Heidi’s First Ironman
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Heidi's First Ironman
Ironman Wisconsin Race Report:
Let me just start by saying I just fell in love with Madison Wisconsin. It made a fantastic first impression. It was like a blend of Boston, Massachusetts with Boulder Colorado and a big dose of midwestern friendliness all wrapped up in a university environment. So if you ignore the hot humid summers and the bone chilling winters, it is definitely a place worth spending some time beyond just ironman.
The day before the race, I got aquatinted with the swim by going for a little dip in Lake Monona. It was beautiful and far tastier than the Boulder Reservoir. As a matter of fact it was so wonderful, I didn’t notice as I left my wetsuit on some bleachers by the swim start. It wasn’t until 5 pm that I was aware I was without wetsuit - my mother and I jumped in a taxi and sped over to the spot - she was already thinking of plan B - where can we buy a wetsuit in Madison the night before Ironman and I was just repeating the mantra in my head ‘people are good, it will still be there’... and it was. Phew! The water temperature was perfect for wearing a wetsuit while not so cold that you felt that you would not survive without it (glad I found mine though!). As for the bike course, we had driven the day after we arrived. There were endless hills and turns so there was no way for my mind to memorize much more than key areas - I just came away with, wow - this is going to be a long bike. I loved all the farms and knew that would keep my mind pleasantly occupied during the race. One small dairy farm even had a sign that said something along the lines, “We Owe Everything We Have To Udders” - this ended up putting a smile on my face both laps of the bike.
Race day - my husband, James, diligently chronicled with the camera my every step starting at 4:45 am as we walked to the race start, dropped off my special need bags, checked my bike, stocked the bento box, rechecked my transition bags and he even managed to photograph me getting my wetsuit on halfway only to find I was putting it on backwards. I was a bit stumped when I looked down after getting my legs in it and seeing a zipper to pull up the front. There is nothing like starting the day with a good laugh and knowing that my behavior is in the normal range. Anyone who knows me has already seen me wear something inside out or backwards before so this was not a total shock, maybe even a little comforting. I made my way out into the deep water about 15 minutes before the start and bobbed around with everyone. It was so neat to see all the people that came to watch, line the shores. When the start gun went off - the frenzy began. I don’t think but 100 m of the swim were without contact - there was a bit of let up on the 2nd and final lap but not much. I noticed my neck starting to hurt some from spending so much time trying to spot- but in the end, my swim time ended up right on the button for what I expected.
As I ran up the three story circular parking structure driveway (the famed ‘helix’) I celebrated being onto the next phase of the day. After running into the conference center to get my bag, then to the changing room then back to the other end of the parking structure to get my bike only to run at least another 150 yards to the other end where the mount zone was where I had a little chuckle thinking how ridiculous this transition area was, but hey, I was doing an Ironman - bring it on!
After settling in on my bike I saw that neither my bike computer nor my heart rate monitor were giving me feedback. Great - all these years of doing things based on ‘RPE’, rate of perceived exertion, now I am hooked on gadgets that aren’t working!!!!! So I kept my bike pace slower than slow and did as ordered and I let everyone and their grandmother pass me - my mind just kept saying ‘don’t take the bait’. I kept pouring water on my shirt hoping that it would create a better contact for my heart rate monitor strap, to no avail. About 10 miles into the bike I also realized that all that extra neck work in the swim was going to make me pay - my neck muscles remained in a spasm the ENTIRE bike ride - so even when 5 hours into the bike when my heart rate monitor decided to let me know that my heart was not beating much more than what it does walking around the house on a sunday morning - I couldn’t push to save my life because of the neck pain. I was supposed to go slow - but THIS slow??? It was a long hilly ride (nothing in Boulder quite prepares you for the hilliness outside of Madison) and I just tried to stay positive - the weather was awesome, the scenery was fantastic, the support that lined the course (including super silly signs) and some Tour de France climbs with people running up with drums, cow bells, speedos, wigs, you name it, was all great. So I just needed to grin and bear it... but in the back of my mind all I could think was how am I going to do my first ever marathon length run with neck pain like this????
Needless to say, riding my bike back up the 3 story helix to hand my bike off at T2 was a relief. I ran back to the other end of the conference center did my full wardrobe change and headed out. It felt good to be on my feet ... and to my surprise, no neck pain!! So I just jogged along and enjoyed the never ending cheers and cow bells. I have to say the run was the best part for me. The people that lined almost the entire 26.2 miles of the run course were amazing - it really makes the day. Walk breaks were nice and disciplined, but at mile 3, I realized my salt tablets had fallen somewhere along the way... oh great - how can I run without these??? - I had only heard terrible leg cramping and stomach bloating stories all these years (never experienced either nor had ever been a big user of salt tablets but was willing to trust I was not immune to these avoidable pit falls). Once again I grounded myself with my equivalent of “Use the force Luke” ... ‘Heidi, you have done plenty of endurance events in the past without them - just do what you know - run the pace that feels like you can run forever’... and that is just what I did. The course was a bit cruel in that it was an out and back course done 2 times where they ran us within yards of the finish chute only to be turned around with another 13.1 miles to go. But I actually looked forward to another trip down and back the famed State Street and the tree lined lake trail along the backside of the university. There was always someone out there to make me smile and keep me pushing - my thoughts went between, 'hmmm, can I manage the pain I feel shooting up my legs', to 'wow, I am so lucky to be able to participate' and 'what great family and friends I have' and 'hey, there is my mom', or 'hey there is James, Julian and Charlotte'. At one point I had a short conversation with another racer and she said her legs were numb... for a moment I though that must be nice but then I realized how lucky I was to feel what I was feeling - it was good pain ... and it was temporary. I even met a girl that just had major cancer surgery 7 months earlier and she was unstoppable. Everyone was doing what it took to get it done. To my amazement at mile 21 I felt great. But not wanting to take any chances I just slightly picked up the pace at each aid station, and smiled bigger and bigger - I was getting it done even if just slowly.
As I ran down the finish chute with tears streaming down my face, hearing “Heidi Samuel, you are an Ironman” - couldn’t have been sweater. It was everything I had imagined plus an hour or so more of enjoyment thanks to the handful of challenges that made my ironman experience uniquely mine and well worthy of the title like “ironman”. I can now wear my commemorative ironman cow outfit knowing I earned ever black spot of it!!!!
Scott’s Ironman Canada Report
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Scott FINALLY posts his Ironman Canada report!
FastForward to Ironman Canada 2010
By FastForward Director, Scott Fliegelman
This would be my 4th go at the Ironman distance; Canada 2003 (10:39), Florida 2005 (10:29), Coeur d’Alene 2007 (DNF, saga here), and came on the heels of six fabulous months of training and a wonderful two-week family trip. Thank you Fliegelmans, Goodmans, and Schorers for a perfect taper, including a few extra pounds that I would surely use on race day! I was well rested, plenty fit, confident in an intelligent race plan, and extremely excited to share the whole experience with my F4 teammates, Liz, and Brodie. I was specifically giddy about the out-n-back run course, where I’d have the chance to see each and every F4 athlete, whether finishing with me or just getting started on the run.
My goals for the day were mostly “process” goals, and had little to do with time. My #1 goal (other then safety) was to arrive at the finish line feeling as if I had just used up all of my hard-earned fitness and executed a brilliant race tactically. If that happened, and IF the weather was not a factor, then it may have been likely that the time would be somewhat near the ten-hour mark. Another goal I had, but one that would not consume me during the race would be to qualify for the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii this October. It is fruitless to use up any energy over this goal, as qualifying is based on your results within your age group, and there is nothing you can do about who else may show up that day, and how fast they might swim, bike, and run. Surely, I’d planned to run down anyone in sight over the final miles, but that was about all the thought I’d planned to give it on race day itself.
Don’t get me wrong on this; I actually really like having “Kona” as a motivator throughout training. I see it as a blessing and a curse that I may have just enough genetic ability to perhaps someday qualify, but I’m not too caught up in the mania, as are some others. I’d like to qualify, and expect I will, but I don’t really care if it is five or ten years from now or more, as I plan to be enjoying this sport the rest of my life and have confidence that it will all come together on that one special day… someday
August 29th, 2010 was not to be that day unfortunately. The morning was perfect, other than the interminable body marking line that Jen and I chose to stand in. The weather was sunny and comfortable, and the energy in the air was exciting. After a three-year hiatus from Ironman, I was excited to be back in the game!
I found the F4 crew before the start, and lined up for the swim toward the front and left along with Dirk, Win, Ron, Michael, and Philip… all strong swimmers, and teammates I’d hoped to see throughout the day. The cannon fired and I swam aggressively for about 200 meters before aiming to “settle in” amongst my 2,800 fellow swimmers. Despite a high level of contact with others, I was relieved to be experiencing far less distress than I did in my last Ironman, when the very cold water and choppy waves nearly sent me back to the beach after the first five minutes.
The other F4 guys were no longer in sight, and likely were able to get out just ahead of a huge pack that seemed to swallow me up. The contact wasn’t awful, but there was literally nowhere to go for the rest of the swim… forward, sideways, or backwards. So, I settled in for a somewhat comfortable 1:07 swim… just about the same time I swam in 2003, and felt pretty good about it as I ran into T1. I suggest to my athletes, and personally adhere to a philosophy of evaluating one’s swim based on non time-based feedback such as minimal effort and anxiety, strong and smooth strokes, no major setbacks, etc., which described my swim nicely. I stayed pretty focused throughout the hour+ by thinking back on all those early Wednesday morning swims with Michael, the Sunday morning 7 am sessions with the F4 team and Lance’s excellent coaching, and how they were all finally paying off. I don’t really love swimming, but I do love triathlon and currently they make you swim in triathlon… so I swim. If they ever offer “a set of tennis”, bike, and run, then I’ll be the first one to sign up!
Transition was smooth, as I stuck with my plan to avoid the super-crowded and steamy changing tent, and used a bench around the back instead to put on my shoes and helmet, while leaving my wetsuit and goggles in my T1 bag with a friendly volunteer nearby. I spotted an empty port-o-let on my way to my bike and decided to empty the bladder before I’d begin to methodically refill it with the contents of my 72 oz. Camelbak… a mixture of water, a bit of Carbo Pro, and three vials of The Right Stuff, a highly effective rehydration product I’d been using for the past month or so.
The first hour of the bike was great… low heart rate and RPE (rate of perceived exertion), and power was comfortably hovering around 170 watts as planned for this stretch. Mclean Rd. had some steeper sections, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the ‘paste-eaters’ hammer away from me, only to come right back a few minutes later clearly fatigued from the effort, while I maintained the same steady effort all along… thereby burning less ‘matches’ in the process.
Once back on the flat and fast section toward Osoyoos, however, I got sucked up by a massive pack… perhaps the same gang that so wanted my company during the swim. I spotted a Boulder athlete, Diane, who would go on to take 2nd in her age and a Kona slot, who at that time was getting a little annoyed about the drafting action going on around us. I tried to calm her down a bit and suggested that she not waste any precious energy or anxiety over it, as there was pretty much nothing that could be done about it. As proof, I decided to see if I could ride through the group and get off the front, and needed about 260 watts for the effort. Unfortunately, after about two minutes at this unsustainable wattage, I look behind me only to find a couple of guys glued to my wheel, with another 100 riders being sucked along as a result.
I let off the gas and drifted back to a safe spot on the far right, and stayed patient until we made the right turn and started climbing up Richter Pass. Once again I settled in at just under 200 watts as planned, and watched just about everyone around me ride away up the first pitch. Sure enough, by the time we crested the final climb amidst 100’s of screaming spectators, most had drifted back to me and would continue to do so throughout the downhill to follow and the series of rollers ahead.
About this time I came upon F4 athlete Dirk Walker, who was riding along comfortably. We rode ‘together’ for several miles; although we made sure to keep a safe ‘non-drafting’ distance as wearing the same race kit would surely attract the attention of any officials. Next we came upon F4 Coach Philip Mazza, who looked strong, and seemed to be executing his race plan effectively thus far. He asked how I was doing and I specifically remember answering “I’m borderline hypothermic already”, a response partly to do with the looming dark clouds ahead, as well as literally feeling pretty chilly despite some sun and temps in the high 60’s… not a great sign
We all rode together into the ‘Special Needs’ zone at mile 75, where I replaced my Camelbak contents, as well as added more Clif Bloks and Mojo bar bites to my Bento Box, emptied the bladder, and headed back off in the direction of the dark clouds. I’d lost Philip and Dirk in Special Needs somewhere, so I just settled back into my aero position and tried to eat and drink my way back to some sort of warmth.
Soon enough, as the elevation started to rise, the headwinds picked up and a light rain started to fall. I cursed my decision to leave my rain jacket back in the transition area, as it easily would’ve folded up into my jersey pocket (only later, when recounting this moment to others, did I recall that I had a Camelbak on with a couple of HUGE empty compartments that should’ve contained some foul weather gear). As Colorado riders, we know how quickly the weather can change when riding… especially in the mountains, and that the Penticton forecast of ‘partly sunny and 74 degrees’ did not necessarily mean the same for 40 miles away and a couple thousand feet higher!
My mood and ability to continue to apply pressure to the pedals dropped with the temps, which I watched plummet on my Garmin bike computer from 68 to 51 degrees. The rain really picked up throughout the climb, and my whole body was shivering by this point. The spectators were great for being out there despite the weather, which really didn’t seem to be bothering them much. I noticed the same from many of my fellow-riders, as most did not seem too phased by the rain, cold, and wind, despite wearing the same minimal race clothing as I had on. Note- I’ve subsequently been diagnosed with an under-active thyroid, and one of the many symptoms I’ve had for years is extra sensitivity to cold. I’ve started on a natural thyroid supplement and am already feeling a lot better in a number of ways!
Near the top, I started gazing longingly at the many RV’s parked along the side of the road, as I was sure they were warm and toasty inside. Had anyone actually offered, I would’ve likely accepted a chance to get warm and even take an extra layer, as the 12-mile downhill to come had me rather concerned. As would happen, the aid station at the top had a handful of silver blankets, like you get at the finish line of most marathons. They wrapped one around me and tried to warm me up by their charcoal grill, which didn’t really do much, so I forged on with the blanket (hopefully) well secured around my torso.
The descent was not good. I literally shivered without a break for an hour or more as I tried to keep my bike upright and on the road. Anything over 5 mph was too cold, but I couldn’t really squeeze the brakes all that well, so often times I just had to let ‘em go and deal with the cold and wind until I got to a section that flattened out or I’d manage to brake effectively enough to get my speed back down. While I’d already let go of my primary race goals long ago, it was still ironically disappointing to be struggling at this point to go as SLOW as possible, whereas I’d planned to be exceeding 40 mph for much of this section under preferred circumstances.
The final approach to T2 through town was quite a welcome sight, as the road was pretty flat, spectators were everywhere cheering, and the temps were a little warmer than they’d been up higher. For the past half hour or so, I’d been negotiating with myself regarding what exactly to do once I get off the bike, and pretty much the only thing that sounded appealing was to head straight for Denny’s and a Grand Slam breakfast with French Toast! Other than that, I really couldn’t get my head around doing the run… just yet.
I approached the dismount line and tried to unclip from my pedals, but that wasn’t happening. Apparently I was still pretty frozen and my legs and feet could not execute the instructions my brain was delivering to them. I managed to say the word “help” as I neared the many volunteers, and combined with my pathetic looking blanket and obvious look of utter distress, about four of them easily caught me before I toppled over… thank you! They were able to get one shoe removed from the pedal, while the other wouldn’t budge so they took my foot out of the shoe instead. I had a pretty good chuckle over this when I went back at midnight to pick up my bike and saw a lone shoe sitting on the pedals
As they began whisking me towards the med tent, I managed to tell them that I wanted the option to continue on to the run, so they diverted me back into transition (finally ending my interminable bike split), and the head timer removed my chip and placed it near the run exit, saying “if you decide to continue after the med tent, then just put this back on and head out on the run. Otherwise, just give it back to me and we’ll give you a DNF.” I was happy to hear that, but honestly was still thinking about Denny’s at that point, and may’ve given myself about a 25% chance of actually doing the run.
The medical staff were awesome, and brought me over to the very well appointed “walking wounded’ section, which I guess is preferable to the non-walking wounded area nearby. They immediately applied about a dozen hot packs to strategic locations on my body and covered me with blankets. Apparently, I missed the exact instructions regarding the one intended for my groin area, as a very intimidating and square-shaped woman who appeared to be in charge told me to put the heat pack down the front of my pants “next to my boys”, or that she would do it for me. I immediately complied.
After about 15 minutes, and some chicken soup, bagels w/ cream cheese, cookies, etc., I stopped thinking about Denny’s and resumed my internal debate about what to do next. Three years earlier at IM CDA, I could not continue after the bike for different reasons, and while that decision was the right one at the time, I was really hoping that today would not end up the same way. There was a fast-looking guy nearby who they brought in about the same time as me, and I asked him if he planned to do the run. He said, “No way man… I came here for a certain time and to qualify for Kona, so what’s the point of going out there now.” It was then that I decided that I would definitely be doing the run somehow or another, as this guy’s reaction seemed to clearly illustrate the exact opposite of why I was there that day.
So, 55 minutes after being assisted off my bike at T2, I began my run with a smile and a plan to complete one of my key pre-race goals, to enjoy seeing each and every FastForward athlete (27 in total) along the out-n-back run course. I’d hoped to cheer for a few who’d likely be finishing up a stellar and speedy performance, while others would just be getting started and could use some positive energy. I didn’t really have much of a game plan as far as my own run, but my legs seemed comfortable with about a 7:30 pace over the opening miles, so I just kinda went with that while passing a good number of startled runners who couldn’t seemed to figure out why I was running so fast.
An interesting thing happened about eight miles into the run, when suddenly that pace got a little uncomfortable, and I lacked the specific motivation to ‘find comfort in discomfort’ as I often tell my athletes. It isn’t ‘pain’ per se, but rather those are the sensations that lead to the completion of your goals, and they are to be embraced. As my primary individual goals had already slipped past, and you need to be really focused at this point, I decided to ‘find comfort in comfort’ instead
The ten-minute pace I settled into was much nicer, and I kept that up to the turnaround, having seen Erin and Tom on their way to a sizzling finish. I thought I might catch up and run along with them for a bit, but it wasn’t quite that easy to pick up the pace again, and now the body and legs were really starting to hurt from the cumulative fatigue of the day, as well as the pounding of those opening fast miles. Walking seemed like a good idea, so I did that for a couple of hilly miles, but then I got cold (despite the jacket I’d been wearing the whole run… yea, the same one I should’ve been wearing hours earlier on the bike!), so I needed to start running again just to stay warm. By now I was happy to see a steady flow of F4 athletes on the outbound stretch, and one-by-one I crossed over to their side and gave a high-4 or hug and exchanged some positive energy.
The last F4 athlete I saw was Jen, who was at mile six at 7 pm, meaning she had five hours to complete the next 20 miles in order to beat the midnight cut off for an official finish. I knew that would require about a 15-minute mile, which would be pretty tough, but I told her to stay focused, move swiftly, and that I’d see her at the finish soon.
A few guys around me started doing the math, given that they really wanted to finish before 8 pm, for a less than 13-hour finish. That meant about a 10-minute mile, which was a bit faster than we’d been running/ walking. Well, the coach in me took up the challenge, and I told them to stick with me as I found my best 9:45 pace within a few strides, and along they came. I had a nice little “pace group” going as we came back into town, and the crowds of spectators started to grow. My new ‘friends’ had their goal in hand at this point and they encouraged me to pick it up, having heard my saga and knowing that I could probably go faster if properly motivated. Well, that kick in the ass was I all I needed to get back down to 7:30 pace for the last few miles, with the last mile closer to 6:30 pace. I must’ve looked a little silly at that point passing dozens of weary runners, but I felt I owed it to the race and myself to finish the way I’d envisioned for the past year, regardless of what the clock would read at the end.
It read 12:53:02, nearly three hours off when I hoped to have arrived at this point. While I allowed myself to be a little disappointed to miss my A-goal; to arrive at the finish line feeling as if I had just used up all of my hard-earned fitness, I was feeling pretty good about finishing amidst some rather unexpected challenges, and about a million times better than I did after my DNF at IM CDA three years earlier.
Liz and (two-year-old) Brodie were right there in the finish area with big hugs and kisses, and both deserved a medal for surviving their 13-hour + endurance contest that day… thank you both for being there for me that day, and all season long!
At our Team celebration dinner the night before the race, I prophetically suggested that we all consider ourselves winners for our many incredible accomplishments throughout the season, as you never know what the race day might bring. Fortunately, I was buying what I was selling in that speech, as I consider 2010 to be one of my very best seasons of triathlon. There were some solid race results, some challenging days, many memorable training sessions with the F4 crew as well as solo, and overall I felt like I’d achieved the highest level of physical and mental fitness I could’ve hoped for at nearly 43 years old.
Huge thanks go to the members of the 2010 FastForward Ironman Team, and especially my two co-coaches Michael and Philip for all their help making this season such a tremendous success and a whole lot of fun!
Donna is a two time Ironman
Friday, September 17, 2010
Donna is a two time Ironman
This year it was Personal!
This was my second Ironman. Obviously, the high of completing Ironman Lou last year and having a great group of people to train, coerced me to say yes to IM Canada 2010. Also, while in my delusional state, I told myself I could work less, the kids needed less of my time, I would have more free time to train, I would bike all winter even in snow, I would lose 10 more pounds, and did I say I would work less. Yeah, right!
So for 6 months, I trained and arriving in Penticton I was healthy and injury free with bike and luggage. Though I wanted to have that warm feeling of confidence, since I had finished an Ironman last year and I was stronger this year, it eluded me. Maybe because of the ferocious winds that were blowing, the white caps on the water and sand flying around me, I don’t know. Regardless, Sunday morning came and once again standing in ankle deep water waiting for the cannon to fire. I have no specialty, this was my 2nd year swimming, and I am persistent but slow on the bike and steady, but not speedy runner. I knew that my day needed to be perfectly paced and there was little room for a flat tire or anything else the Ironman gods wanted to throw me. The cannon fired and I was back in reality. This was my first open water start with nearly 3000 people. I stayed back for 20 seconds, saw an open area of water and started connecting one stroke after another. The water was amazingly clear and it actually allowed for me to draft and move around other people which was an exciting first. When I walked through the swim finish, I looked down at my watch 1:36, 18 minutes faster than my IM LOU time. I could have walked away and said it was a good day. I was cold but made it through transition, with good speed (much faster to last year) and then out on the bike.
The bike, it was beautiful and beastly. I kept to my race plan and established power wattages. Richter Pass was steady, with people passing me. However, in the rollers and flats I passed them and they never retook me. Being more towards the back, I saw no familiar faces or F4 colors of pink and gold. It was the first lull in the race when I thought that I might not make the 3 cut-offs. I put my head down and kept pedaling. When I got to the out and back however, there were F4 pinks and golds and smiling faces. I made the first cut off with ease and my spirits lifted for a brief period until the beastly rain and winds came racing towards me as I rode to Twin Lake. The headwinds were eroding my time and the ‘demeantors’ were surrounding me. I kept moving, but my mind started focusing on the ‘what if’ I didn’t finish. Would I return for next year? How would I tell Scott and the others?
I was truly amazed when I made the second bike cut-off and was ready to ‘do the downhill’ section of the course. However, is it really downhill when the wind is blowing uphill? All I know is that I truly didn’t think that I would make the final cut. Mentally, I prepared what I would do and what I would say. I knew that I had the best swim of my life and I couldn’t have biked the course better and more consistently on that day. I had resolution. However, I remembered a text that son Stephen (IM LOU 1999 finisher) had sent me the morning before the race, “ Today your gonna do great, I have compete faith. Just remember it’s your race and go your own pace. It is gonna be rough, but don’t worry your both tough. And if you hit a bump in the road, it’s okay there is plenty of day to pick up and go. It may be a flat, but you’ll keep going forward and don’t look back. Your body’s gonna ache, your mind is gonna fight, but realize now, its gonna be alright. Your legs feel heavy but that medal is heavier. Its not just its weight rather than what it truly takes. You’re a winner and an Ironman, and the best parents a son can have. I love you guys. Your gonna do great. Stephen” Today, was his 19th birthday. (ps-labor was shorter and easier) I was going to give it my all. Weird things happen on a long lonely bike, the demeantors left and I started mentally talking to Stephen and asked him to send me some wings.
The last 15 miles were mentally tough. I knew I had to bike smart and make every second and every mile count. Fortunately, we had driven in this way and I remembered that part of the route as well as the route once in town. Traffic was totally stopped, the bored honked their horns and yelled out words of support. When I turned down Main Street, my legs were still feeling strong. As I passed the familiar retail stores, I kept tabs on my time. It was close, very close. I put my head down as aero as I could be and turned my legs over oblivious to all else. As I approached the Starbucks in down, I glanced up and saw Doug running (no lie) and our eyes met. The final turn to transition was right ahead, blue shirted volunteers started cheering and running towards the bike finish. I made the turn and the volunteers whisked me off my bike and floated me over the transition mat. I had made the cut by 2 minutes. That was way too close. I cried as I ran to the Transition tent, thinking that Stephen wings had help to carry me across. Did I use up my matchbook? I didn’t know.
Two volunteers ripped off and pulled on my clothes and I was off again. I had been so focused on finishing the bike that I was behind on hydration and nutrition. I used the first mile to drink and the first two aide stations to eat. I saw Jessica and Caitlin a couple of times as I ran the out and back, which gave me strength. As a Mom, you never want to disappoint your children. The weather was great and I started to run a steady 11-12 minute/mile pace. My ankles hurt at first, but then slowly got better. I met up with an athlete from Montana who had also finished the bike with only seconds to spare. Our pace was about the same so we ran and talked. Time and miles went by. Heather had been here twice before, but not finished. This was her third attempt and she said told me that she didn’t think she would finish today. I knew I didn’t make it off that bike, not to finish. I told her that if she stuck by my side, she would finish. Along the way, I got to see most of our F4 group. I saw Doug and we crossed to hug, he had 2 miles on me. Heather and I made the final hill down to the turn. We kept a steady pace, walking briskly the steeper hills and running down to the flats. It was dark with only distant glow rings ahead of us. We kept pace and talked to runners as we passed them. We stumbled on Jennifer. We slowed our pace slightly, but still keeping on calculated pace to finish. It was so great to see Jennifer, a familiar face! It wasn’t long until we picked up Russ and then a race friend of Heather’s. We are now a mass of athletes, tired and desperate to finish-constantly moving forward. Moving as a mass, with one single goal in mind we created our own energy and momentum. I felt strong and energetic. It wasn’t long and we came across Lida. I know she would have preferred to be finished, but it was great to see her and add her to our mass. We kept moving forward. I kept calling out pace, time and the miles to go. We had 3 miles to go and I knew we all had time. My pace picked up instinctually, Heather hung in there with me, though she was struggling and nauseated but stayed with me. I knew our F4 pack was going to make it as well. We turned the corner and saw the finish. I told her that she was going to be an Ironman tonight. She cried all the way the entrance of the chute and we hugged as I then I sent my new friend to the finish.
At the opening to the chute, I saw Doug who is always my night in shining (glow necklace tonight) armour. He had waited for me so we could finish together. Hands together we crossed the finish line. We had finished our second Ironman. I thought the first finish may have been just luck or a fluke, but after today I knew it was real.
This Ironman was personal. It was a day for this non-swimmer to have her best swim ever. It was a day that my children gave me the love, strength, encouragement and perseverance to accomplish in the face of adversity. Those are the things that I had always tried to teach and give them, and now as adults they were returning it to me. It was a day that became not about time or PR but the wonderful personal satisfaction of helping a stranger whose paths just happen to cross meet her goal. It was a day of holding hands sharing a finish with the love of my life.
Today was personal. Oh, BTW, I decided that I do have a specialty-stubborn.
2 time Ironman Finisher!
Erin’s Ironman PR
Erin's Ironman PR
Even before I raced my first Ironman in 2005, I had decided that I would one day race Ironman Canada. Because of the logistics to register for Canada, and my children’s activity schedule, the opportunity never presented itself until this year. When I heard F4 was taking a team of 30 athletes, I knew it was destiny…
If I could have written a script for the perfect Ironman race, it would be similar to the one I had on August 29th in Canada. My goals for the race were 1. Break 13 hours (sorry Michael, no matter how much you discouraged setting a time goal…I just had to) and 2. have a great run. I’m elated to say “mission complete” and here’s the account:
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. on race day feel well rested and ready to race. I ate 1 ½ packets of instant oatmeal mixed with walnuts for breakfast. Everything went amazingly smooth that morning, and I was out the door and ready to walk to race with some of my teammates. The walk was longer than anticipated, but nice to ease the nerves. I dropped off my special needs, got body marked, and said goodbye to Matt knowing that I would see him one more time at the beach start.
I headed to the transition area. By this time, I had lost my mates along the route to get body marked. I put my PB&J’s in my Bento Box, and headed to change into my wetsuit. I was able to locate a couple of F4 peeps. We put our wetsuits on, took some cute photos, and headed to our meeting spot on the beach. Here, I met up with most of my teammates; we hugged, wished each other good luck, and placed ourselves for the swim.
I put myself in the center of the crowd about 7 people back. In hindsight, I think my open water swim has improved a little, and will start placing myself closer to the front, as the swim was fairly brutal for the entire ride! I kept a straight line, and sighted maybe every 15-20 strokes. There were always people very close to me, and I used them more so than the buoys to sight. The turn “buoys” were actually houseboats, which was a nice touch. I was pre-warned that there would be scuba divers at the turns, and there were. It’s kind of freaky to see a body 15 feet below you while you are swimming. People on the houseboats were having parties, and cheering..the cheering always give you a little extra push! The turn at houseboat #2 was very congested. I made the turn and headed home. Like I said, I was in the washing machine the entire swim, but I had practiced open water enough that I felt very much at ease. I finish the swim and exit the water…where’s the clock??? I can’t find the clock…I look at my watch…it was stopped 16 minutes into the race. I look everywhere for a clock, and can’t find one. Oh well, start watch again and on to T1.
I get to T1 with my swimsuit on, I empty my bag, and the lady helping me starts to lecture me on how I should swim in my race outfit. (I usually do, however with the lower temperature expected in the morning, I wanted to make a complete costume change.) After I explained this to her, I get dressed, put on arm warmers, and off to locate the Guru. I immediately start eating on the bike. While it seems everyone is passing me, I settle into a very easy first hour. I was following my bike plan in terms of heart rate to a tee, as I knew I would need to sacrifice time on the bike for an excellent run. (We were told during training that there is no such thing as a great bike and a crappy run. If you have a crappy run, most likely you paced the bike incorrectly.) The only electronic equipment with me was my heart rate monitor. I had no computer on my bike, which felt very odd. I had no clue how fast I was going, or what my exact mileage was throughout the entire ride. I think this actually helped me into not getting fixated on my speed.
The course was gorgeous. We went past many vineyards and little fruit/veggie stands. The crowd support was absolutely amazing! I don’t think I rode more than 10 minutes without seeing a spectator. This is quite a feat considering Canada is a 112 mile loop. There was a group of girls called the “Pirate Posse”. They must’ve been following someone around my speed, because they were in a vehicle that leap frogged me all day long. There were all sorts of spectators in costume that I saw all day long.
The first 40 miles were fairly fast. Then came Richter Pass. We were told that the grade was similar to Jamestown…hmmm….not sure about that one, but climbing is fun for me, so I just kept it easy. I kept my HR under 150 for the entire ride, including hills. After climbing Richter there was quite a descent, so I figured I was done with the climb. What came next was “interesting”…let’s just say they call them the “7 bitches” for a reason. At least with Richter, you know what you’re getting…after Richter, there are 7 “rollers” that were quite relentless…especially when I was trying to “take it easy”. Somewhere on the 7 rollers I caught up with Tom! I rolled up chatted for a second (no drafting), then he dropped me like a rock. I didn’t see him again until the run.
I treated the bike like a rolling buffet…I ate 2 PB&J’s, 2 bananas, 1 package of Honey Stingers, 1 bottle of Gu drink, 1 package of cheese/peanut butter crackers, and my magic snack…potato chips. I had a baggie of potato chips that I had saved for the end of my ride. I took them out right before I approached the “out and back” portion of the ride. YUMMMY, HEAVEN..just what I needed…I munched away, one chip at a time….the chips made the out and back a little more bearable, as it seemed like the turning point was never in sight. I turned around, hoping that I would pass some of my F4 team, for some camaraderie. I only saw one teammate on the out and back portion. It was a little unnerving not to know where the rest of the gang was, or how everyone was doing. So far I had only seen Jennifer, Barb, Tom and Chris.
The weather had been looking sketchy for about an hour and a half. I knew rain was inevitable…just how much and how long it would last was the question. After getting out of the out and back portion of the ride, the wind really started to pick up. (In general there was wind all day on the bike course.) At this point, the course is mentally challenging enough, as we are approaching 90 miles..here is when the worst part of my day happened. The wind picked up really hard my bag of chips flew out of my Bento Box!!! I had only gotten to eat about 1/2 of them. It was horrible, I didn’t know how I could go on....then it started raining. On to a bigger problem. I’m not sure how long it rained, but I do remember that I had to put my arm warmers back on, after having taken them off earlier. It was raining as we were climbing to Yellow Lake. There was a huge crowd at the top. They lined the street so that we were riding “Tour” style…only 1 or 2 bikes could fit through at a time. We were climbing, and the fans were screaming…it was awesome! After Yellow Lake, there is another little climb to Twin Lakes…Matt caught me at that hill. He ran next to my bike screaming something about wet, cold, hypothermia; get a heat blanket at the top??? HUH??? I didn’t really know what he was talking about….but happy to see him. I crested the hill, and flew down the next 12ish miles to the finish. Whew…off my bike no mechanical…life is great!
At this point I still did not know where I was in total race time. I entered T2, made a complete costume change (again) and headed to the run course. I was going sockless, and a little nervous about this. However, I hadn’t worn socks on a run since the Boulder Peak and my blisters were non-existent. I had no back-up plan if blisters appeared. I saw the race clock as I exited to the run, we were about 8 hours into the race. I had to run the marathon in less than 5 hours in order to make my goal. I had never been able to run that time in an Ironman, so I had no idea if it was possible.
I started my run very slow and tried to focus on keeping my heart rate down. I took 1 gel at the first aid station. After the first aid station, I only drank chicken broth and Pepsi. I always took one cup of each, and drank what I could. I carried 1 water bottle on my fuel belt and refilled as necessary.
I had forgotten all about my run/walk plan until about mile 4 (oops)...and then I started to implement it. The first 6 miles went by quickly. I had a lot of energy, and was talking to everyone. I kept thinking “when am I going to start feeling bad”? I met two people that were from Colorado and ran with them for a couple of miles. During this time, Matt rode up on a bike. He informed me of conversations he had been having with Emma. (He was frustrated because my mom and kids wouldn’t stay glued to their computers to track me.) I asked him what my swim split was. He said 1:10. I said, no seriously, what was it? 1:10, he said…WOW! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was capable of a 1:10 swim…I would’ve been completely satisfied with 1:18…I was amazed! Matt snapped a couple of photos then headed off back to the finish.
The run was wonderful…it was quite windy, but it was a cross wind, so nothing horrible. It was extremely hilly too…I didn’t remember being warned of the hilliness of the run course. It was beautiful, and I felt great, so I didn’t mind. I’ve never chatted with so many racers on a run. Everyone was friendly, and I ran with a lot of different people. Most of the run is along a lake…this is where I started to see friends and teammates. First there was Ron, Win, Dirk, Paul, and Dan…then as Phil was approaching me he started heading across the street. I wasn’t sure what he was doing?? He crossed the street and gave me a HUGE “high-4”….there was so much energy in his “high-4” that it definitely put a bounce in my step. Next I saw Michael. After Michael, I hit the turnaround. I saw Tom shortly after I made the turnaround. Going back was fun, as I saw many more teammates, and several other friends from Boulder. I saw some of my girlfriends running together..I was a little jealous, and wished I could run with them. There were so many people from Boulder, you would think it was a local race. Each friend I passed gave me an extra shot of mojo.
At around mile 19, I was starting to get tired, and still didn’t know if my sub-13 hour was within the realm of possibility…at this point, it occurred to me that someone around me must’ve started their watch when the gun went off…I should just ask. So I looked at the girl next to me and asked her. She informed me that we were 11 ½ hours into the race. That means that I had 1 ½ hours to run 7 miles??? HA! I could do that in my sleep! I was going to make my goal! There was another girl running near us and she said “I wonder if I could break 13 hours too?”….We looked at each other and said we’re ALL going to break 13 hours! We were so excited! The three of us ran together for a couple of miles passing each other back and forth. In the end, one passed me and I passed one, but we all finished within 5 minutes of each other.
Mile 23 and 24 were extremely hard. I imagine I slowed down due to fatigue. The last mile is in town, where the streets are lined up with crowds…it’s very hard not to keep running, as you have so much crowd support, and everyone is yelling your name. I saw Tom once again at the last little out and back…he had gained time on me and was right on my tail. I told him to catch me and we could finish together. (It turned out he finished only two people behind me..only 18 seconds J ) As I headed into the finishing chute, I saw my time of 12:39:53….I had no idea I could do that! It was a perfect day!
I want to thank Emma and Jonah and Chris for putting up with my training schedule and being patient with me, especially the last month of training where I just kept saying “just this one more training day”. Thank you also to my Mom who helped me with the kids on Wednesdays this summer, and especially for staying at home with the kids while I was in Canada racing. Thanks to my 3 coaches: Michael, who was my primary coach, and got to answer (many) of my nutty emails; Philip who is a good friend as well as an F4 coach, and got to hear my training related questions on a daily basis. Finally, Matt who has been with me all 3 Ironman’s, listening to me and my (endless) concerns …questioning myself, my coaches, my plan and everything in between. He has always been my biggest supporter, and the best sherpa a racer could have. (aka “Erin’s bitch” as he often introduced himself) Finally, I want to thank Scott for putting such a fabulous training program together. This season was undoubtedly the most fun I have ever had training for a race!
Ironman’s are not about one day…they are a journey. This particular journey was 5 years long and included 2 previous Ironman’s, countless bike rides, and many races. Ironman is a lifestyle, and has become a part of who I am.
Mariane’s First Ironman
Mariane's First Ironman
My Iron (wo) man Journey – A novel by Mariane Harsch
I’ve wanted to complete an Ironman distance triathlon for many years now. I remember working out in my home gym and the Kona IM was on the TV (didn’t get much of a workout done on that day). Watching those amazing athletes come across the finish line and seeing the many inspirational finishes around the midnight hour was a very inspirational thing for me. Listening to Jennifer & Barb’s amazing experiences with Ironman and the F4 team, I decided this was my year to do it. I’ll never forget that mixed emotion when I registered online for IM Canada. It was a combination of pure excitement & “what the hell did I just do?”
The training leading up to the race was amazing. I’ve learned a lot! I’ve met some of the greatest people! I’ve had a blast! I truly felt ready for the race
My husband and I flew into Spokane, WA on Thursday and drove up to Penticton. It took us 5 hours to get there and coincidently got to drive part of the bike course. Pretty easy drive & saved us about half the cost in airfare for flying into Kelowna I also got my first glimpse of how quickly the weather can change when a storm came through.
Friday morning we got to swim in the lake. It was pretty chilly because I hadn’t picked up my stuff from Tri-bike transport so no wetsuit. The swim went well & I couldn’t believe how clear the water was. Nothing like the Boulder Rez. After the swim, it was time to pick up my race packet & stuff from tri-bike transport.
That afternoon I packed my transition bags. After several hours (newbie), I brought my bags to Barb & Jennifer’s room. They thought I did a good job overall, but thought I had enough Advil to send me to the hospital for a serious stomach pump. Advil was then removed from bags with exception of T2. VERY HELPFUL & HAD OUR OWN LITTLE CELEBRATION IN THEIR ROOM!
That evening was the mandatory meeting and IM banquet. This is where I learned of the extra time cutoffs on the course. 2 additional cutoffs on the bike – I had to be at special needs by 3:15pm and top of Yellow Lake by 4:30pm. 1 extra on T2 – out of tent by 5:45pm 1 extra cutoff on run – halfway point by 9pm. STRESS! Scott reassured me not to worry about it! Upon leaving the meeting the weather outside was FREEZING (warm when we got there)! MENTAL NOTE WAS TAKEN – CHANGE CLOTHING FOR SWIM & T1. My original plan was to swim in tri short & tri sports top and put bike top on in T1 for quicker transition. I changed my plan to wear a swimsuit and make complete change in T1. Time to repack items in bags. REALLY GLAD I MADE THIS CHANGE!! ONLY REGRET IN TRANSITION BAGS WAS I WISHED I HAD PACKED MORE ADVIL BECAUSE I COULDN’T FIND IT WHEN I NEEDED IT IN T2.
Saturday I dropped my transition bags and bike off . I got a good feel for the transition area. Later that night we had our team dinner at Boston Pizza. It was really fun & the awards that Barb made were amazing.
3:45am alarm. Dressed & ready to go by 5:15am Walk down to beach with Barb, Jennifer, Jenn, & my husband. More race nerves than I’ve ever had. Glad we stopped to use bathroom a couple blocks away from transition (transition bathrooms had extremely long lines). Dropped off special needs bags, got body marked (stood in long line to get marked).
Swim- The swim was amazing. The water was like glass before we all took off. I waited on shore and by the time I had to walk far enough out to start the swim 1 minute had passed. I was able to swim relatively bumped free. The water was colder than I was expecting. My hands and feet were feeling it and by the time I finished I was cold under my wetsuit. Wetsuit strippers were a godsend! OVERALL SWIM WAS AMAZING & I WOULDN’T CHANGE A THING! 1:25:43 (BETTER THAN I THOUGHT)!
T1-Thank God for Anna! The volunteers were pretty busy in the tent. I was FREEZING! I was struggling getting dressed due to the cold. I was shaking pretty badly and struggling. I managed to get dressed & Anna helped with the arm warmers & leg warmers. I wore a fleece hat on my head under the helmet. NOTE: NO MATTER WHAT WEATHER LOOKS LIKE WHEN YOU LEAVE THE TENT, BRING WIND/WATER PROOF JACKET FOR RIDE. IT’S A LONG DAY & WEATHER CAN CHANGE. 10:30 (A little longer than I thought, but still on task).
Bike-The bike started out amazing. It was so nice to see so many F4 athletes at the beginning of the bike. I stopped at aid station 1 to peel layers & shove in bike jersey. (mistake #1 -wish I had removed leg warmers & just rolled down sleeves) Way too many bathroom breaks - almost every aid station. I didn’t adjust fluid intake for cool temps and lack of sweat. (mistake #2). Painful stomach cramps starting somewhere around Richter Pass so I skipped a meal to see if it would pass. No such luck. Aid Station #6 is where Jocelyn was at. She thought it was gas pains & told me whatever I did not to stop eating or I’d never make it through the entire race. Started popping Gas X (good thing I packed it & listened to Jocelyn’s advice). I was tired of lugging around the arm warmers & leg warmers in my jersey pocket so I gave them to Jocelyn (mistake #3 – these were the only clothing items I had to keep me warm & now I had nothing). Weather changed somewhere between Richter Pass & the out and back. The wind picked up, we had a few sprinkles. From out & back to the end of the bike, it became a mental race for me. I went from feeling very comfortable on the bike to stressing out about making the cutoffs. The out & back seemed to take forever. It was hilly & windy. I made it to Special needs with time to spare on the cutoff clock, so I did eat my chips & drink my coke. It tasted as good as I was hoping. From the out & back to the top of Yellow Lake seemed to take an eternity. Got rained on (thank Goodness it wasn’t the torrential downpour the faster riders got) & windy. Met up with Jenn Szabo & Jennifer & felt great when we made it to the top of Yellow Lake before the cutoff. (FYI TO FASTER RIDERS – TOUR DE FRANCE CROWD LEFT & US SLOWER RIDERS ONLY HAD AROUND 8 PEOPLE UP THERE CHEERING US ON.) I really thought I was in the home stretch once I made it to the top, but high winds doused my excitement. I couldn’t get aero on the downhill, I wasn’t getting the speeds I anticipated, & I had to start pedaling on some stretches. By no means was I in the home stretch. As I kept watching the time & my avg. speed decrease, I was becoming more frantic to make it before the cutoff. Main Street seemed to stretch on forever. It was a bit disheartening feeling like you were the lone biker out on the course when I hit the area where the runners were. Finally, I made it to the finish with only around 15 minutes to spare. 8:43:42 (around 40 minutes longer than I expected & definitely not in HR zones so extra matches burned & run will be slower) . BIKE IS REALLY WHERE MY MENTAL BREAKDOWNS OCCURRED – NOT ON THE RUN WHERE I WAS EXPECTING IT TO HAPPEN.
T2 - Mentally exhausted from bike and spent a little too much time in the tent. Things I would do differently looking back are: investing $ into another pair of tri shorts (changed into singlet which made potty breaks long on run, going to the bathroom before I had changed from bike clothes to singlet for same reason mentioned above, not listening to Jennifer & Barb and packing Advil all my bags because I couldn’t find it, & jogging out of T2, instead I walked so I could change the alarm on my watch (And did I mention not to listen to Jennifer & Barb J LOL) 14:48 around 10 minutes longer than expected.
Run - What can I say? I felt GREAT on the entire run! Well, maybe that’s a lie. I really needed Advil coming off the bike. My lower back was killing me. I did run into Jennifer and was very glad she had 800mg of Tylenol. I have to say my memorable moment on the run was when she had Vaseline smeared all over her (her face, her arms, her shirt… it was hilarious). I set my watch to go off every 7 minutes for a 1 minute walk break. I kept it up for the entire run. I did end up walking a little more because it wasn’t on pace with the aid stations. It was fabulous to see everyone on the run. Spectators commented how fresh I looked thanks to the lipstick. YES IT WORKED! Several remarks were made (including from ScottTomko….apparently he could tell it was me right away) about my bouncy stride. I met a girl on the course and we ended up staying together for the last 12 miles (Also bummed Advil from her – it was Canadian so maybe that’s why I felt so great coming across the finish line… who knows what was in it). Looking back I’d change my fluid intake (potty breaks at almost every aid station). 5:43:26 (around 43 minutes longer than expected).
Finish line - Words can’t describe how I felt coming across that finish line. It was a moment of pure joy!!! PLUS THE PICTURE TURNED OUT GREAT!
So one question remains, why do I feel the need to justify my time? Goal written in week 3 of training:
03/17/10 at 03:56 PM
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My goal is to be an Ironman finisher. For me, it will be about the experience rather than a time. (Although a great time would be nice.) CHECK!
I will trust in my coaches and the training to get me in the best race condition possible. CHECK!
I will have a clear nutrition and hydration plan in place for race day. CHECK!
I will do my best during this training to find balance between my family, training, and work. CHECK!
I look forward to getting to know all of the incredible people who will be on this journey with me. CHECK!
When I reach that point in the race where it no longer comes down to training but the willpower to finish, I know I will be strong enough to get past it. CHECK!
My favorite saying is "JUST BE IT!" So with that said, "I WILL BE IRONMAN!" CHECK!
The only answer I can come up with is that my IM journey isn’t over yet. It’s my way of rationalizing why I want to do another one. It’s the athlete in me wanting to improve. It’s the challenge & hope of having that one perfect race! JUST LIKE ERIN DID!