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…

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.

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!

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

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

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

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Amaryllis racked and ready.

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Rockin' the Smashfest Queen/Witsup kit with Sweet Cheeks.

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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.

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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.

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Typical husband face.

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George found us and decided to take a nap.

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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.

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


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.

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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.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Race #10 of the Season: Littlefoot Triathlon

I did Littlefoot last year and loved it. Short little sprint, dinosaur themed, pancakes after ... it's wonderful! The timing this year for this race was a little awkward, just a week before Ironman Chattanooga, but I figured it'd be okay. I wasn't expecting anything speed-wise (given Boulder and my lack of desire to train anything afterward), but hoped it'd help jump-start the legs a little.

Also helpful: Brandon was able to race this and was able to sign up before it sold out. I had also convinced tri buddy Lisa to do it (she was looking for a late season sprint) and, apparently, this meant that Curtis was racing too. Yay racing with friends!

Like last year, it was ass-cold race morning. Brandon and I got to Bear Creek Lake Park right as transition opened, parked, found a good spot in transition, dumped our bikes, picked up our packets (and a much less cool race shirt. boooooo.) ... and then proceeded to hang out in the car to stay warm. 

Eventually, we headed back into the park to get ready to race. Chatted quite a bit with Curtis and Lisa, tested the water (a bit cold, but not so bad for B who wasn't racing with a wetsuit since his died at Boulder), and tried not to freeze.

The Swim:

Why is it that sprint swims, while so short, seem like they take forever? I mean, clearly they're not as bad as an Ironman swim for me since I don't get bored with them, but still.

Sighted fairly well until the final turn. Then ... not so much. Figures.

Time: 22:33 (25th division, 141st gender, 268th overall)


Fumbled a bit. Maybe a bit more frozen getting out of the water than I thought. Foot kind of hurt.

Time: 1:15 (5th, 19th, 38th)

The Bike:

Beautifully short bike course. Only 15K (so 9ish miles), so about three miles shorter than usual sprints (or seven miles shorter if you're a sprint in Boulder). Definitely could feel the lack of riding over the past couple weeks. Oops.

Continued to feel some foot pain. Thought it was just a pebble in my shoe and wiggled my foot around and thought I moved it out of the way (spoiler: actually ... i had a pebble embedded in my food that I dug out with tweezers later).

Ran into some frustration on the bike course, as at the first turnaround, the girl in front of me slowed down to ... maybe get off her bike? I don't know, but I almost had to stop as a result. Momentum? Gone. Then, later, a woman in front of me going around one of the corners slowed waaaaaayyyy down and even unclipped as she turned. I understand being tentative around corners, but that seemed a little overkill. Or maybe I was just cranky at this point ...

Thawed out probably seven miles in to the bike.

There's one point in the course that's on this twisty hill. Going down early on, there's strict rules about crossing the middle yellow (that is, do it and you're DQ'ed). Going up, it's a relatively substantial climb. I surprised myself with how well I climbed it. As I crested, though, a few girls passed me and one said, "you kept a great pace on that hill!" Um, thanks, and poo on you for apparently drafting me. 

Time: 34:32 (15th, 77th, 202nd)


Decided not to body glide my toes, which probably saved me a good 30 seconds. Or maybe less. But it was one of my quicker T2s.

Time: 1:33 (21st, 115th, 209th)

The Run:

Oh, the run, where my lack of cardiovascular endurance seriously comes into play. Weeee!

This was a complete struggle bus of a run. I mean, I kind of didn't expect more, but it was still relatively disappointing. When I could run, I was running well, but I didn't have the lungs to be able to run much. Still don't think it was my worst 5K in a sprint tri. I hope.

Time: 33:49 (30th, 144th, 283rd)

Overall Stats:
Time: 1:33:44
23/40 division (F30-34)
112/210 gender
240/363 overall

Comparison game:
Last year's swim: 21:50
This year's swim: 22:33
:43 slower. If I don't swim consistently, I don't swim well. This is due to lack of consistent swim training post-Boulder.

Last year's T1: 1:37
This year's T1: 1:15
:22 quicker. No idea.

Last year's bike: 33:14
This year's bike: 34:32
1:18 slower. I don't have speed legs right now. Plus I wasn't trying to push it that much. Or maybe I can blame the extra slowing due to the people in front of me. Eh. Who knows.

Last year's T2: 1:55
This year's T2: 1:33
:22 faster. So that's how long it takes for me to body glide toes ...

Last year's run: 32:47
This year's run: 33:49
1:02 slower. Not surprising at all. This felt like more death than last year.

Overall: 4:52 slower (if my math is right). Sounds about right. 

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Still highly enjoyed my post-race pancakes, which is really the main reason I did this race. Therefore, still a win.

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Four of us post-race - Curtis, Lisa, me, Brandon.

Monday, October 3, 2016

September Round-Up

I know I have two race recaps to write up as well, but I just want to go ahead and get this out of the way ...

September was a rough, rough month ... read on ...

Swimming: 6523.97m (4.05 mi)
Cycling: 102.37 mi
Running: 20.16 mi
Lifting: two sessions (:09)
Other: two stretch sessions (:22), one walk (2:30), one "agility" sesson (1:30)

Firstly, that "agility" session? Was crawling through tunnels of awesomeness and stairs and kind of American Ninja stuff at the City Museum in St. Louis, Mo. Think adult playground. Kind of. Although it's not just for adults. Scampered around for at least 90 minutes and my quads were still killing me three days later.

September was a mix of trying to get back into training, then taper, and then the offseason. Mixed in there was a successful sprint triathlon and my first DNF at the Ironman distance (more to come on that later). It certainly wasn't a great month of training, but it definitely wasn't my worst, either. 

The best part of the rest of the year is that tri season is OVER and I can get back into the gym to lift and I can swim, bike, and run because I WANT to, not necessarily because I NEED to. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

August Round-Up

Oh August ...

Swimming: 4754.2m (2.95 mi)
Cycling: 146.55 mi
Running: 35.86 mi
Lifting: two sessions (:25)
Other: four walks (8:45), one hike (:45), two stretch sessions (:20)

The month started out as taper for Ironman Boulder ... and then Ironman ... and then essentially a week off for recovery ... and then in theory starting to get back moving. The problem is, that's been way harder to actually do, despite the ever-looming Ironman Chattanooga.

If I weren't so damn sunburnt after Boulder, I actually probably would have kept moving that week. Sure, Monday was stiff, but I was back at work Tuesday and ended up walking about four hours (8ish miles) on Wednesday wandering around the city while my car was in the shop all day. I would have been perfectly happy popping in the pool that week had my poor shoulders allowed it.

But when I was finally "supposed" to get back to training ... my body and brain was having none of it. Nope. You can do nothing. Maybe I'm mentally ready to be done. Maybe my body was more deeply beat up than I originally thought. In any case, I've got about three weeks until IMCHOO and I need to get at least one week in of some somewhat solid training ...

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Race #9 of the Season: Ironman Boulder

Brandon actually beat me to this recap, so I should probably get on this, huh?

He explained all what was going on with him (check the previous post). As I was helping him along with the process, my training occasionally also took a back seat. Delta wouldn't just affect him; it would (and will) change both our lives. As a result, I was probably (okay, definitely) undercooked going into Boulder as well.

The Lead Up

As triathletes do, we were obsessively checking the water temp at Boulder Reservoir. It was looking to be 50/50 on whether it would be wetsuit legal or wetsuit optional on race day. Neither of us particularly like our wetsuits anymore and didn't care if we weren't able to race in them. However, we did want to get a practice go in just our tri suits in case. Enter Boulder Aquatic Masters (BAM) and their Bare Bones open water swim series. Twice a year, BAM hosts an open-water swim event at the Res with one, two, and three mile options. I broached the idea of doing this to Corie; she loved it and so a week prior to Boulder, I had a one mile open water swim on my schedule. Brandon was luckily able to do it with me thanks to some work luck.

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Post-swim photos!

All things considered, the swim went well. I'm still noticeably slower in open water than in the pool, but the water (72 or 74 degrees, depending on who you asked) was more than comfortable to swim in without a wetsuit.

The following week B was off to Atlanta for Delta and I actually mostly stuck to the workout plan for the week instead of taking it entirely off as I usually do for taper. Oops.

We spent many days driving back and forth to Boulder for the expo and everything, but it was easier and cheaper than a hotel ...

We were also able to meet a few new MaccaXers this year in Randy (cheer/volunteer squad only), Francesco, Shawn, and Kurt, the latter being a surprise addition to the lineup. Kurt DNFed due to a mechanical at Challenge Roth about a month prior and was planning on coming out to Boulder anyway to cheer/volunteer. Lisa and Curtis (or one of them ...) told him he should bring his bike out and, well, long story short, he ended up racing with us. 

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Outside the expo. Hey Ironman, what was with selling a ton of race-specific finisher gear pre-race? Fail ...

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Amaryllis with borrowed race wheels.

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No ankle mishaps this year!

At bike check in, we had also brought our wetsuits to test the water with them. I did a practice swim loop both with my wetsuit and without it.

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A little vintage Skirt ...

My two loops told me that, even though I loathe it, I am indeed faster in the wetsuit (and it was a tad more comfortable). After a consult with Corie ... the wetsuit was going to be a go in the morning.

Race Day

Unlike Arizona, and contrary to most things we've heard regarding Ironman sleep, we actually slept pretty well the night before. I had a minor freak out moment the night before in bed; I was on Facebook on my phone half-asleep when I saw a post in the IM Boulder group about the timing chip; I shot out of bed realizing I had no idea where mine was! Thankfully, I found it quickly and added it to my race morning pile. Potential crisis averted.

The alarm sounded way too early, but it was actually pretty easy to drag my ass out of bed. I was able to eat my standard egg and oj (being able to make my own breakfast was also a huge perk to not getting a hotel ...) before leaving. We left maybe a bit later for Boulder than ideal, but we still got up with plenty of time to find a decent parking spot, drop my handheld in my run bag, drop off special needs, hit up a porta potty, and catch a bus. 

I know B mentioned that he was worried about the bus ride from Boulder High School to the Res - and with good reason; the last two races I had to take a bus to the start, the ride wasn't pretty - but for some reason, I was okay. I think the fact that I had my snack on me (Bobo's oat bar) and that I started slowly eating it helped. Also it was a MUCH shorter ride ...

We get dropped off and since I knew Randy was doing body marking in all his IronFan glory, I made sure to find him to get my race number and typical smiley face Sharpie'd on. I got in the line to get my bike tires pumped up. I tossed my butt butter into my bike bag. I saw Francesco (who was essentially a bike rack over) and chatted with him. We got a picture with Kurt.

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I was a little anxious, but thankfully, it wasn't too bad. Before we knew it, it was time to drop off our morning clothes (I remembered to ditch my flip-flops this time!) and line up.

The Swim:

Ironman Boulder is a self-seeded, rolling start, based on estimated swim time. My AZ time was 2:02; I was hoping to go under two hours for sure, but I didn't want to seed myself that far back mentally. As my pool times had been pretty good, and going off of what I did at BAM the weekend prior (one mile in 47:41), I decided to be optimistic and seed myself at the back of the 1:30-1:45 corral. 

I took a second heading into the water to get my lungs underneath me and get rid of that initial "ack coldish water" shock one (or at least I) always gets first hitting open water. However, that took me maybe 15 seconds before I was off and swimming.

I am so thankful that it was overcast for the entire swim. It made sighting a breeze. I was also skeptical about the swim start, but it worked well. I really didn't get swum over (yay!) and I felt like it gave a lot of open space. 

Other notes from the swim:

- The buoys changed color halfway through. This was both good and bad. Good because of the indicator (yay, halfway!) and bad because it felt like it took FOREVER to get to said halfway point.

- Garmin said I swam in a relatively straight line, but that I still swam 4480 yards, which is clearly more than I needed to. Oops.

- I actually overtook some people after the first turn. This made me super happy.

- I had heard things about seaweed on course thanks to Shawn's DNF a year prior, but had never encountered it in the Res before. Well, it's a thing, and it made me feel like I was some swamp creature for a while as I could feel the seaweed hanging off me. Quite pleasant. In any case, it didn't slow me down at all.

- My swim cap decided to threaten falling off my head for at least a good third of the swim. It was driving me absolutely batty, but I didn't want to stop to fix it. I finally did after the final turn to shore because I just. couldn't. deal. anymore. I hung off a kayak to take off my goggles, completely re-put on my cap, and put the goggles back on. I very determinedly did NOT look at my Garmin (I also very determinedly did not look at it when I hit said halfway point) because that is a bad, bad thing mentally for me to do.

- Right near the shore, I saw Curtis and Lisa on their paddle boards. Being me, I yelled something along the lines of, "screw you, you losers!" at them ... which apparently shocked a fellow volunteer. Oops. Sorry, guys.

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Time: 1:51:33 (53rd division, 387th gender, 1393rd overall)


Flop down, get the wetsuit stripped off, stand back up, grab my bag, hit the tent. As it was nice and overcast (and it in theory wasn't supposed to get that hot that day ...), I decided to forego my arm coolers (spoiler: bad idea). Other than that, added a bit more butt butter, slathered on some sunscreen, tossed on my sunglasses and helmet, put on my shoes, and clomped off to get my bike.

The perk about being a bit of a slower swimmer is that transition is nice and open so grabbing one's bike is a breeze. No people, no bikes on the rack ... problems I would like to encounter eventually, but I was happy for the lack of chaos.

Time: 5:39

The Bike:

Oh, the bike. Long story short: I was (and am) super disappointed with how the bike went, given how much I had trained this stupid course. I knew every inch of the course, but it was just ... not pleasant on race day.

- The sun did eventually come out, and when it did, ugh. Brutal.

- There was a funny sign on the Jay when you hit it on the first loop - "You're almost done! Oh wait, that was last year!"

- I felt like I kept my effort steady on the first loop. A bit slower than in training, but I was also trying to pace myself somewhat. Hydrated well and was doing my best to eat food.

- When I hit 36, on what would be a downhill, we slowed down around a crash. I didn't see much except for a mangled bike on the side of the road and a lot of emergency crews. I may have seen Ms. Walters on a stretcher (I think I saw one), but I don't know. Heavy heart passing that ...

- Stopped for the first time a little after 35 miles at an aid station on 63rd to pee. Tried a banana, as I remember them being good at AZ; nope, not this time around. Pretty sure I peed a second time on loop two at the same stop.

  - Nelson was awful, as I knew it would be.

- Thank you 303 Triathlon for your sno cones. Definitely snagged one on the first loop. I also grabbed a bit more water as I had run out of Skratch by this point.

- Stopped at special needs to swap out my bottles. I also had some of my Lays potato chips and Dr. Pepper (I had usually stopped for these two things in Hygiene on my training rides, so I figured why not?), and they were delicious. I attempted to reapply some sunscreen, but it wasn't all that succesful, as evidenced by my very strange tan/burn lines post-race. My volunteer was friendly and awesome. Not awesome: forgetting my pizza in my bag. I realized it before I exited the zone and I almost stopped and clomped back for it, but I didn't. I kind of regret this.

- Loop two ... sucked. 

- Encountered Kurt on Neva/Niwot on loop two; we (legally) chatted and went back and forth until the end of Nelson when he dropped me on the 36 descent.

- Started having my overheating foot problems. Started stopping at the aid stations to grab water to completely drench my feet. It helped. Feet started hurting about mile 70ish and didn't stop the rest of the day.

- Took a bit of a break at the 303 aid station for another sno cone. Had an angel of a volunteer give me some of her colby jack cheese stick thingy. (NEEDED NOT-SWEET SOMETHING.)

- Looked forlornly at special needs, knowing I couldn't stop again, even though I was so close to being done. Totally could have used more Dr. Pepper. And chips. And my damn pizza.

- Thought the ride into town was supposed to be fast. Maybe it was because everything hurt so damn badly, but it was NOT fast. At least for me. I'm just thankful that ride may have been short (Garmin read just shy of 110).

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Don't let the smile fool you; I was in pain. I just chose to grin the entire day.

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Like a boss. Might have been Neva/Niwot loop two ...

Time: 7:28:32 (54th, 355th, 1322nd)



You dismount, run behind basically the entire length of Boulder High School, run across a bridge over the creek/path to the football field (all with your bike), then grab your run bag while running down the length of the football field, across a tiny bit more grass, UP STAIRS, then across some MORE grass before you finally hit the tent. Sheesh.

I ran some of it, but probably not as much as I should have. Silly bike shoes.

Changed into my running socks/shoes, changed into my hat, tossed on my Race Belt skirt, slathered on a bit more sunscreen (volunteer accidentally got my chafed neck - OW), grabbed my handheld, and off I went.

Time: 9:25 (under 10 minutes ... SCORE)

The Run:

What I didn't mention in the bike section is that I developed a headache sometime late in the ride. I'm pretty sure it was lack of food, although given how much salt I scraped off myself later, it might have been dehydration, too. Who knows. 

The first mile or so was mostly walking as I tried to shove food in my belly. I had another Bobo's bar on me, but it didn't sound appealing, so I just snarfed chips and grapes at the first aid station. The second aid station somehow had bacon (OMG BEST EVER) which I'm pretty sure saved my race. Thanks, superhero aid station! I peed here - my only run porta potty stop which was a vast improvement over AZ.

I first saw B early on in the first out-and-back, and TriSports buddy George early on as well. I also ran more than I maybe would have thanks to Curtis and Lisa stalking me on their mountain bikes, yelling at me to run. 

I negative split miles 2-7, managing to run when I could (taking advantage of the downhills - gravity is fun!). I walked every aid station in order to top off my handheld. I had a couple packets of Skratch on me. I'd drink 2/3rds to 3/4ths of my 12oz bottle each mile, stop at the aid station, toss ice and water as well as some Skratch in it, shake it up, and keep going. I grabbed chips here and there as well.

The next time I saw B we decided to figure out where we were in relation to each other; I believe I had just hit 6 and he was at 7-something (so about 1.75 miles behind). 

I caught up to Kurt at about mile 7.5 at the back end of an aid station. Due to some ankle/foot issue, he was walking the vast, vast majority of the marathon. I was feeling pretty good, but I also hadn't really made any race buddies and felt like chatting with someone, so I walked with him for almost a good two miles.

He stopped to use a porta potty and I didn't want to wait, so I ditched him somewhere in mile 10. I subsequently had my fastest mile in mile 11 (11:51 - my one sub-12 mile!) thanks to the insane crowd support of that section (behind the high school/IM village). I saw Randy near the tail end of this mile cheering.

I saw a few of my Skirt sisters at the one aid station on the west side of the course and snagged some chicken broth on my way back through. I also saw B on this out-and-back, and figured I was about a mile behind.

(I also figure I got ahead of Kurt by about two miles at this point.)

I was still moving well on loop two, and I pretty much always had a smile on my face. One showed up any time I saw Aaron (new friend! ... although we figured this out on facebook post-race) thanks to his ridiculous(ly awesome) costume. I somehow missed Francesco out on the run, but I did see Instagram buddy Leana, so that was awesome.

I saw B again at mile 16 and at that point, I was only .85 miles behind him. I jokingly said something about catching up to him and he jokingly said I should ... so I actually attempted to pick it up so I could. I wasn't moving all that swiftly thanks to the general fatigue of the day (and okay, my poor dead feet), but I was running more than Brandon (which I didn't know at the time). On this out-and-back, I also bummed some Pringles off a volunteer, because hot damn did Pringles sound good at that point. Mmm, salt.

By mile 21, I had caught up to Brandon. We walked together for a few miles, running a bit, but my poor husband was starting to fall apart a bit. His back was bugging him, his feet ... poor mrrmrr. I left him about two miles later, as he wanted me to run my own race. I did too, to be honest, but I would have 100% stayed with him had he needed me to.

I chatted with my Skirt peeps again at the far aid station (a bit more on the return trip), as more of them had shown up to work the later shift, so that was an amazing pick-me-up. Love you ladies!

I wasn't able to run nearly as much as I wanted in the later miles. I could have gone faster down the chute, but I wanted to let the guy in front of me have his moment; if I had done my typical thing, I would have passed him right at the line. Pfft, with us being so spread out that late, I wanted each of us to have our moment. I was able to finish to the tail end of "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." by Aretha Franklin (and the very beginning of Sister Sledge's "We Are Family"), which is a much better finishing song, so I was happy for that. 

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Time: 6:17:41 (51st, 309th, 1177th)

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Final Stats:
Time: 15:52:50
51/55 division (F30-34)
309/361 gender
1177/1313 finishers

I knew B wasn't that far behind, so I delayed leaving the finish area. I chatted with Curtis and Lisa who were on the other side of the fencing. When I saw B coming, I asked a volunteer if I could hang his medal around his neck, so I was able to do that for him which was kind of awesome. We then, like at AZ, got a finisher's photo together.

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I attempted to eat food afterward, but my body wanted nothing to do with the post-race pizza. We had hoped to get a massage, but we finished too late for those (sad, tragic day). We didn't take too long to hang around as we knew we still had to drive back home, try to shower, realize how sunburned we were, etc.

Now, since I've done two of these crazy things, comparison game!

Swim 2013: 2:02:48
Swim 2016: 1:51:33

An 11:15 swim PR. MASSIVE gains. I will so take this. Choo will undoubtedly be faster, but Choo is a special snowflake case ...

T1 2013: 11:24
T1 2016: 5:39

5:45 faster. Not having to get an ankle retaped up helps this immensely ...

Bike 2013: 7:26:02
Bike 2016: 7:28:32

2:30 slower. This upsets me highly, as I feel I was better prepared for this stupid bike course. Grum. Ble.

T2 2013: 7:52
T2 2016: 9:25

1:33 slower, but Boulder was way longer than AZ.

Run 2013: 6:07:29
Run 2016: 6:17:41

10:12 slower, but I kind of chose to be slow on this run. I purposefully walked with Kurt for almost two miles. I purposefully chose to pause at each aid station to mix my Skratch in my handheld (totally doing that again). I purposefully chose to burn matches trying to catch up (and subsequently pass) my husband. I purposefully stopped and chatted with my Skirt family each time I saw them. 

In any case, it all somehow worked out to a 2:45 PR. Small potatoes when you consider the length of the race, but really, all things considered, I will take it. Especially that swim.