Thursday, August 25, 2011

70.3 Thoughts and Photos

I've read a bit about what happens to people after an Ironman (or, in our case, a half) and what their reactions are. Typically, the aftermath goes one of two ways.

1. Superman Syndrome: I am AWESOME! I can do ANYTHING! ... person signs up for races too soon after and is all gung-ho about doing anything and everything afterward. May result in injury from coming back too soon without proper recovery.

2. Lazy Man Syndrome: Sweet! Race is over! I can be LAZY! ... person loses motivation and becomes a couch potato.

Despite the fact that we have a half-marathon in just over a month, Brandon and I have been firmly in camp 2. We have little-to-no motivation to train ... partly because we have a wedding coming up (31 days!) and partly because our main A race is over.

Obviously this isn't good BECAUSE we have the half-mar. While we discovered in April that we can b.s. our way through a 5K, 13.1 is a hell of a lot different than 3.1.

So, as a slight motivational tactic (we hope), we signed up for a sprint tri a week before the wedding. That way, we can at least force ourselves to keep cross-training and keep up our general fitness along with squeezing in extra run training so we can hopefully PR Denver.

Beyond that, I figured I'd share the official tri photos. I apologize in advance for Blogger as the formatting is likely to go to hell. I hate Blogger. Putting that out there right now. Also thanks to Brightroom/ASI Photos as all of these photos are (c) them.

First set is Brandon.





Next up is me. I'm skipping captions so I don't have to deal with blogger quite as much.













Sunday, August 21, 2011

Infinity Achieved

Well, I'm sitting in Charlotte on a sit before I'm off to Myrtle Beach for my overnight. It's been two weeks since I completed my goal of finishing Boulder 70.3 and therefore achieving infinity.

You've heard me use that term a lot. What does it mean exactly?

It's open to interpretation.

It's a term I borrow from the song Infinity by Guru Josh Project. The lyrics, which are also posted in my Facebook quotes section, go something like this:

Take Your Time
Trust in Me
And You Will Find
Infinity

To me, very simply, it's about reaching deep within yourself to find something that is there, although you might not be sure it is. Believing in yourself to find the greatness that is within yourself.

What I learned after I crossed the finish line is that we are all capable of greatness and achieving great things, be it in a job, sports, family, whatever your goals are. No matter what, ultimately, the only thing holding you back from your dreams is you.

I achieved infinity that day.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Race #7 of the Season: Ironman Boulder 70.3 (part 2)

And several days later, we're on part two: Race Day.

Dark and early Sunday morning, the alarm went off. All four of us slowly rolled out of bed to start our day. Brandon and I got dressed and did our morning thing and attempted to eat the reheated IHOP from the night before while Kris and Mark got ready themselves.

For anyone out there: IHOP reheated the next day in a microwave is crappy. Not even craptastic; just plain crappy. Still, calories are calories and we needed some breakfast.

Soon enough, we were all packed and ready to leave. We checked out, got into the car ... and I realized that Fiona the Rav needed gas. If I was going to give Mark my keys so they could zoom around the course, some fuel might be nice. So we made a quick stop at a gas station to throw a couple gallons in while Kris and Mark got much needed coffee. Gassed and coffee'd up, we were on our way to Boulder.

Much like Rattlesnake last year, we were part of a train of cars heading into a reservoir. However, we knew the drill this year and, moreover, felt like we belonged.

We parked, Kris and Mark helped us reassemble our bikes (we seriously need to get better at that) and then helped us schlep all of our crap to transition. From there, we split up; Brandon and I into trans (and then our separate ways) and then Kris and Mark to ... somewhere.

By now, I'm basically a seasoned pro at setting up my trans area so I made quick work of that.

IM Boulder 70.3
Wee.

I found Brandon shortly thereafter, we sunscreened each other up, grabbed the kidlets and went off to find Kris and Mark. That took a while, but eventually, found. And then, picture time.

IM Boulder 70.3
Prior to their transformation ... you'll see in a bit.

IM Boulder 70.3
Us.

IM Boulder 70.3
Evil smiley. Not used to that ...

IM Boulder 70.3
Part of the pro rack. Andy Potts is on the far right.

As much as it was fun hanging out, we had to finish our pre-race business; that is, get in the port-o-potty line, pop a salt tab and get into our wetsuits all before being kicked out of trans.

After that ... the waiting game. We got kicked out of trans at 6:20am and my wave (i started before brandon) didn't even start until 7:10am. The cool thing was, we got to see the first of the pro men (the aforementioned andy potts) speed out of the water.

IM Boulder 70.3
I wish I were that fast!

Cool as that was, it was time to get serious.

The Swim

After seeing Andy Potts and a few other pros come out of the water, it was time to go in myself to get in a warm-up and get accustomed to the water a little bit. I did a short swim, felt comfortable, got out of the water and started getting cold. Happens every time.

Nice though, I had a few people to talk to.

IM Boulder 70.3
With Kris and Mark.

Soon enough though, it came time to start my race.

IM Boulder 70.3
Heading down to the water. I think I'm there in the middle ...

Down in the water, heard the countdown, the gun went off and my day started.

I didn't do what I did in Boulder Peak - hang back and wait for everyone to go before starting. This time, I actually started swimming along with everyone else ... and waited for them to pass me because I'm slow. This worked out pretty well, actually. It took a while for the next wave of swim caps to pass me and all was good.

Until we turned. The course was essentially three sides of a rectangle: long out, shortish across, long back ... just in more trapezoidal (rhomboid? parallelogramish?) shape. And, for whatever reason, that shortish across just sucked. A lot more of the following waves had caught up to me by that point, I was having sighting issues (probably due to the sun on my breathe side)(yes i need to work on bilateral breathing. offseason, i swear), I got kicked in the face, I don't even know.

Longer than it should have felt, I eventually got to turn back toward shore. I struggled with staying in a straight line more than I did on the first leg, but I got back into a groove and felt pretty good.

I felt better once I saw the shoreline and was proud that I had done the entire swim while crawling. Win for me!

I got out of the water, started running for trans, heard Kris and Mark yelling and life was good. Except for my slow-ass time.

Time: 59:28 (rate: 3:05; rank: 1367th overall)

T1:

It's bad, but I don't even remember T1 much. I know it took a bit longer to get my ponytail through the appropriate helmet hole. I also know I reapplied sunscreen, Body Glided the feet well and tossed on the ring. Other than that, in, out, yay.

Time: 3:44

The Bike

The first couple miles of the bike were old hat by this point, as I'd ridden them in two previous tris. That's not to say they still didn't suck, but y'know. But once we got past the sprint turn-off (well past the oly turn-off to stage), it got worse. I knew that was the part of the course with the bulk amount of climbing, but still. Ugh.

It also occurred to me early on that, "Oh crap, that's what I forgot; a second pair of bike shorts. Darnit."

Other not-so-good thing: Perform in the aero bottle definitely not diluted enough. Made the decision early on that I'd be stopping at all the aid stations for some plain old h2o.

It finally came time for the downhill portion which was happy, but totally not as long as advertised. (hills are always worse; descents are never as good). Coming out of that main descent, I thought I saw Fiona up the road ...

... and I did!

IM Boulder 70.3
Best. Cheer. Squad. Ever.

Mark and Kris had changed into crazy hats and hula gear to cheer us on. SO AWESOME.

IM Boulder 70.3
A ray of WELCOME sunshine on a miserably hot day.

We saw those two EVERYWHERE. Mark came up with a game plan of how to pop out at various points on the bike course using the back roads of Boulder and their cheering faces/selves were so unbelievably welcome. Knowing they were out there made loop one go by pretty quickly.

Time: 1:41:09

Starting loop two sucked though just knowing the pain that was ahead. And yes, it felt worse on the second go around. It also didn't help that the heat was starting to really set in. I was dumping water on my head at every station, trying to eat, trying to take in salt tabs, praying it would all be enough.

I smiled every time I saw Kris and Mark, but it was getting harder to maintain the endorphins/adrenaline after I saw them.

IM Boulder 70.3
On the bike. Not sure when, though ...

IM Boulder 70.3
Brandon right behind/in front of me!

I should probably mention that shortly into starting loop two, Brandon caught up with me. It meant that he had a really good swim and his bike was going well also. We chatted and passed each other back and forth for a few miles before he left me for good. I knew he wasn't too far away, though, as there was a mini out-and-back in the last 10 miles of the course (well, both loops) and I saw him coming out as I was going in.

The problem at that point, was that my feet were starting to KILL me. Probably for the last 5-10 miles (really don't know), the balls of my feet ached with every pedal stroke. I didn't work as hard on the downhills as I should have because my feet hurt so badly.

I saw someone getting picked up by the sag wagon with probably six miles to go. It looked so tempting to me, with the heat, the headache that I picked up shortly into loop two and my foot pain, but I knew I couldn't do it. I could physically go on and I knew that with some effort, I could mentally go on. So I pedaled right on by ...

... and almost got run over at the next intersections. The city had cops out directing traffic, but Boulder has some weird diagonal intersections and some guy wasn't paying too close of attention to the cop and tried to kill me. Luckily, he didn't, but that wasn't fun.

Also sometime on that stretch, I got passed by a cheering Kris and Mark as they were driving the Rav back into the Res.

I saw them once more on the road leading back into the Res as they were stuck in a looong line of cars. Those last few miles were rough - I wasn't spinning my legs out as I probably should have been - I was just trying to finish the bike without my feet falling off.

I also had two more near-death experiences:
- Right at the entrance gate, I came up on another couple of cyclists (not racers) going in to the res. The one guy started swerving over so he could pay his entrance fee, clipping me in the process. Luckily I didn't fall OR hit the road cones, but it was pretty hairy.
- Turning into the dismount area, one of the volunteers accidentally started waving a truck through ... that had to slam on its brakes so as not to hit me. The guy apologized, but still.

I hit the dismount line very happy to get off Bob. Don't know if it was as happy as Rattlesnake or not, but it was close.

Time: 3:29:13 (rate: 16.1; rank: 1268th)

T2:

I was SO UNBELIEVABLY happy to see Brandon still in transition when I rolled in. We had told each other that if we ran into each other on the run, we'd finish it together. Well, it looked like we'd be able to do the whole run section together.

I changed into my running crap, grabbed my handheld bottle with Perform, a salt tab, quickly sprayed on some sunscreen and joined Brandon for the long run ahead.

Time: 3:28

The Run:

Due to the loop nature of the run course, there was a water station (and misting tent!) right as we exited transition, so we took advantage of both. We tried running a bit, but something was going on and I didn't know what. The headache from the bike was in full force and running was not a pleasant idea.

We tried as we could, but we knew that if we had to walk most of the course, we would still finish in time.

It also didn't help that it was, as we would find out soon enough, 94 degrees as we started the run and the first chunk of it was uphill on a hot, dusty country road. We ran when we could (or, more accurately, i could), but it wasn't much. When we hit the first aid station about a little over a mile in, I had to stop and use the port-o-potty - a race first for me. The only problem was, it took probably the next three miles to get my tri shorts back to a comfortable position. They had glued themselves to my legs and didn't want to get back into their proper place. That was not fun.

Hot and miserable though we were, we plodded on. I ended up taking my first gel earlier than I wanted - at somewhere between the three and four mile points - to see if it would help my headache. It did somewhat, and we walked/jogged (mostly walked) and basically just kept one foot moving in front of the other.

We decided to try the cold sponges that they had at the aid stations at one point - OMG AWESOME. I had been drinking water and dumping ice/water down my head/tank at every stop, but the sponges were a whole other level of amazingness.

Coming into the halfway point (the turnoff to the finish line for the lucky ones; the cruel torture of running past it to start loop two for the rest of us), we saw Kris and Mark again and slowed down to talk with them. We got some encouragement and basically a, "hey, we wouldn't be out here if we didn't have to be; you guys are rockstars" which helped us continue on our way. Right before crossing the timing mat, we saw my parents, too and told them we'd be back around in a little while.

Time: 1:39:28

Loop two was both better AND worse. Better because I actually started to feel a bit better (in other words, i started going deep within my brain to mentally finish the damn race) but worse because Brandon started falling apart. That, and there were fewer and fewer people on the course and the aid stations were starting to get a little thin and we had found out how hot it was.

We felt our skin boiling so I actually reapplied some sunscreen at the mile 1/7 aid station just to get me through while Brandon made a port-o-potty stop of his own.

I took my second gel at one point, but I kind of forget when. We were able to pick up the running a bit more, but it got difficult in the last few miles when the miserable hot winds that we had been so fortunate to avoid most of the summer kicked in.

Go figure.

Though we knew we were still good on time, we started getting concerned as the last few aid stations were down to essentially nothing and course officials started asking us which loop we were on. "Second? Good. Congrats and keep it up."

Eventually, we saw the tents of the finish area and I left Brandon so I could be there waiting for him at the finish. I ran almost the entire last little bit, screaming at Kris and Mark to stop taking pictures and get to the finish line. I somehow managed my sprint across the finish (going deep inside one's brain really does help one do crazy shit) and was told by the volunteers that I had the best finish of the day.

That made me happy, as did the wet hat they gave me to toss on my head. Shortly after I crossed, Brandon came rolling across the line. We hugged, he cried, we were happy. I took some of my water and then realized our cheer squad probably needed it more than I did and tossed the bottle over the fence to them. They were appreciative.

Time: 3:18:16

We met up with them and my parents, got some congratulations and headed over to the food tent for some fruit, pizza and sugary soda (which tastes so freaking good after a race). After quickly snarfing some food, we went to trans, packed up our stuff and rolled on out.

IM Boulder 70.3

Overall Time:
7:54:09
1271/? overall (1900 signed up, 1600 started, 13something finished)
413/452 females
66/73 division (W25-29)

Final Thoughts:

- WTC puts on a good race. My main complaint is that it seemed that because I was one of the last people rolling across the line, it didn't seem like I was as important. It was depressing seeing those bare-bones aid stations and half the vendor tents gone by the time I finished.
- That was unbelievably difficult ... and yet I still totally want to do a full. IMAZ 2013. Fo' sho'.
- We're kind of regretting signing up for the Rock 'N Roll Denver Half ... because neither of us has any motivation to train now. It's kind of like, okay, big race done ... we're now done too. Obviously not ... but it feels like it.
- I feel kind of like a bad-ass now.
- Would I have liked to finish with a better time? YES. Am I happy with what I did? Absolutely. The plan we followed was to FINISH a half-Ironman, and finish we did. How can I not be happy with that?

Sorry for the length; decided to keep this all together. But, I hope you enjoyed the novel!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Race #7 of the Season: Ironman Boulder 70.3 (part 1)

Since Brandon's started his recap and it's already super long and I don't feel like one HUGE blog post like I usually do ... I'm going to chop this up into pieces. Possibly just into pre-race, race and post-race, but possibly more. We'll see.

The Days Before

Usually before a race, taper week for me means "taking the week off." Given that this was going to be the biggest race of my life to date, I really didn't want to do that. I wanted to adhere as best as possible to the taper week part of the plan we were loosely following.

Still didn't work; still ended up taking most of the week off. *sigh* Not the WHOLE week which is a slight improvement, but most of it. Argh.

Mostly, I was trying not to get too nervous. I don't do too well when I try to psych myself up for competition; did it in college for hockey and I'd almost always be let down. I'd have too much nervous energy afterward or the event would fail to live up to the expectation I built up for it. I've learned over the years that I work best when relaxed and chill and, well, when I don't care. There's a reason I probably played my best hockey in drop-in.

For a race as big as this one, though, it's almost impossible to completely avoid the butterflies. I just tried to stave them off as much as I could.

Friday

Due to the ever-fabulous Kris and Mark coming into town, I took a whole four days off of work for the race weekend. Granted, when we do Ironman we'll have to take a whole week off, but this worked for now.

That being said, I was up about as early as I usually am for work on Friday so Brandon and I could pick up our friends from the airport. Mark had to work some, so we took him and Kris to a local coffee shop so they work. So we weren't too big of distractions, Brandon and I checked out the giant new IKEA near us (damn eye-sore).

We had a $4 breakfast that tasted every bit like a $4 breakfast. Yum.

IKEA
Breakfast. Yay.

Soon enough, it was time to collect Kris and Mark. We cached a little bit, headed to the house for a minute, checked them into their hotel so they could change, grabbed lunch and then went off for a mini tour of Denver (which included delicious, delicious ice cream).

Brandon and I had softball so unfortunately we had to drag them along, but they had fun cheering our very bad team and caching a bit as well.

By the time the game was done, they were tired from being up way too early in the morning, so we dropped them off at their hotel and then grabbed some food, running into a friend in the process.

Saturday

After sleeping in a little (but not too much), we headed over to their hotel, ate breakfast with them there, checked them out, grabbed better coffee and went up to Boulder for the race expo and packet pick-up.

Traffic at the res was kind of a nightmare due to an IronKids series going on (i so want to do a 50yd swim! that's not even a swim! they just ran through the water!), but we parked by cars that had kids bikes that were better than ours. Seriously.

Anyway, packet pick-up went smoothly; we got our athlete bracelets, our swag bags (nice drawstring backpack thingy), tech Ts and race info. From there, it was off to check out the expo.

IM Boulder 70.3 Expo
Brandon at the expo.

We did actually pay attention to the athlete information for a little while, making sure there wasn't anything we didn't already know (like the fact that the race back in the day was a full iron-distance (but not branded) race, with the bike going up to ft. collins. CRAZY). I then moseyed on into the merch tent as I had $50 to spend thanks to ironically winning a contest of Kris and Mark's on Facebook for their new company, UpTempo Race Management. I picked out a shirt for Brandon, a shirt for me, a new Spinervals DVD (woo coach troy) and another sticker for Brandon.

After merch, we wandered over to the PowerBar tent as we heard that pro triathlete Andy Potts (the 2010 winner of the race) would be signing autographs. We didn't much care about that, but we did want a picture and a chat, and boy howdy, did we get that. Andy talked at length about the bike course and some strategy to use on it. I'm not sure if I actually used the advice, but it was nice regardless.

IM Boulder 70.3 Expo
With Andy Potts.

We were about done with the expo at that point, so we just decided to take a few pictures on the stage where awards would be given out the next day. Basically, we just wanted to look cool.

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Us!

IM Boulder 70.3 Expo
Again!

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With Kris and Mark.

Race expo completed, I drove everybody up Olde Stage Road (monster hill from Boulder Peak); they all agreed that it would be horrible to ride up. (been there, done that.) Then it was off back down to Denver for a good meal of sushi power and pack up all of our crap.

While we were by no means rushed packing our stuff, I still felt marginally apprehensive doing so. I don't know why, though I did realize later there were a few things I did forget. Maybe that's where the apprehension was coming from; I don't know.

We were thinking of taking two cars, but knew that one would just end up being so much easier. Luckily Kris and Mark are good with bikes, because we dismantled both Bob and Melon to fit them, bags for all four of us plus the four of us in Fiona the Rav. Then it was off to downtown to cache a bit more

Big Blue Bear
There is a cache right near here ...

and to take Kris and Mark (mostly mark) to Falling Rock Tap House so he could indulge in his inner beer nerd. After one drink apiece (and some fries), it was time to drive up to Superior so we could check in to our hotel.

Once we got on the Boulder Turnpike (right around the 12 hour mark to race time), Kris started asking us questions like, "What will you be doing in 12 hours?", helping us to visualize the next day and prep our race. It was a little weird, but helpful at the same time. As much as race days are so unpredictable, you can try to at least visualize a game plan for how you'd like things to go.

The rest of the night was spent checking in to the hotel and grabbing breakfast-for-dinner at the crappy, crappy IHOP made even crappier when we found out it opened at 6am the next day. As a result, we had to order extra food so we could attempt to shove something down our gullets the next day at 4:30am before heading into the race.

Later than it probably should have been but still at about normal time, it was lights out for the two soon-to-be-half-Ironmen and the best cheer squad known to mankind.

My 70.3 Experience and Recap

The whole weekend was an unforgettable experience; one I will take with me the rest of my life. Let's break it down starting with Thursday.

Thursday afternoon/night

The original plan called for me to fly out to Minnesota to help my friends, the wonderful Kris and Mark, fly out to Colorado to cheer us on. I was going to assist them in this venture because I was having them travel on buddy passes. That meant they were non-revving out to Colorado. Non-revving is great in the fact that you pay a very cheap amount for an airplane ticket. It sucks in the fact you fly standby. If the flight is full, you go nowhere. Being that this is nothing short of nerve racking and can be downright traumatic, I planned on going out there to help them with the process.

Problem is, I couldn't get to Minnesota. A late afternoon thunderstorm shut down the western arrival corridors for Denver and my flight was massively delayed. Being that I was already going to get very little sleep, this would only increase that. I decided to make the prudent decision to stay behind and instead gave Kris and Mark all the instructions for non-revving step by step. I closed off the phone call with instructions to call me in the morning no matter what. Either they would get on or they wouldn't. It was up to the fates to decide.

Friday

I was awoken at an ungodly hour by Kris, telling me they were in line to get on the plane. Even in my sleepy state, I was elated. They made it. On a flight that was ridiculously oversold, they still made it. T woke up and we contemplated going back to sleep, but were too excited to see our friends! We got dressed, ate some breakfast, and headed for the airport. As our timing was, we were planning on just picking them up, but since they had to be vectored around from the north to the south to land facing north, I instead could meet them at the gate. I breezed through security and found their arrival gate. Very shortly after I got there, they emerged from the airplane. I think they were surprised to see me. We walked to the exit where T was waiting. While walking, they told me that most aircraft coming into Denver were diverting to Cheyenne or Colorado Springs. It almost seemed like destiny that they made it.

We drove to 303 Coffee so Mark could do his work for the morning. While Kris and Mark caught up on their day jobs, T and I drove to the new Ikea so we could try their breakfast. It was definitely a 4 dollar plate of eggs and bacon, that's for sure. Nothing good about it, really.

Back at the coffee shop, Mark finished up, so we decided to do a bit of geocaching before we could check them into their hotel. We also gave them a tour of the house.

After they got settled into their room, we hit the town for a tour of Denver. We had
about 4 hours before our softball game, so we toured Denver, got some ice cream at Bonnie Brae, and geocached some more. It definitely kept the mood light, having our friends in town!

T and I played softball and lost like 8 kabillion to 2. We finished up the evening with some more caching and then dropped them off at the hotel for the night. We promised to meet up in the morning for the race expo.

We were hungry so we went to get some dinner at Fox and Hound. We met up with a friend, but didn't chat long with him. After dinner, we worked our way home where we crashed. We were excited for the next day, so we decided to get some rest.

Saturday

We actually slept in a bit on Saturday. After waking up, we headed over to the hotel to mooch free continental breakfast. :-)

Eaten, we began the trek to Boulder for the race expo. In addition to packet pickup, we would have to listen to some race rules and get lots of opportunities to buy stuff. The 5430 Sprint Tri did a great job with their expo, so I was looking forward to this one.

When we got up there, the first thing we saw was the parking lot was jammed full. Turns out that morning there was an IronKids event. There was also an insane amount of 140.6 stickers, 70.3 stickers, and 26.2 stickers on the cars. Yeah, we were definitely in the big leagues of races.

All 4 of us were planning on taking a lot of pictures and documenting our experience as much as
possible. I also started feeling a bit more focused. Unintentional focus, but it was happening for sure. While Kris and Mark checked out some of the sponsor tents, T and I headed to registration. The volunteers at registration were very nice and helpful. I picked up my packet and got one of those cool bags that you hold on your back with the strings. I have wanted one of those for awhile, but only if it had the MDot on it.

After we got registered, we met up with Kris and Mark and toured the rest of the expo. We saw quite a bit of fun stuff. While they visited with Gypsy Runner, T and I hit the store to browse. T had won 50 dollars from a contest Kris and Mark were holding for their new race company, UpTempo Race Management, so she was picking out some various swag that would be purchased for her. :-) While she was browsing that, I listened to the race briefing. Apparently, back in the day, this race was actually a 140.6 course, with the bike taking you all the way to Fort Collins. Eeeeek! I also heard that Andy Potts would be at the PowerBar tent signing autographs. I never need an autograph, but the opportunity to meet Andy and get a picture was too good to pass up. I told T about this and we agreed she would get her stuff and we'd head over there.

When we got there, Andy had just gotten there. He stood up to greet us, and I told him no autograph was necessary; all we wanted was a picture. He took a picture with each camera and then chatted with us for a few minutes about the race. He gave a couple tips that we definitely came away with. Most pleasant individual.


We finished by grabbing a picture up on the stage, the same stage where the race winners would have their press conference after they won.



With everything essentially wrapped up at the expo, we headed out to take Kris and Mark on a drive up Old Stage Road, the road T rode on for the Boulder Peak Triathlon and mercifully, the road I missed since I was flying. We were all in awe of how steep the grade was of this road and again, I was thankful I avoided this in a tri. After that, the drive back down to our house to pack up everything. First though, we had to do a pre-race ritual: sushi at Charlie's.

I got a new transition bag for my birthday, the same model I got T, just a different color. I was blown away at how huge this thing was and how it could hold everything I needed. We made sure we had everything, then attempted to load the bikes into the car. To fit all of us + all our crap, we'd have to take both tires off both bikes. Melon doesn't like to have the wheels taken off of it, so doing this was going to have to involve all of us. Thankfully, Mark and Kris both seem to be bike technicians, so this process went smoothly and efficient.

The car loaded, we headed downtown to do a bit more caching and show Mark Falling Rock, which is essentially any beer fan's heaven. There's a picture somewhere of him just mouth gaping looking at the wall of bottles. Hysterical. T got root beer, I had a Somersault, and Mark had something. Kris had wine, I think a merlot? It helped that she was telling us all weekend to ingest calories!

We worked our way to the hotel in Boulder. After checking in, we decided to grab a quick bite at an IHOP. I thought getting something to go would be brilliant, since I do really well on breakfast food and was thinking I could just microwave some eggs in the morning as well as some bacon.

After dinner, we chatted a bit, then all crashed. The morning would come soon.

Sunday
I swear, no one bolts out of bed excited for a race. All 4 of us kind of did this staggering out of bed thing. I quickly got dressed and microwaved my scrambled eggs and bacon. TOTAL disaster. The eggs were rubbery and the bacon tasted really salty. Nevertheless, I needed something in my stomach, so I forced it down. I also tossed on my headphones and iPod. I have a pump-up playlist that I like to listen to.

While we were putting our stuff in the car, I realized I forgot my Gatorade in the fridge. I ran back upstairs to get it. Safely with my hydration tools, we headed to the res, with a quick stop for gas. Kris and Mark grabbed coffee.

At the res, we parked the car with plenty of room to maneuver it out. We pulled the bikes out, and in the darkness, assembled them back together. Thank you again, mechanically inclined friends! Kris had joked that she and Mark would be carrying our stuff to transition; I didn't realize she was serious. Mark offered to carry my stuff but I declined. T had her bike wheeled in by Kris.

When we got to transition, I quickly got set up. This gets easier every time, I promise. I quickly got body marked and of course got the smiley on my leg. Filled up my water bottles. Added gels as appropriate to my bento box and my race belt. T and I met up and found Kris and Mark outside transition. We told them we needed to hit the porta-potties and would find them after.

The porta-potty line was ridiculously long. Not surprising. After we finished, we found Kris and Mark and chatted for a couple minutes. We took a spin around the outside of the trans area, looking at some pros and their bikes. Then we got into our wet suits, at least 1/2 of them, and headed out of transition. No turning back now!

The male pros were scheduled to go off at 6:30 am and the female pros were scheduled to go off at 6:33. Because Boulder has a noise ordinance in effect until 7:00 am, the national anthem was real quiet. I got to yell SIOUX! though so that made me happy. We saw the male pros and female pros go off, then our group just talked, working the jitters out. T decided to go for her warm-up swim. Since I was going 25 minutes after her wave, I held off, not wanting to get too cold too early.

She was done and found her spot in her swim wave. After some good luck hugs from our cheer squad, she headed towards the water. I decided to stay with her as long as possible and then get into the water to see her off. At precisely 7:05 her wave left and off she went on her first 1/2 Ironman adventure! I cheered, then headed back up the beach to talk with my motivators. I told them I was going to warm up in the water, which I did.

Now I had about 10 minutes until my wave went off. Kris and Mark talked some strategy with me one last time, and I hugged them. For the thousandth time, I thanked them for their generosity in coming out for our event. Words could not express how thankful I was. And still can't, to this day. We also saw what was going to be the first DNF of the day, as one of the swimmers got towed back. It was a unfortunate reminder of what lay ahead.

In my wave, the M25-29, it was quiet. The race announcer said so. He told us one of the guys in our wave was proposing at the finish, so we clapped for him. Then the countdown began and off we went! My 1/2 Ironman was officially underway!

The Swim
My plan for the swim was profoundly simple and yet somewhat complicated. I'm not the fastest guy in my age group by any means; I'm not the slowest either. I usually start in the back of my wave; only to overtake many of the men, sometimes causing me to swim over them. I decided this race I was going to start more in the middle. The strategy seemed to work, as my start was smooth and seamless. No getting hit early on, so I thought that was really good.

However, early on, somebody who switched to backstroke corked me on my funny bone, causing me to have to shake it out. That wasn't too big of a deal, even though it definitely surprised me and gave me something to think about.

One of the things that amazed me during the swim was the amount of people that weren't crawling. I mean, this isn't some sprint triathlon where you show up and do what you want. This is a 1/2 Ironman! You better be able to move through the water quickly and efficiently! I pondered that as I made the first turn around the far buoy.

By now, I was settled into a great pace and was feeling amazing. Then I made the worst mistake a swimmer could make; I looked at my watch. Why I did this, I don't understand. I am angry at myself to this moment for doing it. I know better than that! Of course, once I checked my time, I started wondering how far I was, how much time I had left, etc. I had essentially my first mental breakdown of the day. Thankfully, it was a minor one and didn't cause me to slow down at all.

When I made the 2nd turn, it hit me how many people I was passing. I was passing waves that started 10, 15 minutes ahead of me. Sure, I saw some white caps passing me, but overall, I was moving through the water at a pretty good clip. More importantly, I wasn't tired or slowing down, and that meant I would have a lot of energy on the ride and run.


I emerged from the water and began the task of stripping down to my waist. I also removed my swim cap and goggles. Almost immediately, I saw Kris and Mark. I smiled knowing I had a huge amount of support. I began lightly running to transition to begin the 56 mile bike course.

T1 and the bike
One of the funny things about triathlon, at least in this guy's opinion, is how much the newbies are preached to practice transition. I get why; your first transition is hectic with all the equipment and limbs flying everywhere. However, it's one of those things that even the best triathlete isn't going to be able to truly master, and really, for an average age-grouper like myself, it isn't going to matter.

T1 for me, is all about catching my breath. It's about making sure my head is in the right place. Making sure I don't forget anything for the bike. I don't want to rush T1 ever, because I know what can happen when I do. I also took a salt tablet.

After I made sure I was ready, I took my bike down and off I went to the bike out. I saw Kris and Mark again and they wished me good luck. Like that, I was up and in the saddle. 56 miles of riding to go.

The first few miles were very similar to the 5430 Sprint Triathlon. Very gradual elevation gain, but still an opportunity to get some speed under your belt. I spent the first few minutes on the bike just getting my legs under me. In the 5430 tri, I cramped up nearly immediately on the bike and spent the whole ride fighting it. I was determined to not let that happen to me this time around.

I spent some time debating on my nutrition and hydration plan. I planned on sucking down a lot of Gatorade for the sodium content. However, I knew from my previous long ride that if I was going to not bonk, I would have to ingest a lot of water too. So for planning purposes, I brought my aero bottle and a disposable water bottle. At the first aid station, my plan was to grab a water and toss it on my bike. I would ditch the disposable at the aid station. And at about mile 10, the first aid station was in sight. I stuck to my plan, and had my first true hydration of the day.

For the record, they lied to us. They said it would be uphill for the first 9 miles. Yeah, try the first 12! Ugh! It was definitely a grind. By the time you get to the point where you want to go downhill, you're beatdown, withered, and in desperate need of a pick-me-up. Well, who better to provide it then the two greatest supporters in race history??? :-) Kris and Mark were right there, to cheer me on. These two were so friggin' fantastic, it's unreal. Seriously. After seeing them, it was the boost I needed for sure, right before an amazing downhill stretch.

The downhill stretch was great. I got into the 40+mph range and quite frankly, just enjoyed myself. Sure enough, a few miles later, there were Kris and Mark AGAIN!

I should point something out at this point. We're called Team Baby Dino in honor of me making dinosaur noises when I'm cranky or frustrated, but also because we have two stuffed baby dinosaur children named Ivan and Nelson. Most people kind of look at us weird when they hear we have dino children. Kris and Mark embraced our children! They took them with and had them cheering at every stop along the way. Seeing our little babies along with our friends was a pick-me-up to the nth degree.

Somewhere in the 20 mile stretch, a guy commented how he loved my smiley face on my leg. I told him he was welcome and off he went. It was nice to hear, and there wasn't a shortage of atta boys going around on the course. Something I haven't really experienced in a tri in the past, so to hear that was just awesome. I also saw Kris and Mark for the third time. I at this point had to say something, so I think I just yelled that they were the greatest or something.

Andy Potts gave us some critical advice the day before about the bike course. He said that first loop is fast and great. He said in the 23-26 mile point, start relaxing a bit, stretch your legs, drink some water, and prepare yourself mentally, because you're going to have to go out again. And it's tough to do. So that's exactly what I did. Mentally, I told myself that I was near the 1/2way point, but still had a long way to go. I was proud of myself up to this point, but still had a lot of work to do.

The 2nd loop was exactly as Andy described. I thought of it as the grind. The meat and potatoes. The Coach Troy. This was where my character and mental capacity would be tested. On the gradual uphill, my speed was a little slower and you could tell fatigue was starting to set in a bit. Also, I had taken in too much Gatorade and not enough water, so I vowed until the last aid station that all I would drink was water.

I saw Kris and Mark three more times, and actually had a comical moment at the last time. I thought one of my tires was potentially running flat, so I slowed down and asked Kris if I was running flat. She looked at my tires and said I was good to go. Later, I learned she didn't know that was me at all! Hehe. I also caught up to T on the back stretch. We chatted without drafting somehow and she told me to press on and she would catch up to me. I told her to take it slow and not worry about it; if she did we would run together.

On the 2nd loop, I took in my nutrition. At about mile 40 I ingested the Snickers bar I brought for energy. I also ate a gel early in the 2nd loop.

T2
Coming back into the res, we dealt with an enormous amount of traffic due to everyone trying to come back in to see the finish of the race, or at least us age groupers. I kept my composure and balance and made it back in. While I was racking my bike I saw T come in, so she had an amazing run in the 2nd half of the 2nd loop. I was all set for the run; I quick re-sunscreened, grabbed my handheld water bottle, and T and I left transition together. 13.1 miles to go!

The Run
It was obvious early on that T was struggling on the run. It was definitely very hot and while I was up for running very slow, she couldn't do it. I was fearing she had bonked, but she pressed on like a champ. We agreed that the best thing to do at this point was put our feet forward and move. We ran every now and then, but for the most part, we just walked it. The sun only got hotter.

At every aid station, I was ingesting water. I was also taking in sponges and dumping ice in my hat. It was like running in hell.

T and I both realized somewhere around mile 4 that if we were going to finish this race, it would A: have to be together and B: it would be mostly walking. She wasn't going to be able to finish on her own; something went wrong with her nutrition and she was falling apart. She needed me for support and I was willing to give it to her. Knowing that we had many hours to finish and still call ourselves 1/2 Ironmen, I was more then happy to do it.

When we came in to the halfway point, we saw Kris and Mark. Mark said something about how he'd never be out here in this heat so the fact we were was completely awesome. Kris told us at this point, just keep moving. Do what it takes.

On the 2nd loop of the run, I started falling apart. The sun was really getting to me. At one aid station early on, they actually soaked my hat in ice water for me. It dried by the time we got to the next aid station a mile away.

However, we were optimistic. We knew that we were going to be 1/2 Ironmen at this point. T actually showed me some signs of life, being able to run a bit here and there for sporadic moments. I kept up with her for the most part and at around mile 11, we finalized our plans. T would go in about 2 minutes ahead of me so she would be there for me at the finish line.

The last aid station showed the harsh reality of what we were dealing with. There were like 2 people working it, most of the stuff was taken down, and it was essentially self service. This frustrated both of us, but we dealt. We also saw some EMT's on the course as well as Ironman officials. They asked us if we were on our first loop or 2nd. When we said 2nd, they said congratulations. That felt good. I knew now, since we were at mile 12, we would do it. It was all over soon. :-)

Coming into the finish, T went ahead of me, and I told her I'd see her at the finish. Just ahead of me, an age grouper needed 3 people to run with him to the finish because he was struggling that bad. I started congratulating myself a bit. When I made the turn, I didn't see Kris and Mark, but I heard my name mentioned and something about being welcomed to the Ironman family. I walked in, raised my hand to the finish sign, and stepped on the timing mat. My 70.3 ordeal was over, and I was officially a member of the Ironman family!

I got my medal placed around my neck, a soaking wet hat (mercifully) and a bottle of water. I collapsed in T's arms and started crying. The emotion of the day, the grinding out of training, the harsh reality of what I had just gone through was too much and I let it out for a few minutes. After that, Kris and Mark, as well as T's parents came over with hugs and congratulations.

We went to the food area to eat some pizza and soda (anything tastes good after that) and then hit transition to get our stuff together. This time, I let Mark wheel my bike to the car. :-)

The reality of it all, a week later, is that I did something that so little of the population has done. A 1/2 Ironman. 70.3 miles. I trained well, I trained hard. Things went about as predicted for the race. However, having the two greatest cheerleaders in the world there for us was a huge boost of morale that you cannot get no matter how hard you train. Again, Kris and Mark were absolutely fantastic, and I vow T and I will provide them the same service that they provided us that day. You two are amazing. :-)

Kris also provided me with the most important information at some point over the weekend, which I will carry with me the rest of my life. She told me that I have to trust my training on race day. She said you trained and trained well and on race day, you have to trust that it was good enough. She was right.

Friday, August 12, 2011

July Recap

Good 'ol July. The month of hard work, of building, of growing.

I cycled a lot, ran a lot, swam a lot, lifted less since we were in the slowdown phase of that. Other then that, it was a spectacular month when you look at it.

I cycled nearly 200 miles, ran over 50 miles, and swam almost 7 miles. All in all, a great month.

A longer tri recap coming soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

July Round-Up

July was a BIG month of training, but that's really no surprise. It held the last build plus our peak weeks of training before starting taper. Obviously that's going to contain a lot of miles. All of my times/averages got worse (some by a whole lot, as you'll see), but all of my actual numbers went way up, so I'm not surprised there's that difference.

Anyway, onward to the numbers:

Running: 50.96 mi (average went up 57 seconds/mile (i think. i'm not good at math))
Swimming: 6.6 mi (average went up three minutes/mile)
Cycling (outside): 204.49 mi (average went down about .7 mph)
Cycling (trainer): 0 mi (sorry skippy)
Lifting: six sessions (taper included no lifting)
Other: two games of rec league softball. what what.

Despite the slowness (oh god the slowness), I'm actually really happy with everything. I haven't seen run mileage like that since Vegas training (third highest run month ever) and I've NEVER seen cycling numbers like that. I really picked up the swimming which I needed to do. Yes, I know everything was slooooow, but I got myself into the open water a lot and got really comfortable in it and that ended up making a WORLD of difference on race day.

I also did two races, including one with one of the most difficult bike rides I've ever done.

As for August, what's to come? As this is a delayed recap post, I'm already past my huge August race (recap coming soon!). The plan was to take this week as a recovery week, but I may get back into it a little on Friday as I'm starting to go crazy not being active. So, for the rest of the month, the plan is to:

- RUN. Still have that pesky Denver Rock 'N Roll Half-Marathon coming up in October that I can't forget about.
- Swim. Since the open water is now my friend, I'd like to keep getting into it while the water's still warm.
- Cycle ... but not do any long crazy rides. Just ENJOY my time on Bob.
- LIFT. I've got a wedding coming up and these arms/back need to look good in what will end up being a halter dress.
- Sprint. See wedding reason, but for slimming down more. That and it'll make the running go faster and that would be nice right now.

Basically, half-ass train for the half-mar while getting in tip-top wedding shape while enjoying NOT training for some crazy race.

Which is funny, because the Vegas half WAS our crazy race last year. Oh how times change ...