Monday, September 21, 2015

Weekend Things

1.  Football season is here! Last Saturday, Matt and I had our annual "test our relationship" day in which we cheer for our alma maters and trash talk the other team--the Iowa vs. Iowa State football game.  After a really disappointing game last year, where Iowa choked the whole second half, I was vindicated with an Iowa win!  So I'll have bragging rights for a bit!

We spent the day with friends and I got to play with some cute doggies so it was like a triple win for me! 

2. This past weekend Matt and I had a wedding back in our hometown.  On Saturday morning, my mom, dad, and I visited the Dubuque Farmers Market.    Fall produce is the best! I went home with apples, spaghetti squash, watermelon, radishes and hens and chicks plant.  And it only cost me about $10!  

3. The wedding we went to Saturday night was a great time.  Such a great time in fact that we ended up playing quarters at the bar after the reception was over.  This might have factored into why we didn't start our bike ride till 11 am Sunday!  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What's next?

I've checked on a lot of races off my bucket list in the past few years

So what's next?  

At the end of 2013 and again in 2014 , I mentioned my goals to go sub-2 hours in a half-marathon and go sub-3 hours in an Olympic triathlon. Now that I've met my goal to go sub-6 in the half Ironman I could focus on shorter races.  But I have bigger fish to fry.

I'm going back to Ironman Wisconsin in 2016.   The race experience I had in 2014 was second to none and it is going to be hard to beat.  But I'd love to PR and come across that finish line smiling again.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Half Ironman Double Part 2: Pigman

Six-word recap: Suffered through heat, finished with friends. 

Pigman Long Course Triathlon
August 16, 2015
7:30 am
1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

After Steelhead, I tried to take recovery a little more seriously to get myself ready for my next challenge--Pigman Half-Ironman a week later.  Of course I did indulge a little bit with dill pickle chips and mountain dew but I also foam rolled and wore compression socks the next day at work.  Low-key workouts and sleeping were the key for me.  I road my bike twice--on Monday and Saturday, swam once, and didn't run at all.  

On Friday night, Matt and I headed back to Iowa.  We found a great deal on a hitch bike rack for Matt's car on Craigslist so after we got that set up we were on our way.  On Saturday morning, we headed out for a short shakeout bike ride and on our way back about 3 miles from town, I dropped my chain.  This isn't the first time I've dropped the chain on this bike, but it hasn't happened since I got a new chain after switching out my front chain ring last year before Ironman Wisconsin. This time, however, I dropped it and caught it between my small chain ring and my frame and locked up my pedals.  My dad had to come get us in the car!  I was a little worried that I wasn't going to get my bike fixed in time for the race but I am grateful that this incident didn't occur during the race because that would have meant a DNF.  After a quick lunch, we took my bike into Free Flight in Dubuque and they were able to put a new chain on it now problem.  Thankfully my derailleur survived the incident just fine because that would have been a little more expensive repair.  

After the bike situation got all sorted out, we headed to Cedar Rapids to our hotel and packet pickup.  We left a little later than planned due to the bike chain incident, but Pigman has race-day packet pickup so we weren't rushed.  We arrived at the hotel around 5:45 so we did have time to swing by packet pickup before it closed at 6.  Pigman is most definitely a no frills race and packet pickup follows suit.  We walked in picked up our race numbers and bags and our t-shirts.  This year we received long sleeve tech tees.  In our race bags, we got several sample sizes of deodorant, chapstick, and a few random snacks.  

We had an early dinner at Biaggi's and I downed plenty of bread in the name of #carbloading.  Then proceeded to top those carbs off with more carbs in the liquid form. We went on a little beer searching adventure to HyVee and I tried some Toppling Goliath.  

Since I signed up for Ironman Steelhead 70.3 in late 2014, I wasn't planning on also racing Pigman a week later, but I am a sucker for peer pressure.  On  January 4, after a few drinks, Kelly talked me into signing up.  I think I was still on the post Ironman high (and definitely still on the post Ironman workout slump) so this sounded like a great idea.  We actually signed up at the same time so our numbers were right next to each other! My friends Brent and Laura also ended up signing up to so it was definitely a social race for me.

The game plan was to race Steelhead and then just take it easy at Pigman  and since getting a PR at Steelhead, I was content with that plan.

Sunday morning, we loaded up the car and headed out to Pleasant Creek State Park for the race.  This race is small so finding parking and getting good spot in transition is no problem.  Transition spots are not assigned per race number but rather age groups have a one or a few racks.  There was plenty of room at the rack I choose to set out all my stuff.  I took my time hitting up the bathrooms, eating breakfast and putting sunscreen on before race start. 

The race starts at 7:30 and is a time trial start.  My age group was estimated to start around 7:40 am and we walked down to the beach around 7:15.  Unlike at Steelhead, this time I made sure to get in the water prior to the race!  The water temperature was just over the wetsuit cutoff but competitors we allowed to wear wetsuits but then were not eligible for awards. I was happy to skip the wetsuit.  Right after the race started, I realized I forgot my heart rate monitor in the car so I walked back up to get it with plenty of time to spare.  

This year, Pigman changed the course to make it more spectator friendly.  The new swim course looked like this. 

On the way out, we swam with the buoys on our right, made a U-turn about halfway through and continued with the buoys on our right.  There was a only one line of buoys in the middle and in general, most triathletes are terrible sighters in included.  So there was a lot of crossing over into other swimmers.  Thankfully my swim felt really great and I felt like I was moving smooth.  I was a little disappointed in my overall time (39:27) because I really want to do a sub-37 swim but I will get there.  

Transition went well and I headed out on the bike.  The bike this year was a 4-loop course with two significant climbs on each loop.  And the "loop" was actually an out and back so we made eight 180 degree turns throughout the course.  The loop had one aid station so we passed through that 4 times throughout the day; it had water and the sports drink was Advocare.  I tried a bottle and thought it tasted like fake sugar so I avoided it for the rest of the race and depended upon Honey Stinger Waffles, Bonk Breaker bars, and Clif Shot Gels to get me through. Plus I stuck with my BASE Salt from Steelhead.  I could already tell the weather was getting warm on the bike so I wanted to stay on top of hydration.

To be honest, the bike course was totally boring.  Plus it was open to traffic and there were way too many cars for my liking with bikers on both sides of the road.  My boost every lap was seeing Laura, Kelly, and Brent.  Plus Matt showed up about halfway through the bike and took some pictures. And one of my old college roommates-Angie-was out cheering on the course so I got to see her as well. 

Still happy
Kelly and Brent 

Smiling but thinking "I wish this was over"
My bike splits were staying fairly consistent, but my heart rate was spiking quite high on the hills.  I could tell that I was not really recovered from the race the previous weekend.  By the time I hit 56 miles I was really ready to be off the bike.

I transitioned quickly off the bike and grabbed my visor and my handheld.  At both of the other half Ironmans this summer, I've just been able to rely on the aid stations to get hydration and stay cool but because I knew the temperatures were likely to get into the high 80s and low 90s, I wanted my handheld for between the aid stations.  As soon as I started running, it felt hot. I stuck with the normal run 1 mile, walk 30 seconds intervals I've had success with.

The run course was again a 4-loop course consisting of a 3.25 mile loop through the campground of the park.  Most of the course was unshaded though the course was mostly flat.  Each loop had 2 aid stations but due to the heat, that really did not feel like enough and I was so thankful to have my handheld.  I was dumping water over my head from the beginning.

Unfortunately the water station volunteers on the run were really not prepared.  Let me be clear, I am in no way slamming the volunteers.  I realize that they volunteered their time and were also probably feeling miserable in the heat and were very overwhelmed by the needs of the runners. I feel like the race organizers were not meeting our needs here.  One aid station quickly ran out of ice plus I don't think they realized that participants would want just cups of ice.  Plus with a 4-loop course and about 400 people participating in the race, about 123 people were in a given mile on the course.  That number is based on a lot of assumptions, but let's just go with it for a minute.  The aid stations were not staffed for those kinds of numbers.  By my third loop of the run, Matt had joined the volunteers at an aid station because they could not keep up with filling the cups.  In the future, the race organizers definitely need to have more volunteers at each aid station plus more instruction for how to set up the aid station and MORE ICE!   I do have to say the volunteers were very cheerful and they would take my handheld and fill it up for me!

I was definitely slowing down in the later laps of the run and walking a lot more.  On the last lap, Kelly and Brent caught up to me and we ran together to the finish.

The highlight was getting really great finish line photos from Matt.

Both of my feet are off the ground! 

And the race captured a great finish line video.  We are at about the 2:39:10 mark. 

Swim: 39:27 (1:52/100 yd)
T1: 2:24
Bike: 3:05:01 (18.2 mph)
T2: 1:35
Run: 2:33:39 (11:43/mile)
Overall: 6:22:07 (10/13 F25-29)

I went right to the water tent after the finish line and let the cold water drip on my neck.  

My favorite part of Pigman is the post race party.  Pizza, pasta with delicious sauce, fruit, pop, beer and candy are all available to racers after they finish.  Massage therapists and a chiropractor is also available to visit.  I hit up the watermelon and pasta table.  This race raffles off a lot of goodies from local vendors too.  One downside to this race is there are no open bathrooms, only porta potties.  So I showered off in my tri kit and then changed behind a building because #classy 

Overall, I was not really happy about the new Pigman course.  I can definitely understand the benefits of going to a 4 loop bike and run course--fewer volunteers needed, fewer aid stations, fewer road blocks, and spectators do see more of the race. But I really did not like the 180 degree turns on the bike or that the course was open to traffic.  The run course could have used one more aid station but I did enjoy that there was no huge hill like the previous course.  I love that this is a local race and the time-trial swim start is my favorite.  Plus it is the cheapest half Ironman I have ever found!  But I likely won't be doing this race again unless they change the bike course.  I will not complain about the heat because it's a race in August and I don't sign up for those expecting beautiful cool weather, but more water and ice are necessary for hot races. 

I'm calling the half Ironman double a success though I don't know that I would do it again.  

Cost: $84.80
Pros: great price, time-trial swim start
Cons: 180 degree bike turns, bike course open to traffic, not enough aid stations
Would I do it again? with changes, yes

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Half Ironman Double Part 1: Steelhead 70.3

Six-word recap: Panicked in swim, still went sub-6.

Ironman Steelhead 70.3
August 9, 2015
7:00 am
1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

It appears I only write race recaps.  The vacation to Tennessee was great except that on the ride home Sunday I started feeling the beginnings of a cold namely I was stuffy and my throat was scratchy.  My father-in-law was fighting a cold the whole trip so I wasn't looking forward to battling the same cold.  I hoped a lot of rest and fluids would help me feel better quickly because I had a race coming up in one week!  Monday through Wednesday was miserable.  Working out was out of the question and after work I would pretty much come home and face plant on the couch because I was so exhausted.  I knew it was really bad because I didn't even have an appetite :/

My body finally started to come around on Thursday and I was able to manage a 50 minute bike ride and a 30 minute transition run.  Nothing too hard but I wanted to at least move my legs!  I definitely noticed the lung congestion though and so I kept pounding decongestants and expectorants.  Friday was a rest day as usual before a half Ironman.

Saturday I woke up feeling a little bit better.  The cough was fairly persistent though I felt like I could breathe well.  This time I used a list to pack my bags so I wouldn't forget anything like at the Door County race.  My coworker Heather and I were carpooling up to Michigan together so I drove to her place and then relaxed in the car.  Earlier in the week, I had assumed it took about 5 hours to get to Michigan but Heather informed me it only took less than 3 hours!  Shorter drive is great with me!

Check-in went smoothly and we opted to rack our bikes Saturday as well.  At Steelhead, you had to option to bring your bike the morning off the race but racking on Saturday cut down on the hassle on race morning.  Heather's dad recommended covering our gears with a garbage bag due to the blowing sand and that turned out to be a great idea!

We walked around and checked out the expo and I bought some BASE Salt.  I've been wanting to try out salt for endurance events for a while now and I like to ignore the "nothing new on race day" rule.  Do as I say, not as I do.

Heather was kind enough to let me to stay at her aunt's lake house.  So we were able to cook our own dinner and relax and go to bed early.

Check out the view!
Sunday morning started off bright and early at 5 am.  I stuck with the standard breakfast of bagel, peanut butter and a banana plus a cup of coffee to get things moving.  The whole group headed over to the race start to get the rest of our gear set up.  Things were going smoothly but I did feel a bit rushed.  Heather and my wave start was at 7:12 am so we did not have very much time after transition closed to get through the bathroom line and get lubed and wetsuited up before it was go time.  I didn't have time before our start to get into the water--a decision I soon regretted.

Pre-race smiles
Steelhead is a beach start so I lined up about halfway down at the front and got ready to swim hard.  The gun went off and I took off into the water, the goal being to get in the front half of the pack.  I swam for about 100-200m before I could not catch my breath and started to panic.  As soon as I tried to put my face in the water I would freak out so I tried back-stroking for a bit to catch my breath and calm my heart rate. I honestly thought about quitting and kept asking myself how I was going to explain to my friends that I had to drop out.  I alternated those thoughts with "You are an Ironman, get it together!" It took until about the first turn buoy for me to calm down and begin to swim normally.  I'm still not entirely sure what happened, I think the combo of chest congestion and feeling like my wetsuit was too tight in the chest sent me into a tailspin of panic.  Once I was able to relax the swim went very well and I passed many people who passed me at the beginning.

Unfortunately, Steelhead doesn't have wetsuit strippers so I ended up stopping at the beginning of transition and taking off my wetsuit.  It was a long run to the other end of transition where my bike was and it was much easier to run with it off!

After the swim, I was worried all my hopes of going sub-6 were gone. But I decided to see how the bike went before giving up hope.   The bike course is fairly flat so I concentrated on getting into a rhythm and getting my heart rate in my goal range.  As always, I was getting passed, but I reminded myself to focus on my race.

I was able to settle in well and started hydrating and eating early.  Since the weather was cooler, I decided to take my BASE Salt about every 10 miles. The bike course was fairly uneventful for the first 20 miles.  The middle part of the course was on a fairly bumpy road and that got a bit irritating after a while.  About halfway through the course, groups of young fast men starting flying by in packs.  They had finally caught up from their later swim start.  I hope the course officials saw them and penalized a few of them because the drafting was ridiculous.

Not much else of significance occurred on the bike course.  I did drop a bottle of Gatorade because I wasn't paying attention when I put it back in my bottle cage--oops!  Around mile 50,  I started to feel ready to get off the bike and start the run!  A quick check on the time and I knew sub-6 was still in my reach.

Coming into transition was a little bit of a mess, there is a long slow zone and the person in front of me was going a little too slow and people tried passing when they should not have.  In the end it was fine, but I didn't enjoy that part of the course.  Bike in was in the same end of transition as swim in so again I had a long run through transition with my bike.  I opted to leave my bike shoes on the bike and run through in just my socks.

I started running too fast right away and had to reel myself in a bit.  My goal was to run about a 2:15 which is about 10:18 miles and use the same method I used during the Door County Half Ironman--run 1 mile, walk 30 seconds and take short breaks during the aid stations plus walk up any big hills.  The weather was perfect that Sunday and the cooler temps (70s!) were really helping me! I was still taking water and ice at almost every aid station though.

The run course is a lollipop--you go out, run two loops, then come back in on the stick.  The first loop went very smoothly for me and I was running well and keeping my pace in the high 9's and low 10's. Around the end of mile 9 and mile 10, the distance started to wear on me.  Even gradual inclines made me want to walk and go easier but I kept to my loose plan and kept chugging along.  Plus I took a gel and that helped boost my spirits a bit.  At mile 10.5, there is a fairly steep hill after coming out of the Whirlpool campus and I, along with most everyone else, walked up the hill.  At the top, the woman running next to me said "Okay, we are at the top, time to run again!"  I really needed to hear that right then and it gave me a boost! I started running and after realizing how close I was going to be to 6 hours, I started booking it!  I was on a mission and I did not want to miss out on going under 6 hours by only a few seconds.  I felt so good, I was able to skip my walk breaks during the last 2 miles.  I ended up pulling a 9:38 pace for mile 12 and a 9:29 for mile 13 out of nowhere! That is very fast for me at the end of the race!

I came flying down the chute and was so thrilled when I knew I clenched the sub-6 finish.  I've been chasing this goal for 2 years now and it feels so good to finally get it.  

Heather and I with our medals!
After the finish, I needed to sit around a bit to regain my composure, but then I limped back to the finish line to see Heather and my other coworker Ben cross the finish line!  This was both of their first half-Ironman and they both did so well!  Heather's goal was to finish under 7 hours and she knocked it out of the park with a 6:39 finish.

Swim: 43:02 (2:13/100 m)
T1: 3:24
Bike: 2:55:16 (19.2 mph)
T2: 2:19
Run: 2:13:24 (10:11/mile)
Overall: 5:57:25 (33/98 F25-29) 

The whole gang
Admittedly, I have not had the best year of training but I have been working on speedwork more.  That plus the huge base I had from Ironman Wisconsin last year has really helped me.  And I think it is another lesson in not giving up on myself when things get tough.

Celebrating with my medal and Mtn Dew
Cost: $225
Pros: PR-friendly course, all the regular Ironman amenities, free lodging
Cons: No wetsuit strippers, large number of participants
Would I do it again? Despite the slightly higher cost, if this fits into my schedule I would do it again!
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