Friday, December 2, 2016

Five Things Friday

1. I renewed my blog domain for another 3 years.  Here's where I tell you I plan to blog more and stuff but that will last for approximately 3 days before I give up.  Let's be realistic I really only blog about triathlon.

2. I cut my hair short again.  12 inches gone and donated.  It's been at least 5 years since I've had short hair.



3.  Matt and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary on Tuesday! I know it is cliche but time has flown by.  Since then we've moved twice, Matt started a new job, and we adopted a dog, plus tons of other stuff.  To celebrate we went to a bar in Wisconsin to drink New Glarus beer and ate lemon cake at home.

My favorite picture

Most of the frosting dripped off but Matt says it's still one of the best cakes 
4. Matt and I bought ourselves an early Christmas/anniversary present- a Nikon D3400 DSLR camera.  So far it's awesome and I've only figured out how to shoot on auto mode.  We do get a free online course on how to use it so I will hopefully be more skilled soon.
 
I mostly take pictures of my dog.
5. My nephew turned one last Saturday.  We celebrated the previous weekend with cake and gifts.  Henrik is such a happy, active kid and always brings a smile to my face!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ragnar Trail Northwoods

After the last Ragnar I did in 2013, I claimed that I was never doing one again.  Twice was enough thank you very much.  Three years must be long enough for me to forgot all about that declaration because when my boss signed up up for Ragnar Northwoods in May, I volunteered to run.  This race was a mere 2 weeks after Ironman Wisconsin and I did exactly 0% dedicated training for this race.  In fact, I didn't run a single step between the 2 races.  I figured I would be fine. How hard can running a few miles on trails be?  Oh Alyssa, you poor naive soul.

Ragnar Trail races are a bit different than the typical Ragnar road relays were you are cramped in a van while you run 200 miles to a different city. The standard team has 8 runners and they each run 3 times.  But instead of unique legs for each runner, everyone runs the same three loops one time each starting and finishing at the Ragnar Village.  Each team has a campsite near Ragnar village and we were able to spread out and relax and get some sleep!

Ragnar Northwoods was held at Nine Mile Forest in Wausau, Wisconsin about a 4 hour drive from Illinois.  Our team starting time was Friday afternoon so 3 of my coworkers and I headed up Friday morning with our camping and running gear.  The word "trail" leaves a lot of room for interpretation as most trails I've seen in Illinois are forest preserve trails covered with crushed limestone and are wide enough for 3 people to run side-by-side.  Plus the hills in Illinois are closer to non-existent.  So I was hoping for some easier 'trails' and instead found some rocky, rooty, single-track trails.


I was runner #1 for our team and got to start on the easy green loop for 3 miles.  The loop started off nice and easy on a wide grassy fire road but quickly turned onto a tough single track.  I was trying to keep up the effort level but my legs weren't as cooperative on the trail and about two miles into run, I caught my foot on an exposed root and went sailing through the air before basically belly-flopping onto the ground.  I laid on the ground for a few seconds assessing the damage but only my pride was injured and so I got up and started running again.

I handed off to my coworker for his 4.5-miler.  His leg went smoothly and he handed off to my boss for his long 7.6-miler.  Only 1 mile into his leg, he tried to turn a corner and rolled his ankle and had to get picked up by the injury mobile.

Pre-injury
So the rest of my teammates scrambled to fill his legs.  I was able to skate by without having to run any extra legs!


Our team continued to make our way through the line up.  The rest of the team just lounged around back at our campsite.  Ragnar provided a free pasta dinner to all the runners so around 6 pm we grabbed some dinner.


And then I waited. And waited some more.  The time between the first 2 legs seemed to drag on possibly because it felt like we were still so far from the end. After dark, the village had a large bonfire with free s'mores that I definitely took advantage of.  I didn't start running again till 9:40 pm for my 7.6-miler.

I don't have any pictures of this time but just imagine me running through the woods Blair Witch Project style and breathing heavily into the camera and you've got the idea.  Of course, I carried a flashlight but trails + dark = really tough.  A lot of this run was on the grassy fire road and I was able to actually run most of that, but when we got onto the trail part, I walked.  I wanted to live to tell about this adventure and not crush my head on a rock trying to be a hero.

Once the single-track trail portion ended, the runners were spit back out onto the fire road and ran back to the village from there.  In the preceding days before Ragnar, the Wausau area had received quite a bit of rain and it showed up here. It was wet. And that mixed with a grassy trail plus tons of runners equaled one hot muddy mess.  So I walked a lot of that too.  Later one of my teammates actually lost her shoe to the mud.

One of the best things about the trail race is getting to spread out in a tent and lay down and get real sleep. It was a little bit chilly out and I had to sleep with a hat on but it was much more comfortable than sleeping in a van.

Around 6:45 am, I started my third and final leg.  Thankfully the sun was coming up and I was able to run in the light!  My legs were pretty stiff and the run was a bit of a struggle but I made it to the end!

The rest of my team still needed to run the rest of their legs, so I hung around back at the campsite and rested up.  When we were nearing the end of our race, we packed up the campsite and got everything loaded in the cars so we were able to leave immediately after our finish.


Ben requested I have a beer waiting for him at the end of his last leg. I obliged.


My company actually had 2 teams signed up for the race so we cheered team 2 into the finish!




Our last runner came in and we wall ran towards the finish line!





Overall it was a pretty fun race! If you are considering running a trail race I would highly recommend actually running on trails.  

Results: 
Time: 26:32:02
149/243 teams
My Race Time: 3:04:09 for 16.1 miles according to my Garmin (about 11:26 pace)

Cost: $1280 (not really 100% on this), paid by my boss
Pros: Not in van, free s'mores, 
Cons: Have to take a day of vacation, long 24+ race, TRAILS
Would I do it again? I've said no in the past and yet I keep coming back.  Maybe if my boss pays again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ironman Wisconsin 2016

Six word recap: Second time is just as sweet.

Ironman Wisconsin 
September 11, 2016
7:00 am
2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike. 26.2 mile run

I arrived in Madison around noon on Friday and headed straight to Monona Terrace for athlete check-in. It's quite the process with signing waivers, getting your athlete wristband, getting weighed, picking up the timing chip, and finally getting the packet with all the goodies and the athlete backpack! I skipped the expo and figured I would hit it up on Saturday.

Once check-in was complete, the crew--Kelly, Brent, and Brent's friends Mark and Jess--grabbed lunch at my Madison favorite-Great Dane! With full bellies, Kelly, Brent, and I headed over to our rental for the weekend.  Let's just say it was quite the upgrade from our accommodations in 2014 which we lovingly refer to as hipster hideaway.  This was the kitchen.


Yes, I wanted to stay here forever.  

Once we were relatively settled in, we headed back out for a warm-up swim in Lake Monona. The water was fairly warm so we skipped the wetsuits figuring we would save the extra buoyancy for race day.  I was pretty convinced due to the cooler weather we had been having, it was definitely going to be cool enough for wetsuits on race day and I was right.  The 22 minute swim felt great and the water was calm. 


Dinner was grilled cheese and tomato soup at the Tipsy Cow.  I thought Tipsy Cow was like drunken ice cream but apparently it was just a restaurant.  We called it an early night to get some good rest stored up before the race. 

Saturday morning was not the best weather wise, but we still braved the drizzle for an easy 15 minute spin to make sure the bikes were working well.  


Then we said goodbye to the bikes as they were racked in transition and dropped off our T1 and T2 bags. Since I skipped the expo the day before, I spent some time walking around and partook in the free ART stretch session they were offering.  The deals at the expo weren't that great so I didn't buy anything except a new sweatshirt from the Ironman store. 

Madison is home to an awesome farmers market held on the capital square so we perused that for a while before returning to the rental to put our feet up for the afternoon. I wished I could have bought all the fresh produce but I limited myself to flowers because my diet gets pretty bland before a race. 

Saturday evening we hosted a few fellow triathletes for a pasta dinner including Ironman veteran Mark and my coworker Ben who was competing in his first Ironman.  It was very relaxing and we chatted and shared some last minute advice for the race. 



It was another early night as race day came bright and early with a wake-up call at 4:45 am. After my typical race day breakfast of toast, peanut butter, and banana, a small coffee, and a side of hair-braiding, Ironman sherpa extraordinaire Matt shuttled us over to the terrace around 5:30 am.  The group split as we headed into transition to pump our tires and fill our bottles.  

I borrowed a pump from a fellow racer and easily pumped up my front tire to pressure.  As I started unscrewing the small black cap from my rear tire, I felt and heard the air started to leak out and it only got worse as I kept turning.  And then the top part of my valve shot off and my tire deflated.  Oops.  The woman whose pump I was borrowing gave me a slightly panicked look.  I sent her on her way and immediately started changing my tire.  I was only slightly freaked out that I was using the one spare tube I had packed in my saddle bag.  Another spare tube was sitting comfortably in my special needs bag and though I had that bag with me, it didn't occur to me at the time to use that one as my replacement.  Instead, I just hoped I could make it through the first half of the bike without getting a flat so I could replace my spare tube at bike special needs. 

Just as I was finishing putting my tire back on the wheel I spotted Brent and Kelly with the bike pump. This little adventure set us back a bit so while Brent and I finished filling my tire and putting it back on my bike, Kelly grabbed all our special needs bags to take them to the drop off.  Brent and I then headed to T2 bags to drop off his glasses and T1 to drop off my towel I forgot to pack the previous day.  We quickly hit up body-marking before heading up to Mark and Jess's hotel room to meet up with the group and get a final bathroom opportunity.  

My heart rate definitely got a little higher than I hoped with this little fiasco but I felt good as I was able to avert a crisis with my bike! Mike Reilly's voice booming over the loudspeaker reminding us what time it was and that transition was closing soon (even though that didn't happen till 6:30 am) certainly didn't help my panic while changing my tire.  But I think the timing worked out okay in the end. 

Around 6:25, we finished putting on our wetsuits and started making our way down to the swim start.  I walked with Matt and he wished me good luck before looking for a spectating spot on the helix. 


The start was really crowded--more crowded than I remembered from 2014--and I glanced at my watch once we were standing in the crowd/line to get in the water and noticed it was 6:40.  I figured we had plenty of time to get in the water and then we proceeded to not move for 10 minutes.  At 6:45 am, the cannon sounded to signal the start of the women's pro race.  As the national anthem played, I felt a wave of emotion roll over me.  Thinking about all the training and sacrifices that I had to make to train and all the hard work really puts your whole day in perspective. The race is the reward and I get to do this. 

The line was still moving incredible slowly and we finally reached the water at 6:58. I immediately started swimming out towards the start line and made it almost all the way to the ski jump about 6 rows back.  It was so crowded and I was having a hard time navigating through all the people so I called it good enough right before the cannon sounded and the mass started swimming forward. I definitely did not have an ideal start place as I wasn't even really able to swim for the first 30 seconds due to the rows of swimmers in front of me. I definitely heard people around me get irritated by this and say things like "Swim!" and "Go!" but I just tried to remain calm as I knew it would be a long day.

I wish we would have gotten in line earlier for the swim, but in talking with Mark---who was completing his 7th IMWI-it definitely seems like they weren't pushing people into the water as quickly as they have in years past. Compared to 2014, it seemed like we were on roughly the same timeline to get into the water this year.  Word of advice: get in line early!

The first leg of the swim until the first turn buoy was just as chaotic as I remembered.  The mass swim start is a crazy feeling as it felt like I was being pulled along in a giant washing machine.  Though I felt like I kept finding random pockets where there were no others swimmers. When I reached the first turn buoy, all the swimmers bunched up again and I lifted my head out of the water to yell "Moo!"  The second turn buoy comes up really quickly and after that things seem to spread out a lot more.  Though again, I kept finding random pockets of really open water followed by random really crowded areas. I definitely got smacked a few times and my feet got grabbed but I just stayed calm and kept swimming.  If I had repeated grabs I would just put in a short little surge to get away from the offender.  

The back stretch of the swim is long and you are looking right into the sun so it can be very hard to sight.  I was trying to stay right along the buoy line as I found it wasn't too crowded there.  I was able to settle into a rhythm of breathing every 3 strokes so I could see the buoys on my left. I thought I was swimming pretty straight but looking at my GPS data later....hahaha.  Although this year I swam on .15 miles extra and in 2014 I swam .25 miles extra so improvement! 

Once I reached the third buoy I thought to myself "Yay! I am so close" but it is still a long swim in from the 3rd buoy.  I didn't sight well after that and took a very wide turn around turn 4 and then swam wide all the way into the finish.  It definitely got more crowded but I just kept plugging away at the swim.  This time I remembered that the boat ramp has an edge and kept my face in the water long enough to get my feet onto the boat ramp.  Last time I hit it with my toe and it really hurt! 

I glanced at my watch on the way through the timing mat and saw 1:17 something and thought "at least I am consistent".  I did way less swim training this time and finished only 5 seconds slower than 2014.  Do not do as I do though.  Not recommended.

I hustled over to the wetsuit strippers who effectively ripped that thing right off of me and headed up the helix to T1.  



Everything went smoothly in T1 as I changed into cycling shorts and my tri top, put on my socks, helmet and sunglasses and chamois creamed up.  I ran out to my bike carrying my shoes as it is a long way through the bikes and made a quick pit stop at the sunscreen station and cringed as I realized I still got chafing on the back of my neck from my wetsuit. 

A volunteer grabbed my bike for me as I slipped on my bike shoes and then ran to the bike mount line and I was off.  The start of the bike course is super crowded so I just tried to settle in at a really easy pace and spin my legs.  It is difficult to pass due to the narrow roads and paths at the beginning. My goal was to keep it super easy the whole "stick" out to Verona which is roughly the first 14 miles. 

I was hoping the bike congestion would clear up a bit after that it was still ridiculously crowded on the first climbing road out of Verona. At one point going up a hill, a pack of about 15 riders all bunched together pulled up all around me. People were trying to pass and it felt unsafe to me.  Thankfully it did seem to spread out some more after that and I was able to ride without being in a giant draft zone.  


I rode up the climb in Mount Horeb and waved to the support crew including Matt, my parent's, my mother-in-law, and Jess and Amy. I continued on through my favorite road of the course - Witte - and then down the giant descent on Garfoot.  When I got to the new Barlow hill, I stayed all the way to the right so I could easily dismount when I ran out of momentum from the previous downhill.  I'm so glad I decided in advance to walk because it was again really crowded and it can be so tough when the person in front of you is going even the slightest bit slower than you want to go. And also because as I was walking up the incline a guy pulled up next to me pedaling his bike going the exact same speed as me then looks over and says "Screw this! I'm not going any faster than you!" and got off and walked behind me.  I told him he could thank me at mile 20 of the run for not burning out his legs! Ain't no shame in my walking game!

Since Timber Lane climb was removed due to the new bike course, the crowds all gathered at Midtown hill instead!  It.was.awesome! The chills I felt climbing up that hill were the best.  Music was blasting and everyone is screaming and cheering and running next to you all while wearing ridiculous costumes! 

I rounded out the rest of the first loop without incident and made a quick stop at special needs to pick up my spare tube (yay no flats!) and my extra snacks.  The second loop was more of the same--I continued to feel great and son every hill I would drop down gears until I was able to spin up them.  I even hit a top speed of 47.9 mph! Wee! Won't be doing that again anytime soon. 


I don't think that big old grin ever left my face that whole bike ride. 

Around mile 90, Brent caught up to me and only a few miles later we caught Kelly.  We stuck together-ish for the rest of the ride and all rode into transition within about 1 minute of each other. 

The only thing that was really irking me during the bike ride was trying to pass people on the uphills.  I pedal as much as I can on the downhills until I spin out/run out of gear and start pedaling as soon as I can again at the bottom or at the next uphill.  I found a lot of other athletes just coasted these which is fine and I would pass. But the problem was on larger uphills athletes would fan out 3+ wide going roughly the same speed and they were moving slower than me.  To pass, I then needed to go all the way over into the oncoming lane which...ugh, I did not like.  This almost caused a problem once on a huge downhill/upwill combo where the rider behind me  wanted to pass me while I wanted to pass 3 other riders.  I took all this as a reminder that I needed to be riding as far right as possible all other times on the course.  

Fuel: 3 Honeystinger waffles, 4 packages Clif Shot Bloks, Base Salt every 5-10 miles, Gatorade Endurance ~1 per hour, water as needed

Best Signs: 
You paid $5.32 per mile for this
Chafing the dream
If it was easy, it would be called your mom

Transition 2 was so much calmer than T1.  I changed into running shorts, a fresh pair of socks and my running shoes. Then I slathered a whole bunch of Aquaphor around where my sports bra sits. I somehow managed to chafe my arm pit during the swim and/or bike? I'm still confused by this.  

And I started the marathon! That makes it sound so easy.  


Still smiling and in denial about what is about to take place.


I felt okay coming out of transition.  My legs felt a heavy like always and my back was a little tight, but I've done enough triathlons now to know that how you feel at mile 1 isn't necessarily indicative of how you will feel at mile 5 or mile 25.   So I just kept plugging along.  My rough plan was to 5:00 run/:30 walk though I adjusted that if I was close to an aid station or a hill so I could walk those.  

I felt okay through the first 7-ish miles, plugging along and drinking Gatorade at the aid station.  Then I started to feel bad.  I was still running but I knew I was slowing down.  And I was getting crabby.  And gloomy. My attitude was in the pits.  I would like to apologize to any athlete that talked to me from like 8-16 miles. Around mile 12, I saw Matt and my parents again.  I saw Matt and started lamenting about how I felt bad and how I was so thirsty and tired and he said "Yeah, you said that last time at this same point. You look great!" To which I argued, he said that last time and then later told me it was a lie!

That interaction did make me realize though that I needed to be drinking and eating more.  So at the next aid station around the corner, I walked and took 3 cups of fluid and some orange slices.  At the following aid stations more of the same and I took whatever sounded good at the time-water, coke, Gatorade, chicken broth (yes!!!!!)- and made sure to get enough fluids.  Plus I also took in a 1/2 package of Clif Shot Bloks as well. 

At the turnaround I stopped to get my special needs bag which had Biofreeze and ibuprofen.  

I was yelling to my spectators "This really sucks!" At least I had a smile back. 
I stopped around 14.5 miles to use the potty and took the opportunity to spread Biofreeze all over my lower back and glutes. It took a bit to kick in but around 16, my body and mind started to come around again.  I talked to a fellow athlete that was completing his first Ironman that was a firefighter in Chicago.  I encouraged him to keep moving forward and run when you can.  This in turn encouraged me to keep going.  

As I told Brent before the race, in races people will talk about getting a second wind, but in Ironman, you get 2nd, 3rd, 20th, and 30th winds.  You have high moments where you feel good and low moments where you feel terrible.  You just need to keep going till you feel good again and know how to pull yourself out of those low moments.  

At mile 19, I ran up part of the huge hill on Observatory Drive and took a second to check out the beauty of the view at the top. I was smiling and waving at spectators again. The turnaround point on State Street was packed with people and once again I got chills. I was going to finish this Ironman.  


Jess and Amy were cheering loud and I got a high-five!  


I saw my family once again around mile 20 and waved and said I was feeling good.  Right after that I looked at my watch and realized I had an hour and 10 minutes to run 6 miles to get myself in under the 5 hour mark for the marathon. Through some foggy math, I knew if I could hold onto 11 min/miles I could beat this.  I also flipped my watch over to total race time and realized that it would also get me a PR.  I felt so good that I started skipping my walk breaks and only walking at the aid stations.  At the last turnaround point, I commented to another athlete on her second lap that it felt good to be heading towards the finish this time.  

The sun was starting to set and at mile 23 I was still on time to beat 5 hours.  I somehow managed to run a 10:16 mile 25 which is insane to me.  Immediately after that I stopped briefly to take another walk break and another athlete ran by and says "Let's go kid, we've been together this whole time." So I started running again and I ran all the way through the party and blasting music on State Street.  I took a really short break at the final aid station to chug a cup of Coke and powered on.  

Coming around that last corner and seeing the bright lights of the finisher's chute ahead felt amazing. I made sure to stop to kiss my husband and take my time to high-five plenty of spectators.  Nothing compares to the finish line of an Ironman. 

Immediately after crossing the finish line, I was caught by the finish line catchers who reminded me to stop my watch and helped me get my medal, tshirt, remove my timing chip, and get in line for the picture.  I was on cloud 9 and felt really really good at this point. 

Run Fuel: Gatorade, chicken broth, Coke, water, ice, 1.5 packages of shot bloks, a few orange slices and random potato chips.  Salt every 1-2 miles.

I slowly made my way over to the food tent and loaded up on pizza, sandwich, orange slices and a Coke.  I met back up with my family and my mom held my plate for me while I ate. I felt so good it was surprising.  Then we got back into the finish line area to wait for Mark, Kelly, and Brent to finish (speedster Ben was long finished).  


To celebrate we went out for a late dinner at the Great Dane (again! I told you I love that place!)


I was really sad to miss the midnight spectating at this finish line because it is ridiculously inspiring.  But I'll make it back there next time. (TBD on next time). 

Thank you, thank you, thank you to ALL the volunteers, spectators, fellow athletes for all your help and encouraging words--you make this race possible. Thank you to my family for coming to watch a whole boring day of Ironman--it wouldn't be the same without you.  Thank you Matt--I wouldn't have made it to the start line without you.  And thank you to my triathlon tribe--you make the training fun, remind me I'm not insane and keep me going. 

Results
Swim: 1:17:21(2:00/100m)
T1: 9:19
Bike: 6:42:36 (16.69 mph)
T2: 4:15
Run: 4:59:51 (11:26/mile)
Overall: 13:13:22 (49th in my division)

Cost: ~$800 but who is counting
Pros: Most amazing spectators
Would I do it again? I'll just leave it at I'm already thinking about how I can beat 13 hours.  I'm crazy and I've lost my mind. 


In conclusion: The second time IS just as sweet. 

  
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