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)

T1:

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)

T2:

LONGEST. TRANSITION. EVER. 

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.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ironman Recap

Hello blog readers!  Finally I am getting my Ironman recap done.  I swear my body is STILL recovering from what was one of the hardest events of my life.  Totally worth it!

If you read my last blog post, you know that the months of training included much studying for what would be the biggest test of my life in interviewing for Delta Air Lines.  The interview was a success, to say the least.  I got my conditional job offer on 8/3/16 and shifted my mental focus to doing Boulder to the best of my ability.

I’ll break it down into five separate segments – pre-race, the swim, the bike, the run, and post-race.  Here we go.

Pre-Race (Sunday)
We woke up at the butt-crack of dawn, as usual.  Even earlier than normal this morning so we could make breakfast and get up there to catch the buses to the reservoir.  T also had to drop some things off in her special run needs.  We got our final stuff loaded in the car and made the drive to Boulder.

Once T got her stuff dropped in her special needs, we boarded the bus.  I was a bit apprehensive about T being on a bus due to what happened at Silverman last year and the Colorado ½ marathon this year, but thankfully, she felt no nausea this time around. 

We arrived at the reservoir.  Walking to our bikes, we saw Curtis and Lisa who informed me that my sensor should be on my bike.  Yay!  We also saw Randy and got body marked early.  Then we got into trans to get our food on our bikes and tires pumped + sunscreen.  It was definitely overcast and I hoped/prayed it would stay that way all day.  We saw a couple of Macca X members and chatted.  Overall, it was a typical tri morning.  I tried listening to music, but found it made me more anxious than usual, so I ditched the headphones.

T and I hit the porta-potties again before we joined the swim line.  Unlike IMAZ, Boulder would be doing a rolling swim start.  We both wanted to seed ourselves in the 1:30-1:45 wave.  I thought I would be doing about a 1:35 swim due to the lack of swim training I’ve had this year, so it was a good spot to be in.  While in the swim line, I hiked my wetsuit up a bit closer to the crotch and I heard a loud rip!  My wetsuit finally gave way with a sizeable hole in the crotch.  I knew I could race with it, but this would be the last race.  T and I had our moment before she peeled herself to the back of the wave, whereas I would be at the front of it.  I kissed her, wished her luck, and made my way to my spot.

Before hitting the water, I had a brief moment with Mike Reilly.  He hugged me and said he’d see me at the finish line.  I was quite emotional.  The culmination of everything had come together that morning.  I had worked so hard for Delta, and I had gotten it.  I had worked hard to come to the finish line of Ironman, and here I was.  With that in mind, I hit the water and began my quest to finish my 2nd Ironman!



The Swim
I was emotional for the first 200 meters, choking back tears.  It seemed almost surreal that I was there.  The failure of Silverman was behind me.  Sure, I was undertrained, but I was there, with everyone else.  I had just been hired at Delta.  I was fucking invincible.  So I put the emotion aside, the pain of the past few months, and put my head down to swim.

Pretty early in the swim, I felt thirsty.  Not sure where that came from, but yeah.  I found myself having plenty of open space, until I didn’t.  I kept swimming over people.  Or I would come up on a person, and they would match my pace, not letting me pass.  More than once I would have to turn on the jets to blow by them. 

At the first turn, I encountered seaweed from the floor of the reservoir.  While it felt weird, it didn’t deter me.  Also, unlike IMAZ, I didn’t see anyone backstroking or floating.  I kept my head peeled for our friends Curtis and Lisa who were stand up paddleboarding, but never saw them.  Boo.

Turning inbound to the shore, I was never more ready to get out of the water.  I kept the discipline of never looking at my watch and continued passing people. 

I could hear the music and finally my hand hit the sand.  I stood up, gained my balance, and exited the water.  Like in 2013, I felt like I hadn’t even really worked out.  I found a wetsuit stripper, had it yanked off me, and ran to the change tent of T1. 

Swim Time – 1:29:19

T1
I moved faster in this T1 than I did in Arizona.  I schnarfed some Clif Shot Blocks while I was getting everything together.  I quick ran out, grabbed my bike, ran though the rest of transition, and hopped on. 

T1 Time – 7:46

The Bike
I knew the first 20 miles of the bike would be an up and down grind.  But thanks to training the course, I knew where to hit it hard, where to back off.  When to eat, when to drink.  Advantage, me!

Early in the bike, I was surprised at how many people I was overtaking.  I also stuck to my nutrition plan.  So really, the first 15-20 miles of the bike are nothing exciting to report.  I was surprised that on the downhills, I was a bit slower than I had been in training.  Even so, I was hitting my sports with a faster mph than in training.  Woo!

Turning onto the familiar J, I was dismayed to see the sun come out.  Unfortunately, our overcast layer was gone.  It burned off super quick too.  Seriously?  Thanks mother nature.

When I turned onto the diagonal, I assessed where I was.  The clouds were gone, so I knew it’d heat up quickly.  I also began feeling bloated.  Not sure if it was due to drinking the res water or what, but I was having trouble getting food down.  It stayed down fine, but it was the act of eating and drinking that was hard.  I forced liquid down, but food was just not happening.  However, I didn’t worry too much about it.  There would be places to jam in calories.  Turning onto Highway 36, I looked at my watch, saw I was about 1:30 into the ride, so no problem.  I was ready to hammer.  Then I saw something I’ll never forget.  Stopping my bike, I saw the carnage that lay in front of me.

There was an athlete down.  A female.  I recognized her; not that I knew her personally, but she had passed me at around mile 15 of the bike.  Her kit was torn up pretty good.  There were scrapes on her back and legs.  Her bucket was broken in half.  Not cracked, but literally in two separate pieces on the ground.  Her bike was mangled.  She was lying facedown on the asphalt, and blood was beginning to pool out of her head.  There were 4-5 riders that had stopped and two of them were knelt down next to her.  I put my own race on hold for the moment.  The race meant nothing. 

I asked a nearby volunteer if she had contacted medical personnel and she said she did.  I also told her to start asking the stopped traffic if there was a doctor or nurse in any of the cars.  Us as cyclists had no means to help out the fallen athlete and I knew the worst thing we could have done would have been to try to move her.  I also realized there was nothing I could do.  I elected to take a deep breath, say a few curses at the horrible thing that had happened, and resume my race.

I pedaled away, the gusto and bravado out of my body.  I had no energy.  I had no willpower.  I started crying.  I feared for T’s safety.  After all, if this cyclist got hit, who is to say T couldn’t?  Briefly, I considered pulling out of the race.  Everyone would have understood.  I truly didn’t know at that point if I would have the willpower to continue.  I decided to dedicate the rest of my race to the fallen athlete, whose name I didn’t know.  I said a prayer, hoping she’d be okay. I told myself that there was nothing I could do.  Maybe all she had was a broken nose.  Etc.  It was a feeble attempt to convince myself, but nonetheless, I kept pedaling.

The climb up Nelson Road has been well documented, so I won’t rehash it too much.  It’s a brutal 4 mile grind.  It takes awhile.  It’s soul-crushing.  And on that day, it unfortunately wasn’t any different.  The sun was high overhead and it was hot, so you could describe it as a boiler room or the bowels of Hell.  Perseverance was the name of the game.

Off Nelson (for the first time), I began the long descent on Highway 36.  With the fallen athlete still fresh in my mind, I did this much more cautiously than normal.  On good training days, I’ll hit 40+ mph without even thinking.  This day, I refused to push.  I couldn’t shake the feeling of what I had seen. 

The next part of the ride is mostly a blur.  I remember getting to bike special needs and quick stopping for some sunscreen, potato chips (Jimmy Johns Salt and Vinegar for the win!), and Sprite.  However, it was pretty obvious that most of my appetite had vanished.  Between the horrible bloat I was having and being still incredibly rattled by the crash, I just didn’t eat much.  I grabbed my emergency bag of Sour Patch Kids and stuffed em in my tri tank pocket.  I figured sugar could get me through the rest.

Coming back up the J and diagonal was difficult.  I was hurting.  My mind wasn’t into the ride.  I just wanted to be done.  I went down 36 again and saw Boulder FD hosing off the highway.  I was still hoping that the athlete was okay.  I hadn’t gotten any update and truth be told, I wasn’t ready to hear.

The second climb up Nelson was horrible.  I’ll just say it.  It was bad.  I saw more than one cyclist pulled over on one of the hills, just hurting.  I refused to stop; if I did, I wasn’t getting back on my bike.  The heat was definitely pushing me to my limit.  I really regret not wearing my arm coolers that day. Both T and I made the decision not to wear them and that was not smart. 

Continuing on the bike course, I was mostly out of aero at this point.  I was hoping around mile 100 to get the happy Zen feeling I got in Arizona, but it never came.  Instead, every pedal stroke hurt.  I was so bloaty and dehydrated.  I just wanted off the bike.  Arizona’s bike was enjoyable save for about 25 miles.  This bike was awful.  Turning onto the Boulder side roads to get up to transition was a very wonderful feeling, even though I still faced a marathon in front of me and a ridiculously long T2.

Bike Time – 7:17:30

T2
T2 was ridiculously long.  You run your bike about .2 miles.  So in bike shoes, clomping like a damn horse, feels ridiculous. I was tired and wanted to just get my bike far far away from me.  I handed it to a volunteer and grabbed my run clothes bag.  I was hoping to beat my T2 time from IMAZ, so I had the volunteer help me into my compression socks.  Seriously, those things are a bitch and a half to get on.  Ready to go, I charged out the change tent and got on the run.

T2 Time - 13:14

The Run
In my last Ironman, I couldn’t wait to be off the bike and on the run, and Boulder was the same feeling.  I actually had a bit of pep in my legs, although you wouldn’t be able to tell by my times/splits.  In miles 1-2 I actually found some run in my legs. 

I was hitting the early aid stations, grabbing water and ice.  I still was feeling horribly bloated and couldn’t eat much.  So I figured just keep gobbling water and ice to combat hydration. 

Around mile 6, my friend Rob met up with me.  He drove up from Superior to say hello, and walked with me for about ½ a mile.  I appreciated his companionship. 

I don’t remember when I saw T, but I remember I was extremely happy to see her, knowing she was safe and on the run.  I also knew she would have no problem making the finish.  It’s a funny thing – for us mortals who do this sport for fun, and are sometimes at risk of not making a cut, just knowing you are going to make it is a huge relief.  Certainly, on what was proving to be a very tough day in Boulder, I was ecstatic!

The 2nd loop of the run was definitely more fun than the first, even though my body was starting to hurt every which way.  I made a couple friends on the run, including a very sweet lady who gave me some Tums to try to combat the bloat (they didn’t help).  One volunteer gave me some Advil as well.  I also realized T was catching up to me, and while I slowed down a bit more to allow her to catch up, she was powering through like a person possessed, and it was inspiring.  I was so proud of her at that moment.

Around mile 21, she passed me for good.  I told her to get her PR and I would see her at the finish line.  She agreed.  We love each other, but today, we needed to race our own race.  She joked about waiting for a good finishers song, and with that, off she went.

Around mile 24, I began feeling the overwhelming feeling of comfort and victory.  I was going to be an Ironman!

In the final mile, I made another run friend, one who was doing his first IM.  His wife was walking with him.  I had admiration for this guy.  Ironman is hard.  And here he was, nearly 16 hours in, but he was smiling and just so proud.  His wife was proud too.  I told him to go ahead of me, to enjoy the finishers chute.  I told him that in Arizona, I wasn’t present when I was coming down the chute, and to relish it.  He agreed and thanked me.  Around this time, I remember hearing Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T playing at the finish line and figured that was T’s finishing song.  Not a bad way to cross.  Soul sisters playing?  Hell yeah!

You may remember at IMAZ, I found a strange jump in my step and took off like a lightning bolt at around mile 25.6 for the finish.  That didn’t happen this time in Boulder.  I didn’t get that final jump until about 26.  Then I took off for the finishers chute.  This time, I was present.  I high-fived a lot of people, gave Curtis and Lisa a hug (they have me on video), and heard Mike Reilly call my name.  I didn’t care what my time was.  I didn’t care about anything at that moment except that, on August 7th, 2016, I once again got to call myself an Ironman.  I leaped at the finish line, barely stuck the landing, and pumped my fist in victory!

Run Time - 6:54:45

Race Time - 16:02:34

Post-Race
T hung my medal on me, having finished about 10 minutes ahead of me.  I was so proud of her and she was so proud of me.  We got our finishers pictures separate and one together.  Then we hit the food tent.  Having learned our lesson from IMAZ, we vowed not to sit too long so we wouldn’t stiffen up.  We chatted with Curtis and Lisa for awhile and took stock of our teammates who had finished.  It was a good day for Team MaccaX, as 4 of 5 finished the day.  I ate some pizza (the bloat was instantly gone when I hit the finish line…) and some fruit.  T didn’t eat much, and we left to grab our bikes, load up the car, and go home.

The next morning, we woke up early to head up and buy finishers gear.  The jackets this time were way better than Arizona.  We chatted with a few people, then we headed back home.  After taking a long nap, I woke up and received a very exciting email from Delta.  They had formally offered me a class on September 6th, and I excitedly accepted it. 

When I set out to get the job at Delta and complete Ironman, I had a goal in mind.  And to achieve it, I borrowed a phrase from the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team, who won the National Championship in hockey this year: Believe It, Earn It, Raise It.  I’ve done it.  I’ve achieved Infinity.

But I have to be honest.  My victories, as great as they are, were tempered that day.
Even typing this now, tears come to my eyes. 

I learned at one point on the run that the athlete who crashed on Highway 36 had died.  Her name was Michelle Fields, and she was racing in her first Ironman.  It sounded like a car had hit her.  Naturally, my reaction was one of sadness and anger.  Angry at Ironman for allowing this to happen on one of their courses.  Anger at the driver for being so careless.  Anger at myself for not doing more for her.  I was about 1-2 minutes behind her when she was hit.  While I stopped, along with some other athletes, I wish I could have done more.  I told T I wish I would have held her hand.  Told her that help was on the way.  Etc.  The harsh reality is, there’s not much I could have done other than some intangible actions that ultimately would not have saved her life.  It’s a terrible truth, but I’ll still have to live with myself knowing that I didn’t show her a bit of love in the final moments of her life.

I did ask myself a bit during the race, and am still doing so, “Is this worth it?”  Is it worth riding on roads that cars drive on without a care in the world?  Worth putting myself at risk and taking a chance?  All it would take is a teenager texting or checking up on social media, a parent checking on a kid in the backseat, or someone who has a bit of rage, to end my life on the road.  Is it worth it?

It is.  Here’s why: everything you do has risk.  From the moment you get out of bed in the morning, life is risk.  Low risk, high risk, it doesn’t matter.  Every day you put yourself out there and when it’s your time, it’s your time.  Spend too much time dwelling on what could happen, and you’ll never do anything.  I am not as religious as I once was (although I’ve prayed more in the last two months than I have in my entire life), but I do have faith that I have lived a good life and will be okay in the afterlife, whatever it might be. 


I think that’s how we all need to live our lives.  Be good to each other.  Take care of your “house”.  Work hard to live each day with some purpose.  Give back when able.  Most importantly, keep the dreams alive.  Believe It, Earn It, Raise It.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Where's Brandon Been?

Yes I’m still here!

There’s a reason why I haven’t blogged in a long time and I can’t wait to share the details with you all. 

Starting on 9/6, I will officially wear the uniform of a Delta Air Lines pilot!!!

Now you might be asking “what does that have to do with Brandon disappearing from the public eye for so long?”

Let’s take it back to the beginning.

Those of you who know me well know that I’ve wanted to be a pilot for a Legacy carrier for a long time.  Starting just after I completed my first Ironman in late 2013, I began taking the steps necessary to do that.  I began attending seminars to learn how to write a better resume.  I reached out to old contacts asking for letters of recommendation.  I was focused in my goal to leave my current employer, and was willing to do everything it took.  I paid the money to attend job fairs and get the face-to-face time necessary with these airlines.  While I generally found the job fairs to be tedious and somewhat frustrating, they were also valuable.  I believe that as long as you are working to better yourself in the employment arena, you are ahead of your competition. 

In late May, I got a call from Frontier Airlines asking if I wanted to come in for an interview.  I heartily agreed, even though Frontier was not where I wanted to be for the rest of my career.  Deep in my heart, I knew that.  But that being said, I figured I could use it as a stepping stone, and let’s face it, it’s not my current employer.  So I scheduled my interview for June 24th and began the tedious process of getting ready for my interview.  I signed up for a company called Emerald Coast which specializes in job interview preparation.  I was determined to get hired by Frontier.

Within a week of scheduling my Frontier interview, I got an email postponing my interview.  I was unsure why they were doing this, but I didn’t mind.  I had Ironman Boulder to think about as well and sure didn’t want to miss Boulder.

The old adage is “when it rains, it pours”.  Whoever came up with that is sure right, because on June 8th, I got an email that would change my life.  I was actually done with a 2 hour ride and met T at Starbucks.  I was randomly checking my email and nearly dropped my phone when I saw the email from Delta asking me to schedule an interview.  I showed it to T to make sure it was real, which of course it was.  I took a few seconds (minutes, hours) to compose myself and then I called a few friends at Delta to ask advice.  They told me to get ready to buckle down, because I was about to go through Hell to study for this thing. 

The next day, I got my interview scheduled for August 2nd.  With the date firmly locked down, it was time to study.

I was able to reschedule my Frontier interview for July19th.  I decided I would study for Delta and go into Frontier with that.  I figured if I was studying for Delta, it would be good enough for Frontier, but studying for Frontier would not be good enough for Delta.  Here’s a small smattering of everything I was studying:

-       Turbine Engine theory
-       Weather theory
-       Advanced Aerodynamics
-       Navigation
-       Federal Regulations
-       Human Resources
-       My own background information

Lost in all this is the fact that I was still training for TWO Ironmans!  If you remember, in 2013, I was studying for Ironman while I was upgrading to Captain.  I thought this was going to be the same experience, but holy good Lord was I wrong.  Upgrade to Captain was a regimented 9-5 schedule and allowed a lot of flexibility.  2016 involved a full-time job commuting ¾ of the way across the country to fly tough schedules.  Through the whole process, I was exhausted.  I tried to find the balance but this time finding the balance was much more difficult.  I called Coach Corie way more often than I should have to cry and complain about my life.  She helped me as best she could, but I think her ultimate stance was “get the job, worry about the rest later.”

On July 19th, I interviewed at Frontier.  I won’t bore you with the details, but I was hired.  It was an incredible feeling to get the job and I was very relieved.  At the very least, I could leave Republic.  Unfortunately, the start day was August 8th.  That meant that if I was to do Ironman Boulder, I would have to show up the day after at Frontier a sunburned, shuffly mess.  Nonetheless, I accepted the class date and bore down on studying for Delta.

On August 2nd, I interviewed at Delta.  Again, I’m going to spare you the details, but let’s just say that when I got handed the “Red Folder” that signified the Conditional Job Offer, I about collapsed with happiness!  I’ve had various demons chase me throughout the years, and to know that I had exercised them yet again was an incredible feeling!

Day 2, August 3rd, involved a meeting with a psychologist that went well, and I received the class date the following week.  The day after finishing Ironman.

So anyway, that’s where I’ve been.  My Ironman Recap is coming very shortly.  I finished that as well, so seriously, it’s been a good summer. :-D 

Friday, August 5, 2016

July Round-Up

July ... was an odd month. I'm a little frustrated with how this month ended up, but it is what it is, right?

Swimming: 22800m (14.17 mi)
Cycling: 292.17 mi
Running: 59.44 mi
Lifting: three sessions (:19)
Other: five stretch sessions (:50), two walks (2:40), one yoga session (:10)

This month should have had a lot more to it. I'll admit it, I bagged/cut short quite a few sessions. I missed a race due to fire (Boulder Peak; fire in Nederland meant emergency personnel needed to be there, not babysitting athletes; totally correct decision). 

I didn't miss too many swims, but that number still should have been closer to 30000m. I should have had well over 300 miles, if not close to 400, but that didn't happen. Running actually was about normal - maybe another 10 or so miles, but not much more. I needed to get new running shoes - had to cut a long run a bit short due to my poor feet - and I did manage that.

Strength ... is what it is around this time training for an Ironman. I did, however, slack on some of my stretching/yoga/recovery stuff, and that is NOT acceptable. Giant fail on my part there.

I also experienced a lot of sympathy stress with Brandon. I'll let him talk about all that if he so chooses, but he's been going through a stressful time and I've been trying to help share that burden as much as possible. 

So, should this month have been bigger? Absolutely it should have. However, I also listened to my body, too, and I think it wanted to taper sooner than Corie and I wanted it to. I just fervently hope I didn't screw myself over for Sunday ...

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Race #8 of the Season: Skirt Sports 5K

Picking up from my last post, the last part of the Skirt weekend was the 13er (it's not half of anything) and the 5K.

My original original season plan was to have missed out on all the Saturday fun (boo) because of racing Boulder 70.3 and then suffer through the 5K on Sunday. Those plans changed when the 70.3 sold out before we could register (... sad, but I got to hang with my Skirt family instead, so oh well), but I still decided to keep with the 5K.

If you recall, I had gotten third in my AG the last two times I'd raced this race, and was hoping to continue the streak if at all possible.

Brandon was out of town, so I was flying solo for this race.

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On the phone with B pre-race.

My general plan for this race was the same as it has been for most of my 5Ks - go out hard and hold on for dear life; with the special race-specific guide of managing the killer hill in the middle.

I was generally successful with this. I started out up front and settled into high-8s, low-9s pretty quickly.

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Behind Kim of Kim and Jake's. Photo courtesy Jen Allen.

My pace struggled with the hill and I had to walk some and I got passed a bit (boo). I tried to hold on as best I could, but it was hard.

The last half of the race (down the hill and back to the finish; race was a straight out-and-back), I was running in the 7s when I could run, but it wasn't sustainable at all. I made it to the finish dead, but with a race PR.

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Crossing. Photo courtesy 3W Races.

Final Stats:
Time: 28:50
6/32 division (F30-39)
17/116 overall (only women)

If we had five year age groups (so F30-34), my third place streak would have stayed alive, but alas ... it was not to be.

I still had fun post-race, though, with my girls and cake before I had to leave to get some stuff done before work that night.

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Caaaaaaake. Photo courtesy Jen Allen.

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13er medals. So cool!

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Delicious tasty Kim and Jake's.

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Skirt sister Jennifer got a hula-hooping contest going. She and Noelle (pictured above) rocked it out!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

2016 Skirt Sports Ambassador Weekend

As you all probably know by now, I'm a Skirt Sports Ambassador. I love their product, what they stand for, their #REALwomenmove movement, everything. You don't even have to love running skirts (or ... running ...) to get their products - they have tops and fantastic capris and so much more.

One of the best things Skirt Sports has done recently is actually found this ambassador program and have yearly weekends (I'd say retreat, but I don't know if that's the right word ...) and bring an amazing group of women together. Yeah, we all converge on Boulder because we love the clothes, but it's the family, friendships, and sisterhood that keep us coming back for more.

This year's weekend took place waaay back in June from the 10th-12th. It started off Friday evening with a reception at the brand new Skirt flagship store in Boulder (come visit!). We got fed that night and throughout the weekend by Skirt friends/sponsors Mad Greens, Noosa Yoghurt, Bhakti Chai, Two Moms in the Raw, Luna Bar, Justin's Peanut Butter, Ska Brewing Company, and of course, Kim and Jake's Cakes.

At the reception, we got to reunite with old friends we made the year prior and meet new friends as we gained more to our numbers and different Skirts made it out this year.

We heard from our fearless leader, Nicole DeBoom,

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whom we gifted (along with ambassador coordinator Noelle) gift baskets to.

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All the Skirt ladies!

We were treated to a fashion show sneak peek of the Fall/Winter line (all my pictures were too blurry for me to want to share) - some cute things coming - and the prints that will be coming out next Spring. I like the Fall/Winter prints, but ADORE what's coming up next year!

And of course, cake.

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Saturday, we met at Noelle's house up in Lyons for a hike, breakfast, and Skirt roundtables.

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Starting the hike.

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Trying to find the trailhead ...

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Yay, we found it! The gate does exist!

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Skirts in the wild.

As I mentioned above, post-hike we split into two groups (after eating) - one for ambassadors, and one for captains. Another thing I really love about Skirt Sports is that they take their customers' feedback seriously. They know that we already love the company as ambassadors and truly value our input on how we can share the love to others. 

Yes, we get to feed our Skirt addictions at a discounted price, but besides that, we aren't compensated by the company to share our love of Skirt. I'm not paid to write this and tell you how much I love them. As a result, I feel that we're more passionate about the product and are more genuine in sharing our joy. I'm wearing this because I love it

And if you aren't convinced on how the masses have a voice with this company, just Google "gotta go skirt". Trust me. (I also have one, and need to write on it ... eventually.) There's also a new thing launching on the Skirt site that will also take feedback into account. More on that as it comes ...

Anyway, after the breakout sessions, we all joined up together to learn the art of the running selfie, thanks to Kate and Amy, our Instagram running picture queens.

We had to break up after that, but we would all gather again Sunday for the 13er and 5K races, which is where I'll pick this back up.