blessed to have them as friends.  We did the Chattanooga Aquarium then headed to a place just out of town for dinner which was fantastic food. 

On Saturday morning, we rode our bikes to check them in.  I stopped by the Quintana Roo booth and asked them to look at my rear derauiler.  It had been sticking in a couple gears and not shifting the way I liked.  The Q Roo guy said that it was slightly bent and that if I had continued to ride it the way I had been, I risked my tire being blown up.  I got it fixed up (or so I thought).

Then we had lunch with Jeremy and Melanie at a biscuit place.  Really good!  We talked a bit about the race and what to expect.  Then we headed back to our hotel room to lay low for most of the afternoon.  T and I were going to get breakfast for dinner at a diner nearby around 5:30.  Jeremy and Melanie had attended a football game that afternoon but met up with us at the diner.  We thanked them and then headed back to our hotel for the final wind down of the evening.  We watched a bit of TV, and right before we went to bed, we watched the end of the movie Everest.  I had seen it, T had not.  (spoiler alert) It’s a pretty depressing movie in which a lot of people die on the mountain.  Probably not the best thing to watch before an Ironman event…

Pre-Race
We both woke up butt honking early as usual.  We had planned on leaving the hotel at 4:30 am so we could hit the diner for a to-go breakfast sandwich.  I had confirmed with the person the night before that they were open 24 hours and they were.  He said one of their busiest days was Ironman day.  I drank some Pepto trying to ward off the stomach bug that had plagued me at Ironman Boulder and we headed to the diner.

The wait at the diner was way longer than either one of us would have liked.  Both of us ordered breakfast but I don’t think either person wanted it.  We got our stuff finally and headed to transition to prep our bikes for the big day.

We got body marked early, then walked into transition.  T and I split up and I headed for Amaryllis.  I prepped my bike with the appropriate food and water bottles.  We had picked up Chick-Fil-A minis the day before to eat on the bike.  I packed my Bento Box nice and tight.  Included was a baggie of meds (Advil, Tums, and Gas-X).  I also borrowed someone’s pump and inflated my tires.

I found a spot near T’s bike and just sat down to eat my breakfast sandwich.  In a way, this was perfect.  I had a bit of quiet time just to myself.  I ate over half of my sandwich and then found T.  We started making our way to the bike bags so she could drop off some last-minute morning stuff.  Then as we made our way out of trans, we found someone in a T-Rex costume.  Naturally, we had to get a picture!

After that, we found Jeremy and Melanie.  They were tired, but excited for us.  Jeremy had a small cup of coffee for me (THANK YOU!).  We worked our way to the busses. 

The bus ride over to the start of the swim was quick.  T and I made our way to the porta-potty line for our last stop.  Then the 4 of us found a spot in the grass and just hung out, waiting for the beginning.  I was drinking a bottle of Gatorade.  Our friend George found us and hung out, even napping.  I also turned on my chill playlist on my phone.  As I said in my Boulder recap, the pump-up music stressed me out so I switched to chill and it worked much better. 

Eventually, the line started moving and we knew we were going to be heading to the water.  We walked towards the start.  I decided at the wetsuit line I’d peel off from T and time it by about 10-12 minutes after she got in so we could hopefully see each other at T1.  I kissed her goodbye and Melanie walked with her.  Jeremy stayed with me.  We killed a bit more time and then about 10 minutes later, I made my way towards the bottom of the river to the start.  Jeremy wished me luck, and like at Ironman Boulder, I took a moment to reflect on the journey.  While it was going to be a hot day, it would also be fun, and a great way to spend our 5th wedding anniversary!

I walked towards the water, stepped on the timing mat, jumped in the water, and began my swim.  My 3rd Ironman was underway!

The Swim
Ironman Chattanooga is a downriver swim, so the entire swim you have a current pushing you.  I’m a decent swimmer, so while I didn’t necessarily need the assistance, I certainly welcomed it. 

Unlike a lot of open water swims this year where it takes me a few hundred meters to get my breath under me, this swim didn’t have that problem.  I was in my groove right away.  I was passing people left and right and my sighting was sharp.  I kept looking to my left to see if I could see Jeremy walking on the path, but it was definitely too far away.  We had joked earlier that he could throw a football to me, but that wasn’t happening (sadly). 

At some point, there was an island that we swam to the left of.  The current definitely picked up in this channel and I felt even quicker (obviously).  At the end of the island, I thought I heard someone mmrraa at me, but I wasn’t sure.  I looked around to see if I could see T but didn’t, so I figured I was just hearing things.  Then I could see the glass of the aquarium and knew I was close to the finish. 

I turned to the river bank and the steps.  I was very conscious of my actions, remembering that T hurt herself climbing out of the Tempe Town Lake.  I let the volunteers pull me out of the water, and just like that, my swim was done.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought it was a good omen for the bike, which would be Hell.

T1
I saw Melanie on the way up to T1.  I was a bit out of it, so I think I mostly grunted at her.  She said T wouldn’t be too far behind me.  Maybe only 7-8 minutes.  I smiled at that and headed to grab my bike gear bag.  Finding it, I ran for the change tent.  I was surprised at how crowded it was and moved towards the very back of it to get my stuff together.  I went slow and methodically, to try to buy more time for T to catch up.  I had a volunteer slather sunscreen on my hard to reach areas in the shoulders, and put on arm coolers.  I didn’t wear them at Boulder and regretted it.  I also wasn’t wearing an aero helmet this race.  I figured the vents on the helmet would help me stay cool.  I schnarfed down some Clif Shot Blocks and left the change tent.  Ready to go, I walked to my bike, grabbed it, and mounted up my steed.  Ready for 116 miles!

The Bike
I kept it simple early.  Immediately taking a Gas-X and a Tums tablet to combat any possible gastro issues, I began hydrating.  No problems there.  I forced myself to dial it back a bit just to allow more time for T to catch me.  You may be wondering why I wanted this.  The feeling was it was our 5th wedding anniversary.  Wouldn’t you want to spend that with the person you love?  So yeah, even on a bike, we could be close to each other!

Riding out of Chattanooga, I felt strong.  I don’t remember crossing into Georgia but obviously we did.  I was enjoying the ride, but was also a bit jumpy.  Every time I heard a siren, I thought about Michelle Fields and her horrible accident at Ironman Boulder.  I couldn’t shake the feeling that T could be in trouble too.  It’s a heavy thing to ride with and clearly I have demons to battle.

As the ride went on, I focused on food intake and hydration.  The good news is I was not dealing with any gastro problems so it made taking in water and Gatorade a lot easier.  I vowed to hit every aid station and douse myself with water, drink electrolytes and water. 

Eventually, we turned back north towards Chickamagua and special needs.  Shortly outside Chickamagua, T caught up to me.  I was so happy and relieved to hear her voice that I said something along the lines of “it’s 10 degrees cooler with you here” or something like that.  One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that it was getting hot.  Very hot.  And it was quickly taking a toll on me.  With T there behind me or in front of me though, I was excited and motivated.

We stopped at bike special needs and saw our friends Jeremy and Melanie.  I had a volunteer glob on sunscreen for me and gave her my Chatt wristband for being so awesome.  I also ate ½ a bag of Jimmy Johns Salt and Vinegar chips and drank a small bottle of Dr. Pepper.  I grabbed my 2nd bottle of Dr. Pepper, threw it in my jersey pocket, and put the chips in my Bento.  I ditched the chicken minis as they were no longer tasty.  We then continued the slog.

As we turned out for the 2nd loop, I was hurting.  The heat was starting to get to me and I slowed down considerably.  Also, the shade I had been hoping for wasn’t there.  T and I leapfrogged each other for awhile until about mile 73-74, where the aid station was.  At this point, I started to get fuzzy.  T was at the aid station with me and said I asked for a lot of water, but I don’t remember this.  I just remember dumping water on my head and moving on.

The next thing I remember is water being splashed on my face.

The Aftermath
I was lying in a ditch.  My knee and left shoulder hurt.  There were about 5 people around me, including T. 

With the help of my fellow athletes, they dragged my haggard, beaten down, defeated carcass to the road along with my bike.  With further assistance, T and another female athlete, who was a nurse, got me to a house’s driveway, where there was shade.  They sat me down and the nurse took my pulse, which she said was low.  I think I asked if that was good, and she said no, it wasn’t.  I then remarked how I wanted to keep going but both her and T said no, to wait for EMT’s before I could go.  T said she’d stay with me and the nurse left.  Bless her.

T and I sat in the shade.  She helped me drink water and a bike tech came by.  He radioed for EMT’s and told me my race was done.  I was devastated and started crying.  I had failed my wife, failed myself, failed the community.  Yet again, done in by heat and a lack of taking the race seriously.  I told T to go on, that I could wait for the EMT’s by myself.  I told her to finish her race.  She refused, saying that she wanted to spend our anniversary together, however that would be.  That made me cry even more, knowing she was sacrificing her day because of my incompetence.

The EMT’s came by and checked my vitals.  They gave me water and advised against taking an IV.  Not sure why?  Anyone have any ideas?  One said I could continue if I wanted, but it wouldn’t be a good idea.
And the wait began.  Someone from Ironman stopped by to call in the sag wagon for me, as well as numerous Georgia State Troopers.  Everyone was very nice to me and sympathetic.  Someone said that the athletes were dropping like flies and the temperature had reached 98 degrees.  I believed it. 

And the wait continued. 

Eventually, someone from Ironman in a truck, who I believe was the sweeper, said that he wasn’t sag, but would take us to Chickamagua, where a bus would take us back into town.  Riding in his truck, we could hear the radio calls.  Athlete done here.  Athlete done there.  We drove by the previous aid station and saw at least a dozen athletes who were cooked.  It broke my heart to see so many people defeated.  And to have to count myself amongst them.

At Chickamagua, I gave my bike to a volunteer and T helped me to a bus.  The bus driver was this very sweet southern woman who was encouraging and supportive.  I was joined on the bus by other athletes whose bodies had betrayed them that day.  Some didn’t make the bike cut, others had to call it a day for their own safety.  The bus was certainly not happy, but at the same time, it wasn’t unpleasant.  Eventually, about 2 ½ hours after crashing, we made our way back to town.  On the way back to town, the chatter died down and the mood definitely turned somber.  The air hung thick with sadness and disappointment.  (I’m crying as I type this)

Back in Chattanooga, we found our way to transition.  After a lengthy delay, I was finally given my morning clothes bag with my flip flops.  T and I were also determined to find Jeremy and Melanie, so in addition to letting them know we were okay, I could call my parents and tell them what happened.  They track me during these events, so they had to know something was amiss. 

As T and I were hunting for our friends, we saw our friend Aaron start the run.  We were both pulling for him and were so relieved he made the run.  I was very sad to hear the finishers being called at the finish line.  (again, crying).  It’s a sobering thing to realize you won’t be a part of what you set out to do.

Somehow, by pure luck, we found our friends.  They hugged us and told us we weren’t failures.  I sure felt like one though.  I got my phone from Melanie and called my parents.  After a lengthy convo, they told me they were proud of me.

Eventually, we made it back to the hotel.  I bathed, and I think T did too.  We met up with Jeremy and Melanie at the diner for a night of bad food and eating our feelings.  T and I, as our final act of the evening, went to transition to retrieve our bikes.

The Conclusion
I’m a candid writer and I don’t sugarcoat things.  What went wrong that day? 

1.     97 degrees for a high, breaking an 80 year old record.  I don’t care who you are, that’s hot.  I’ve heard from people who train in Florida and the deep south that they thought it was brutal that day.  There’s no doubt the heat directly affected me and wrecked my day.
2.    Undertrained.  There’s no doubt about it.  That being said, would a lot of training helped me?  I’m not sure. 

I learned some amazing things that day though.  I’m incredibly blessed to be married to who I am.  T willingly gave up her race for me.  I know that was not easy for her to do, yet she did it without hesitation.  Seriously, I’m blessed.

I’m also blessed to be in the triathlon community.  Athletes stopped for me and helped me, giving up precious water to help me.  I recently made contact with one of them on Facebook and thanked her for what she did.  I’ve also been reassured by a lot of athletes that I’m not a failure.  The DNF rate at this race was over 27%, which means that 1 in 4 athletes who started the race that morning had their dream crushed.  A couple of our friends were in that group.

So you may be wondering what’s next for me?  Truth be told, I’m not sure.  A lot of people in my position would be of the mindset of either go balls out and get registered for another IM, or give the sport up at this point.  I’m not ready to do either.  I do know that I need a break.  I don’t want to think about long distance triathlon at the moment.  Since 2011, I have been so focused on long-distance triathlon that I have missed out on a lot of things in life.  Not only that, but I have lost the love.  I didn’t love training this year.  I didn’t love Ironman.  It became something I needed to do, not something I wanted to do.


I have a career to focus on.  As much as I want to do another Ironman, simply put, it will have to wait.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Race #7 of the Season - Littlefoot Sprint Triathlon

Ideally, I'll always be in sprint triathlon shape.  The dream is to be in half-Ironman shape at all times, but for now, that's a dream.  I digress.  Anyway, Littlefoot, being a week and a day out from IM Chatt, would be a great opportunity to get some fitness in before the race.  I also though it would be a great chance to see where I was at, since I had barely worked out after IM Boulder.  With Delta Indoc behind me, and a nice 3 week break coming, the time was perfect!

Pre-Race
September in Colorado can get cold, and this morning was no exception.  T and I figured that the temp in the park was around 40 degrees.  We picked our trans spot (right next to each other...yay!), quick got checked in, then bolted back for the car.  We chilled for about 30 minutes, then went back to trans.  I brought a blankie from the back of the car to stay wrapped up with.  Our friends Curtis and Lisa were racing, so we chatted with them for awhile.  I also was regretting not having a wetsuit, since mine ripped in the crotch at IM Boulder.  I did have Roka Sim Shorts which I wore, so at least I had buoyancy going for me, I guess.

We walked to the water to warm up, which for me took a bit longer than normal.  But once I got warm, I was fine.  I was grateful it would be an in-water start, and that I was one of the first waves to go.  The countdown began, and I was off.

The Swim (750 meters)
I love sprint tri swims.  I like bringing some speed to the swim and focusing on my hinging to see how it translates.  This morning was no exception.  I started towards the back, as I figured I'd be one of the slower swimmers.  Wrong.  I was quickly passing people, some of whom were backstroking or doggy-paddling.  I was there in my first tri, so no judging.  However, for me, it was nice to be blowing by people. 

I quickly emerged from the water no worse for the wear, and was pleasantly surprised at my time.  

Swim time - 17:55

T1
I was dragging a bit into transition.  I debated wearing long sleeves as it was still pretty cold air-temperature wise.  I decided to go for it.  I also realized I was rusty at transition.  Maybe I should practice these in the offseason?

T1 time - 2:57

The Bike (15K)
This was where I was really curious.  I hadn't ridden but more than three times since Boulder (granted I had dome some hotel exercise biking, but does that really count?), so I knew I'd be a tad slow and my lungs would hurt.  

Bear Creek State Park is super hilly.  Go figure, it's near the mountains.  I felt it on the climbs, but not as much as I thought I would.

At some point on the ride, I dropped my chain.  There is something seriously wrong with my derauiler so I need to get that taken care of (more on that in my next race recap...).

Overall, I was able to maintain some decent speed, and my legs held up well.  My lungs were gassed, and the small cold I had been fighting definitely reared its ugly head on the bike.  Regardless, good ride.

Bike time - 33:19

T2
Unlike T1, this time I didn't lolligag.  I hustled my booty and was excited to get out there on the 5K course.

T2 time - 2:14

The Run
Nothing too exciting to report on the run.  My first mile was sub-10, which I was really happy about.  I paid for it on mile 2 and 3, which had a lot more climbing.  It was clear that I had lost a lot of run fitness and would be holding on for dear life at IM Boulder.  Fun times.

As I came near the finish, I saw T.  I said hi and told her I'd see her at the finish.  

At the finish line, I heard my name announced.  The race announcer also said something about me being a Delta pilot. Now THAT put a smile on my face! :-)

Run time - 32:25

Post-Race
The best part about this race is the post-race pancakes.  Flippin Flapjacks shows up and feeds you delicious pancakes and sausage.  Seriously.  I schnarfed mine and went to the finish line to wait for T.  I saw her cross and then her, Curtis, Lisa, and myself hung out to see if any of us won a bike at the raffle (we didn't).

Overall, I was happy with this race and had a lot of confidence for IM Chatt.  I felt that this was a good test for it.  Little did I know...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Race #11 of the Season: Ironman Chattanooga

Also known as DNF #3, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Ironman Boulder was technically an afterthought for this year. IMChoo fell on our fifth wedding anniversary and I asked Brandon if that's what I could have for an anniversary gift. "Honey, can we race an Ironman together?" "Um ... sure."

(He may have been more excited than that. I don't entirely recall.)

Since an Ironman takes up a lot of one's day (particularly if you're a back-of-packer like we are), I ideally wanted to be able to race with Brandon as much of the day as possible given that it was our anniversary. The original original plan was to try to PR it (fast swim makes this likely), buuuuut then I thought racing apart would make for a crappy anniversary so long story short, that's how we ended up signing up for Boulder, too. 

The loose game plan for IMChoo was for me to go off first in the swim, B start x many minutes behind, and ideally do the bike and run together. We'd drive down, partially for bike transport, and partially to have fun on a giant southern road trip so I could cross more states off my list (I had a huge hole down in that part of the country).

We left Monday prior to the race and rolled on into town Thursday morning just in time for athlete check-in. (Road trip story going on over at my personal blog.)

 photo 9-22village_zpsyy9o8fda.jpg

We checked in, chatted with a few people from Colorado we know (Aaron and Susan), and then went to go drive the bike course since we still couldn't check into the hotel. Bike course had some hills, for sure, but for the most part, we think it looked very doable. Loop two would probably suck, but the second (or third) loops on an Ironman bike always kind of suck, so whatever. 

We checked into the hotel after that and jogged back down to the expo and lunch.

 photo 9-22village2_zpsnreqpwbh.jpg

 photo 9-22village3_zpsjxzzl8i0.jpg
Ahhh, NormaTecs. These might be a purchase for next year ...

TriSports (and local Colorado) buddy George asked if we wanted to do sushi that night with him and some of his other friends and since we enjoy pre-race sushi, we obviously said yes.

Friday morning we went to a practice swim in the river that a few people on the IMChoo Facebook page put together. We woke up about 10 minutes before it started (oops), but thankfully, so many people came, that the line to get in the water was still very long by the time we arrived.

 photo 9-23swim_zpsmipvdosw.jpg

No wetsuit? No problem. Water was definitely warm enough. I didn't necessarily feel like I was going all that slow going out against the current, but my Garmin said otherwise. Did about 500 yards; 12ish minutes out; 5ish minutes back. Of course, current on race day would be much lighter, but still.

Our friends Jeremy and Melanie got in this day, so from lunch on was mostly hanging out with them and going to the Aquarium.

Saturday morning we got on the bikes to spin out the legs and get to check-in that way. Brandon also stopped by the QRoo tent to figure out something with his rear derailleur; apparently it's good we stopped by, because something or other got loose and his rear wheel might have exploded (I may be embellishing. I don't really remember the exact conversation.). Crisis averted, we checked our stuff in.

 photo 9-24village_zpsipu5fk33.jpg
Amaryllis racked and ready.

 photo 9-24village2_zpsyl8fb5zj.jpg
Rockin' the Smashfest Queen/Witsup kit with Sweet Cheeks.

 photo 9-24village3_zpscnpqnil4.jpg
Finish line. Little did we know this would be the closest we'd come to it ...

We met up with Jeremy and Melanie for some lunch at a place downtown and spent the rest of the afternoon chilling with our feet up before heading to a diner for some pre-race breakfast for dinner (gotta keep with tradition).

Back at the hotel, we watched some TV before dozing off. Might I say that the last 45 minutes or so of a disaster film (Everest) are not ideal for one's pre-Ironman viewing pleasure? Because it did not put me in a good happy mindset ...

Race Day:

We woke up fairly early (I forgot to set my "Wake up or you miss Ironman" alarm ... fail), as per usual, so we could hit up the same diner from the night before to get some breakfast to go. Thankfully we got there early (4something) because it took FOREVER to get our food. Food gotten, we walked ourselves and all our stuff down to transition. I thought about eating then, but wanted to get my tires taken care of first and foremost ... and of course I get the air line that's not moving. Also, bike techs that morning only had regular bike pumps and not air compressors like at Boulder (and I think like at IMAZ). Really should have just brought ours, especially knowing that we had cheer squad/sherpas. Eventually got my tires pumped up and rolled back to my spot. Tried eating food (got a breakfast sandwich); ate maybe half the egg of it and part of the bacon, sipping tiny bits of the oj before my stomach wanted nothing to do with it. Put my butt butter and vaseline into my T1 bag. Put my handheld into my T2 bag. Dropped off special needs. Loaded nutrition and hydration onto my bike.

Found my husband and got a picture with a T-Rex.

 photo 9-25am_zps9udompk4.jpg

From there, we met up with Jeremy and Melanie and hopped a bus to the swim start. Got in the porta potty line and then found a place to sit (that was apparently also our spot in line for the swim). Then, it was just a lot of hurry up and wait until it was time to go into the water.

 photo 9-25am2_zpsclq8q8zj.jpg
Typical husband face.

 photo 9-25am3_zps4ldoitio.jpg
George found us and decided to take a nap.

 photo 9-25am4_zps0bgxgdhs.jpg
With Jeremy and Melanie. Back when the day still held promise.

Without much warning, everyone was up standing; the line was moving and it was time to go swim. It was a self-seeded start (with wetsuits at the back; it was wetsuit optional by .8 degrees (so 83 degrees)) and Brandon started behind me to make it a little more likely that we could race together. Melanie stuck with me and Jeremy stayed with Brandon as we snaked our way toward the start. 

One thing that was marginally annoying is that you had to bounce out of line to drop off morning clothes and then reenter the swim line right before the arch. Thankfully most of us didn't realize it so no one cared that you essentially "cut" back in line, but I don't feel like this was well communicated to us. In hindsight, we also probably should have just given our sherpas our morning clothes to make life that much easier, but meh. 

At the point I broke from the line was the point I broke from Melanie (who I presume just went to find Jeremy and B). The air, while filled with the standard Ironman apprehension, was also fairly light. I and a few of the ladies around me were grooving to the music as we made our way to the dock. About six or seven of us jumped in at a time and off we went. 

Thankfully, as the water was fairly warm, I didn't need to do too much of my standard head bobbing to get acclimated, but I did once or twice and I started swimming.

Sighting was odd for me for this race. I ended up swimming pretty far to the right of everyone else (how this happened, I don't know), but since you're swimming downstream a river, you kind of can't go the wrong direction. I kind of tried making my way back toward everyone else which gave me the odd sensation of feeling like my body was diagonal most of the swim.

Buoys changed color at the halfway point again; I think this is a new(er) thing WTC is doing and it's WONDERFUL. Felt substantial current at the island (although we know that IM got the TVA to drop the current that morning by a lot ... losers) and saw Brandon pass me at the first bridge (non-wetsuit meant I could see his very distinctive SMASH kit). I mmrraa'ed at him a little (which I found out later, he did hear), and I tried like hell to catch up to him (kept him in sight for the bridges), but he ended up making seven minutes on me.

As always, the last 200m or so of the swim were the worst as you fight your way to the exit. I had to pee for probably the last 800m or so of the swim, but the exit was such that I couldn't pause for a second and pee. Dangit.

 photo 9-25swim2_zpsewubfgxk.jpg

 photo 9-25swim3_zpslsube6xv.jpg

Time: 1:34:51 (71st division, 703rd gender, 2138th overall)

T1:

You exit the swim right onto some steps with the (always awesome) volunteers hauling you out of the water. You climb the steps, you check your Garmin and realize that you have a massive swim PR thanks to the course, you hear your cheer squad telling you you're seven minutes behind your husband, you run down toward transition, amusingly enough spotting said husband's swim cap on the ground, you grab your bike bag, and you head into the tent.

(Or at least that's what I did.)

In past Ironman recaps, I've said how nice it is to be the only one in the tent. Well, given the nature of this swim, I was in a damn crowded tent. I guess there were chairs at the other end, but I just thought to myself, "screw it," and stood in the middle of the tent to get ready to ride. I think half my transition time was trying to get my cool wings on my wet arms (forgot a towel. such a rookie ...), but by the time I was starting to get super frustrated with them, some volunteers came over to help. I also sunscreened myself super well, asking the volunteers to help with that also. I shoved some Skratch packets and extra nutrition into my back, handed off my bag, and clomped on to my bike. 

Oh hey, so this is what it's like to grab your bike off the rack when other people are still around you. 

Time: 8:25

The Bike:

Got on the bike and started pedaling. I kept my pace manageable, knowing that it was a long day and also that I hadn't really trained much since Boulder. Got in some liquid early on, and probably started eating somewhere between seven and ten miles in. Tried something new, food-wise, in Chick-Fil-A chicken minis - brilliant! Well, kind of - nuggets themselves are perfect, but the biscuit part of the minis wasn't so good. But the chicken - salty and protein and awesome. Totally keeping with these for the future. I also was able to figure out that I can eat say, a Picky Bar or a Bobo's Oat Bar at one time by making sure I'm at a spot on course where I don't need to change gears with my left hand; I hold the bar in that hand, shift with my right, and take periodic bites. I was able to get in more nutrition that way. Success! I'm finally learning how to eat on the bike! It's only taken me five years ...

I surprised myself with how well I was doing on some of the climbs and while it took a while to get into a rhythm (as it usually does), I felt really pretty good until about mile 40, when, yeah, okay, the lack of riding started hitting me (that is, the lady bits started hurting). Thankfully, I encountered Brandon not too long after this (about a mile or two before Chickamauga/special needs). We saw Jeremy and Melanie at this point, although we couldn't really chat given where we had to stop at special needs.

Chips and Dr. Pepper were once again awesome, but this time I was smarter - I put some of my leftover chips in the bag with my chicken and I bought mini bottles of Dr. Pepper so I could put the second in my back for later in the ride when I needed a pick-me-up. I also sunscreened up and shared the rest of my bottle with another athlete.

We rolled on out and from then on, B and I pretty much rode together. I greatly enjoyed the Rick Astley playing at the aid station right before the turn onto loop two. What I didn't enjoy was the return of the hot feet - I started having to douse my feet with water at this point. Grumble.

Turn to start the second loop, and it was like, as a fellow athlete put it, someone turned on the blast furnace. It had started getting hot anyway, but we had a killer headwind at this point too. Nothing to do but put your head down and ride, so that's what we did.

While loop one felt good, loop two felt awful. It was nice being able to commiserate with Brandon (and a few other athletes) about this, but we didn't want to quit, especially given that time-wise, we were in good shape of making the bike cuts. Brandon started feeling the heat a bit, saying he felt kind of light-headed, but he was doing everything possible to keep going. I told him to stay on my wheel (legally, obviously) and just follow my ass. "Honey, you love staring at my ass. Just stare at it to keep going."

We stopped at the aid stations. I peed once again at the first aid station. At the second, around mile 75, B was a little behind me and I heard him keep asking for water, so I figured he was doing all he could to keep his hydration/the heat in check. We left that station and he took off like a shot. I figured him cooling himself down slightly gave him a second wind, so I stayed within myself and let him go for the most part, knowing that if anything, I'd just meet up with him at the next aid station.

A mile or two down the road, I saw a bike down and some other riders stopped. I slowed down and my heart skipped as I recognized Brandon's bike. My husband was laying upside down in a ditch (ditch at an angle; his feet were up by the road) with a few other athletes around him. I hopped off my bike and scampered down, telling everyone who I am. The other people who had stopped doused him with water, putting some on his face to rouse him. 

(Side note: it was balls hot out, and other athletes passing by willingly gave up their water to help out a fallen competitor. Reasons like this are why I adore this sport.)

We revived him, one of the ladies stopped was a nurse, so everyone left except for her once they realized B was going to be okay. We were in a fortuitous location, as maybe 50 yards away was someone's beautifully shaded driveway. The nurse who stopped (I so wish I remembered her name! Thank you so much!) helped Brandon to the shade while I collected our bikes out of the way and brought them over. I insisted she keep going, as I was his wife and I was going to stick with him.

From there, we sat and waited. A bike tech on a motorcycle was flagged down; he said that B probably was done for the day. He radioed for medical.

We waited. 

A cop came by and chatted for a while - super nice guy. Also was willing to go find help. 

An ambulance came by. We weren't necessarily the people they were radioed to find, but they stopped and helped us anyway. Brandon got more water, they checked his vitals. No real advice except to keep hydrating and to stay cool.

From then, it was a waiting game. Brandon thought about maybe continuing, but the thought of him getting back on the bike was too much for him. We said that it was probably best to throw in the towel ... especially because he didn't really remember stopping at that aid station or the subsequent few miles. He tried to get me to get back out there, but I refused - that day was our fifth wedding anniversary, and I wasn't going to leave him. We were in it together. 

An Ironman staffer came by and while she wasn't sag, she radioed in our numbers for our DNF. She said she'd try to send sag back.

We waited. I was thankful I hadn't eaten all of my chips/chicken, because I snacked on them while sitting there. I drank my Dr. Pepper, but only after a good chunk of it exploded all over me (cool wings are still kind of stained from that. silly not being able to do laundry until a week later ...).

We waited. We saw the stream of athletes flow to a trickle. We saw Aaron pass by.

We waited.

We saw the final few riders, with the sweep vehicles behind them. The Ironman sweep truck stopped and while he wasn't sag, he picked us (and our bikes) up. The team was working on the fly to figure out all of us DNFers, as athletes were dropping like flies.

We got picked up. We drove past the aid station, where at least a dozen cyclists were sitting, waiting in the shade to get picked up.

We picked up the bike of another athlete, done for the day. The female staffer we talked to earlier was here, ending up being sag anyway.

We listened to the radio in the truck, hearing other staffers radio in, asking for sag/medical to come to run aid 5, 7, 11. We heard countless other numbers being called in as DNFs.

We drove to Chickamauga, passing a cramping athlete in the ditch. We got dropped off in Chickamauga. Our bikes went onto a truck; we were going to take a bus back to Chattanooga with other athletes.

We saw athletes miss the bike cutoff, crying, angry, sad, resigned.

Eventually, a good 20-25 of us were loaded onto a bus back to Chattanooga, our days done, our dreams of becoming Ironmen, whether again or for the first time, shelved for the day.

We got back to Chattanooga and somehow found Jeremy and Melanie. They were worried when they didn't see bike splits update for us for a while, but thankfully, it's the one time we were grateful that the IM tracker is always a little wonky.

(Apparently DNFs don't show up on a tracker until after the respective cutoff has passed; in our case, the bike cut.)

We waited until we were able to collect our bike and morning clothes bags, which was fun, as the volunteers said we had to get our bikes first. Um, my bike is somewhere right now, I don't really care where. Can I just have my damn flip-flops please? Our run bags, not there. We DNFers were tired and frustrated, and just wanted our stuff. I dropped off the bags I could get with Brandon, Jeremy, and Melanie, changed out of my damn bike shoes, and walked down to where I would have gotten my run bag had I made it off the bike. Our run bags were there, thankfully. I let a few other athletes that I recognized off the bus know that that's where they needed to go.

Our bikes hadn't shown up yet, and we didn't want to wait around in the chaos, so we hitched a ride back to our hotel from Jeremy and Melanie. We showered, and met up with them at the diner (again) for a meal full of wonderful fried crap. Emotional eating, hello once again. (I don't think I ate a vegetable this entire day ... unless you count potato chips.)

Sometime after dinner, Brandon and I drove down to collect our bikes. It hurt hearing the finish line, seeing the medals, seeing the (godawful hideous chartreuse) finisher hats. 

We quietly got our bikes, went back to the hotel, went to bed.

******

Over the next few days, we learned truly how hard of a day it was. Chattanooga hit an 80-year high - 97 degrees. We heard from finish line volunteers how they couldn't keep ice from melting. We learned that about a quarter of the field didn't finish. Out of the people we knew, neither of us finished. Neither did our friend Susan. Aaron did, but he thought he wouldn't. George, thankfully, had a great day for his final race at the 140.6 distance. We almost have a little club going, the IMChoo 2016 DNFers. 

On our way out of town the next day - a thing that got delayed by me locking my keys in my car for the first time ever ... - we headed down to Chickamauga to go see the battlefield. I wrongly thought the bike course went by/through it and this history nerd wanted to see it, damnit. While there, I asked Brandon if he wanted to return to the scene of the crime, as it were. He did. 

Monday, the day post-race, could not have been any more different. We encountered torrential downpours as we drove to mile 77ish of the bike course.

 photo 9-26chick17_zpsi9vzbncw.jpg

The driveway, where we waited for a few hours the day previously, guarded by the shade of those blessed trees. We noticed some of the trash from his crash still in the ditch - discarded water bottles, a bottle of sunscreen that had fallen out of his pocket. Brandon dashed into the rain to collect them, clean up the course, clear up reminders of us.

****

This DNF hurts, sure. It hurts in different ways. The hurt is lessened by the fact that I intentionally chose to DNF. If I was going to race a crazy endurance event on my wedding anniversary and picked another stupid Ironman to do just so I could do THIS particular Ironman with my husband ... I was going to stay with my husband. I chose to stay with my husband, to keep him company, to make sure he was okay, and I will 100% make that choice again. There's no guarantee I would have finished anyway, given the day's conditions and given the fact that it's Ironman, and I would be a liar if I said a little part of me doesn't still hurt and wonder, what if.

The DNF pain is also lessened solely due to the fact that I did already complete an Ironman this year. Silverman hurt last year because of the DNF at Harvest (due to similar circumstances as Choo). 

The DNF also hurts a bit knowing that I'm not going to be returning to the distance anytime soon. Sure, there's a small(ish) part of me that wants to do Boulder again next year in June, but there's a larger part of me that doesn't want to put in the work that it takes. I want to find joy in the process, and basically immediately starting to train for another freaking Ironman is NOT finding joy in the process. The earliest Brandon will consider doing another IM is 2019, so he can make sure he can properly manage the training with the job, as we don't yet know what his flight life will be like at Delta.

However, I know that I must fail and fall before I can rise and grow, and I will learn my lessons from this race, because I do have them. I also, as mentioned above, need to find joy in the training. While I do get joy out of the race itself, that is not enough to sustain me through the work that it takes to even get to be able to try to race. Until I can find enjoyment in the process, I need to find destinations that are a little more manageable.