Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ironman World Championship 70.3 Race Report

At first I fooled myself into thinking it's hard to know what to say on this blog about Sunday's race. Then I realized that was a lie.

I know exactly what to say.

To sum up:
  • The result was disappointing. My first DNF since 2007 (wow).
  • The year of training and experiences leading up to the race was worth it.
  • I have no regrets.

So here's a blow by blow on what happened:

The Day Before the Race

My friend Debra flew in from Boston to support me in this race. She had never spectated at a triathlon before. Ever. Worlds was her first. Can you imagine?!

Me and Debra the day before the race
Walking my bike into transition

Tony seemed to be everywhere at once. With these big races he's in his volunteering element. He took this picture of me and fellow lottery slot winner Nick in that huge empty transition after we checked our bikes in.

Me and NICK!

Debra took this photo at the finish line.

"Preview of Coming Attractions"

After checking in all of my gear the rest of the day was spent relaxing and connecting.

Unexpected BONUS: I managed to turn Debra on to Person of Interest! We watched several episodes and Glenn made us dinner. Clearly my work on this day was done!

Race Day -- Pre Race

Got up as planned. Sort of had to force down breakfast but it wasn't too bad. I wasn't feeling nervous, just a little tense. We got on the road as scheduled, and after a bit of stress over parking made it to my bike in transition. As I was unpacking my nutrition I noticed my front tire was flat. As a pancake.

This really rattled me. The girls whose bikes were on either side kindly pointed out where bike tech was and I ran my bike over there, wondering how in the world my tire could go flat overnight just sitting there. I'd not had a flat since I could remember.

Flashbacks of Silverman rolled through my mind as I waited in line -- and cried a little (seriously for a few minutes I felt really vulnerable, like I'd imagine a small child would feel over a broken toy). Then it was fixed. Easy. Nothing more to do -- or worry about. I loaded my nutrition onto the bike, put my bag down next to it and got out of transition.

We watched the swim waves line up, watched the pros take off. I made my way to my wave and got some photos with two of my best friends in the world.

Excited and ready!

Me and TONY!!

Tony got this great shot of us right before we moved down to the water

And this one after we got in:

The Swim

With about ten minutes before our scheduled start time they let our wave into the water. I was quickly reminded why I would never voluntarily swim in Lake Las Vegas. The water smelled like a sewer. It was warm too -- 83 degrees they said. Fortunately I'm pretty good at tuning some things out -- and it helps that Lake Mead where I do all my open water swimming is so much clearer and nicer -- since I don't swim in this shit every day I can handle a little 1.2 mile swim in it right? Right! Fortunately the smell only seemed to reside near the shore.

The swim was awesome! I loved the course!

It was a straight line out and back -- swimming out straight into the sun and swimming back with the sun behind us. I held a nice straight line and swam my usual pace, reminding myself I'm a strong swimmer and good at sighting! There was one woman from my wave who I drafted off for quite awhile before I lost track of her. When the waves from behind would come through I would get some pull from them, but mostly I was swimming by myself, as expected.

Got out in 56 minutes flat which is a good time for me with no wetsuit. This was also my first triathlon swim with no wetsuit -- would have seriously overheated in that water with one on!


The run from the swim exit to my bike felt ridiculously long. And it was actually pretty long. The run with my bike up the steep embankment to the mount line felt ridiculously hard -- which in hindsight was foreshadowing for how the bike leg would feel. My transition time was not recorded but I'm sure it was super long.

The Bike

From the moment I got on the bike things felt off. Hard. Of course this is supposed to be hard but climbing out of Lake Las Vegas (a route I've ridden too many times to count) felt three times harder than my worst training day.

And thus is the story of the entire 37 miles of that ride.

I figured I just needed my typical 30-60 minutes to warm up. So I did everything I'd done in training. Kept moving forward, taking my nutrition in on schedule, and letting my thoughts (both good and bad) move through my mind as quickly as possible without fighting or trying to control them.

At the 1:15 mark I was right where I should be on the course based on my training numbers. I was fueled up. I was hydrated. And yet I was breaking down. Big time. Not physically -- although the ride still felt extra hard and I felt like my legs had no power -- no. I'm 98% sure the problem wasn't in my body.

Which leaves that pesky space between the ears. The space that makes all the difference.

I wanted to be done. I wanted OFF that course. The course itself felt three times as hard as it normally does, as was my desire to be DONE. I was tired. Tired of things being so hard. Tired of some things not working out the way I'd planned or wanted. Tired of so many obstacles. Tired of the same old issues always cropping up for me. Just freaking tired.

I would coast the downhills and cry on the uphills. I wanted to get pulled. Glenn and Debra drove by in the Suburban and snapped this photo of me.

I love this photo. I look good. I look strong. Even though I was feeling neither of these things.

When I reached the turnaround on Northshore Road the officials there asked me if I was okay. I nearly asked them to pull me but instead told them I was fine. I wasn't.

When Glenn and Debra came by again I motioned for them to pull over. I asked Glenn to pull me. He refused. They left. Two more times they pulled over, I asked him to pull me and twice more he refused and they left. Smart man. He wasn't going to take that responsibility. He's had to live with me all year training for this race. Plus he loves me and he believed I could finish if I really wanted to. Tough love. It takes guts to do that.

When the cop came up behind me and let me know he was following me as the last cyclist on the course that was the last straw. A few minutes of that and I pulled over and asked him to call SAG. He did.

Glenn and Debra came back and when Glenn saw me sitting in the cop car he knew it was officially over and that the responsibility for it was NOT on him. He loaded my bike in the Suburban and we took off.

Sitting in the back of the Suburban in silence I expected the voice in my head to immediately start berating me about what a loser I am, how I never seem to quite get to the other side of success, how I SUCK really really bad, and how I wasted a whole year training for a race that I just QUIT. For no apparent reason other than I was done!!! Seriously WHO DOES THAT.

But none of that happened. All I felt was relief and the nasty voice was silent. All I received was silent support from Glenn and Debra in those moments driving away from mile 37. All I received later was support. From everyone. No judgment. Just encouragement. And congratulations.

I promised Glenn he would not have to live with any extended emotional fallout from this. I was able to promise that because I knew in my heart that I'd made the right decision. On the surface and on the Ironman "results" page that shows only a swim time, it looks like it was the absolute wrong decision. But for me it was right -- even though it's hard to articulate WHY other than a strong feeling. But then, it was a strong feeling, an intuitive hit back in 2006 while volunteering at Silverman, that got me into this crazy sport in the first place.

When I went to the finish line to turn in my chip I watched some of the finishers. I felt happy for them and glad I wasn't out there. The only pang of disappointment I felt was when I saw the finishers medal. It would have been AWESOME to get one of those. One of a kind from a World Championship.

I felt disappointment -- not regret. There's a huge difference.

After the Race

We came home, relaxed and talked. About lots of stuff. One of the BEST things about this weekend was seeing all of the support I have through Debra's eyes. Glenn. Tony. Sean (even though she didn't meet Sean he was a key to my successful bike training all year long). I don't see Debra a lot since she lives in Boston. The fact that she took time away from her children and her packed schedule to come out here to support me means so much. Those are the things you can't plan for, can't predict and all the money and training in the world won't secure.

Triathlon had made me into who I am today and this race is a part of that. Which is why I accepted all congratulations without qualification, and why I feel great about myself in the wake of all this. Why I'm moving forward in my life more powerfully than I was one short week ago.

I've said it before, I'll say it again -- I love this sport.

As far as next season goes, it will be all short course for me. It's time to get faster. Time to really work on it. Time to engage in training at a whole new level. After I take some time off of course!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Boise Race Report

Parking Lot Below Lucky Peak Reservoir

1.2 mile swim/56 mile bike/13.1 mile run.

WOW what a day in Boise on June 9!

Like my two previous half iron distance races this one will go down in infamy due to weather and "drama" not within my control.

What WAS in my control I handled in order to:
  • Squeak out a slight PR on the swim
  • Pull out a HUGE run PR while nailing my pacing, and 
  • Once again come through for myself in a big way (the heart of why I do this sport)
Let's start from the beginning:

I registered for this race in June of 2011 originally to verify the Ironman 70.3 World Championship Lottery slot that I planned on going for in 2012. If you've been reading for a few months you know that I did win that slot.

I love it when a plan comes together.

But Boise turned out to be so much more than that (of course it did this is me and this is triathlon!).

I grew up in Owyhee, Nevada on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation in northern Nevada, 148 miles south of Boise, 4 miles south of the Idaho border. It's basically as far north as you can go and still be in Nevada.

On June 23, 2004, my mother died in Owyhee, the night before my parents were due to move to Las Vegas to begin their retirement years. Eight years ago is the last time I'd been to the area.

So as the race grew closer, I grew more and more emotional -- in a good way. I've learned since leaving my job as a lawyer in 2005, discovering triathlon in 2006 and starting my business in 2009 NOT to stuff down or ignore my emotions (good or bad). It's ultimately easier to move through them. Not only do I get lots more accomplished that way but it feels better.

Mom had multiple sclerosis, but her death was unexpected. It threw everyone for a loop and tore the family apart. It was one of the worst times in my life and I all but stopped talking to two of my brothers.

After we got home from the memorial service, I desperately wanted to get over the entire ordeal. So I went back to the law firm where I worked after taking next to no time off and figured I had moved on. Not. So. Much.

Time does a decent job of healing things on the surface but if you're ignorant enough to believe you can just move on like nothing happened you'll never completely heal and you'll never be able to live up to your potential. EVER. It will Wear. You. Down.

Looking back I believe Mom's illness, death and its aftermath had a lot to do with why I eventually turned to triathlon.

Things seemed to pile on after that, I was angry much of the time, and felt like a complete and total loser at life. With Glenn's support I made some major changes and one of those changes landed me as a volunteer at the 2006 Silverman -- which is when this blog really started.

As the years went on the family managed to patch a lot of things up and it gradually got to the point where I didn't cringe upon hearing the names of my two youngest brothers.

Today all four of mom's children are on speaking terms, we get along and we may actually be getting closer.

Even so, I was flabbergasted, a few days before leaving for Boise, to receive these:

My brother Dylan sent these because they were Mom's favorite flower. The card read:
Stef: Good luck in Boise! I'm really disappointed I can't be there but will be with you in spirit and know you'll do great. I hope these mom-inspired sunflowers further brighten the next few days as you prepare. Love you and good luck! Love, Dylan
These big races are so much more than races to me. And I know Mom is proud of me for doing this.

So the flowers made the long drive up to Boise with Tony and me. Glenn couldn't make the trip so I'm grateful Tony wanted to. He showed up in our driveway, we loaded up the van and were on our way.

With the flowers and the Silverman backpack how could I lose? I couldn't!

Tony and I got to Boise a couple of days early and checked everything out. I've always liked Boise as a city and it lived up to my memories. Of course we drove the bike course -- I was super excited to ride it! For reasons beyond my control, though, I would not get to ride it this year.

Race Day

We woke up on race day to a steady rain. Because the race started at noon I figured it would blow over. It didn't. It got worse. It also got windy.

We brought my bike and gear up to transition at Lucky Peak at 10am and spent the next two hours wet and cold. The temperature was 46 degrees! I later heard reports of it being colder than that and also that there was snow -- I personally didn't see any snow but temps were certainly right for it.

I put my wetsuit on early to try and keep warm and huddled under a tiny tree with others who were doing the same thing.

Smiling but I'm damn uncomfortable here!

With less than an hour before the start they announced that due to high gusty winds on the bike course they were cutting the bike portion of the race from 56 miles to 15 -- so we'd be riding from Lucky Peak Reservoir into downtown Boise and that's it. The start was delayed so they could set up the run course early and otherwise implement this last minute drastic course change.

The reaction to the news ranged from surprise, to relief, to YAY! Some people were angry. Some (like me) were nonplussed. Some decided not to do the race. One of my first reactions was: damn, now we have to WAIT to get in the water! The "official" water temperature was 57 degrees -- quite a bit warmer than the air.

When we lined up for the swim start I was shivering. Involuntarily. Cannot remember the last time I shivered involuntarily.

My Swim Wave!! Women 40-44!! Waiting to start. Photo Credit: Ironman 70.3 Facebook Page

Smiling and shivering. These 40-44 ladies seemed to take it all in stride. Great group of women!

Normally 57 degree water would feel really cold to me. By the time we got in, it felt like bathwater. Tony snapped this priceless shot right before we started. I look really crazy here. I guess we have to be (at least a little) to do this sport right?

So glad to be in the water!

The Swim (1.2 miles)

The swim was excellent! The water was surprisingly flat for a nasty weather day. The rain, the mist and the big yellow buoys gave me flashbacks to Silverman 2008.

Tony got a couple of great shots of our wave starting!

Our wave wasn't huge so there was very little body contact. Every two minutes or so the fast peeps from the waves behind would come through. I held my steady 1.2 mile pace and came in with a time of 50:11 which is over a 1 minute PR over my last full half iron swim!

Very happy with that it's about what I expected. I'd love to eventually get my 1.2 miles down to 45 minutes or less but that's coming. :-)


I felt nice and warm coming out of the water and they had wetsuit strippers. Score! After my suit was stripped off I trotted to my bike and got down to business.

Tony was waiting for me at my bike and snapped this lovely shot
Boise is a "clean" transition, meaning nothing gets left on the ground. Rooting through a transition bag when you're already wet and it's cold out is a bit of a pain in the ass -- but you deal with it. Everyone has to! I got transitioned in what felt like a decent time, was nearly to the Bike Out, when I realized:

Oh F*&K! I forgot my GPS!!!!!

Rooting through the bag in a hurry . . . . . UGH!! For a split second I considered just leaving it but . . . NO!! Not only did I pay for it but I WANTED my friends and family to track me!

I ran back to my spot, screaming "Tony I forgot my GPS!!" He pointed me to my bag, I found the GPS, put it on, and was out of transition for real this time.

The Bike (15 miles)

The rain had slowed by the time I got on the bike -- but the combination of riding on wet roads with the wind blowing and what felt like a billion people passing me made me eager to get it over with.

I hammered as best I could and came into T2 with a time of 49:27 (only time in history my bike time beat my swim time LOL). I felt very "off" my usual rhythm during the just under 15 mile ride. I came into T2 glad to be DONE with the bike -- not the ride I trained for but it was what it was.

It did throw me for a loop though for the first few moments of the run.

The Run (13.1 miles)

My mindset transitioning from bike to run was not the best. My stomach was feeling very unsettled and stressed, which is so NOT normal for me during a race! It made me really nervous and even scared.

The mean heinous part of my brain capitalized on that stress and fear:

"Bah, this race doesn't really matter anymore with such a shortened bike. All you have to do is verify your slot to worlds. Just take it easy, you can't run that well anyway."

"You're not strong enough to do this -- you didn't eat right before the race you'll never have the run you visualized here."

I stopped in a porta potty just outside of transition faced with a choice: I could either go after the run the way I do in training, and the way I've visualized for this race many times . . . or I could half ass it. I got briefly angry at myself.

After all these years I'm still facing asinine choices like this???

Crap like this is still running through my head?????

Obviously yes.

I started running and my stomach protested. My entire torso area felt discombobulated, sloshy and started to ache. Having no choice but to take it easy I jogged at a snails pace until it got to be too much.

As I slowed to a walk within the first mile the decision was made. 

I was going to run 4 minutes, walk 1 and do the best that I could with what was going on! Once the decision was made the mean part of my brain shut off for good and I was back in control of my own destiny. So grateful for that!

The first three miles were a 12:42 pace which is about right for a super easy run for me.

After that my stomach settled down and I was able to turn it up -- mile by mile I worked it, going by feel, doing the 4/1 run/walk combination for the entire run! Brought the pace down to 12:01 and held it there for the rest of the race. I'm super proud of this because never in a long course race before have I finished stronger than I started!

I always follow my fuel plan -- which worked for me here as it always does!

The Boise greenbelt is wonderful! Most of the run was along the river (you can see it in the two shots above) and it was nice and cool out! The sun came out too and we had some wind gusts . . . but overall these conditions were ideal for me to have a great run!

[I used to never ever walk during races because once I start walking it's all over for me mentally. Not anymore! I typically do not train run/walk style but it's what saved my run here and kept me going].

Run time: 2:39:53. This decimates both run times from Silverman and the Utah Half! What a great baseline to work from now! I could not be more pleased!

The actual time for this run fell a bit short of my time goal for this part of the race -- but honestly, I don't care. I pushed myself harder than I ever have in a race like this and I came through on the pacing. A faster overall time would have been gravy. I'll get there! My goals are within reach!

The Finish

Having never done an "Ironman" branded race, I was not prepared for the volume of people lining the finish chute. Typically when I finish a long race the finish line is a ghost town. Not sure whether it was the crowds, the inner sense of absolute accomplishment I felt, or the fact that I had a little more in the tank but in those last few long blocks I passed about ten people and ended up with the best most jubilant finish photo ever!

How I know I finished the way I wanted to: immediately after this picture was taken I was "caught" by a volunteer -- he had to hold me up for a few seconds as I felt wobbly and disoriented. He told me I felt cold, put a blanket on me, asked me if I felt nauseous (I did not) and supported me while I got my bearings.

Tony found me a few moments later and took these photos.


We liked the Capitol building in the background. Downtown Boise is really cool!

Then we went to the athlete food area where I practically inhaled two sliders and a slice of pizza.

The next morning we packed the van and headed for home.

On the way home we stopped in a place that has special meaning for my mom and family:

The beautiful Snake River
And we stopped in Owyhee to get this shot of the post office. Where my father was postmaster for 23 years.

I'm glad this race turned out the way it did. We all have our struggles. It's so important to roll through changes that are beyond our control, even when it's not always ideal, don't you think?

Monday, April 30, 2012

I Love Open Water Swimming and Boise is Looming!

Finishing RAGE!
Still feeling happy about Rage so decided to post a picture!
With Boise 70.3 less than 40 days out, the workouts have gotten super race specific.

As in:

Saturday Brick:  53 miles biked, 3.2 miles run.
Sunday Brick:  13.4 miles biked, 10.75 miles run.

Which made today's easy open water swim just what the doctor ordered!

Didn't sleep well last night (which is unusual). Yesterday's long run lingered in my body longer than "normal." Probably because it was an excellent run with coach confirming: "Really good pacing!" when she saw the data.

Plus it was in the heat. Not in the extreme heat we had at Rage -- thankfully after that uber hot day temps dropped back down to normal spring temps here in the desert southwest.

Which meant that yesterday the high was 86 with a nice light breeze. To me that's warm (not hot) and provided excellent opportunity for acclimating for the "real" heat soon to come.

[I'm hoping Boise will be no warmer than yesterday on June 9 -- just putting it out there]

This afternoon Tony and I went down to the lake for a 45 minute easy unstructured swim.

It was windy, and the water was what I call moderately choppy. Just enough chop to make it fun and still be relaxing. It was one of those workouts that, had I not pre-planned with Tony I'd have been tempted to skip. Cobwebs lingered in my head and body from the long workouts and a nap sounded really good.

LOVE my new wetsuit. My old one was too small and was a thick water skiing suit. Wearing my new one is like night and day and it seems to make me more buoyant!

Out in the lake surrounded by chop with Tony swimming near my right elbow I felt at peace. 
  • Excited for Boise (and a little nervous).
  • Surprised at one point to have a plant in my face (shallow water)
  • Wondering how cold the water in the Lucky Peak Reservoir will be on June 9.
  • Remembering I do well in cold water. :-)
 Yeah. Boise. I grew up near there. That's a whole other story for a whole other post. For now it's time to do my 30 minute recovery trainer ride.

Have a great week everyone!!