Friday, May 12, 2017

2017 Ironman St. George 70.3

Ok, so maybe it’s time to write one of these again…
 
Last year, when trying to figure out my 2017 race schedule, I just couldn’t get excited about anything. I kinda wanted to do another full, just for the sake of doing a full, but didn’t feel particularly committed to any of them. Halves were kinda meh, and I couldn’t quite seem to find a focus (other than “go faster”). I just didn’t know what I really wanted. Coach finally suggested St. George 70.3, promising it would be a tough, “epic” type race, which was early enough in the season to keep me motivated through the winter, but left plenty of time to do more racing for the rest of the year.
 
Hey coach, you were right: it was certainly “epic.”
 
Anyway, fast forward through the winter, and a marathon, and a quick build up to learn how to ride a bike again. A month out, I was feeling perhaps a bit rusty, but pretty confident. Then we suddenly decided to buy a new house and sell our current house, and two weeks before the race we found ourselves madly prepping to sell, juggling agents who wanted to show the house, and entertaining the cats during open houses. I don’t think this really negatively impacted the race, except that my head wasn’t really in it as much as it normally would be—I got all my workouts in (it was actually the best timing, since I was tapering anyway), but my mind was way more preoccupied with stuff at home than I was with racing. Good or bad, it is what it is.
 
After a long but annoying day of travelling, we arrived in St. George on Thursday afternoon. And it was hot. Like 98F hot. And after the ridiculous Seattle winter/spring, where standard weather was about 45F and rain for the last 120+ days or whatever (not even kidding), it felt REALLY EXTRA HOT. After picking up packets, we assembled bikes and went to bed—and I promptly fell asleep and got like 9+ hours of sleep!
 

Due to aforementioned house stuff, I had been getting wayyyy less sleep for the past couple weeks, so it was actually really amazing (and important!) that I was able to just SLEEP so much that night. On the other hand, I did wake up often throughout the night because my neck hurt thanks to the hotel mattress and pillows (I think I’m just super sensitive to those things and need to start travelling with my own pillow) soooo, there’s that.
 
Anyway, we got a short little run in after breakfast—and it was hot. There was also nowhere flat, as we found ourselves up and down and up and down and UP a giant hill…. All in our quick, 15-minute run. I feel like these things really should have tipped us off…
 

But since there was nothing to be done about it, we grabbed our bikes to spin and make sure everything had been reassembled correctly. Still hills. Everything seemed fine. Cut it short because we didn’t want to actually do any work, and seriously, the hills.
 

Finally, we headed out to Sand Hollow Reservoir, which was the swim start and T1, to drop off bikes and bike bags and to get in a quick practice swim. The super cold winter meant that no lakes at home were warm enough to swim in yet, so we hadn’t had a chance to do ANY open water swimming—last time I got an OWS in was at 70.3 WC in Australia, back in September! I also had a new wetsuit (the new BlueSeventy Helix), and I was anxious to actually try to swim in it. I will admit that I actually brought my old wetsuit to Utah as well, just in case the new one didn’t fit right!

We got to T1 and I realized…I had forgotten my wetsuit at the hotel! BOTH OF THEM! T1 was a good half hour from the hotel, but I also realllllllly needed to do a practice swim aka go stand in some open water, so after dropping off our bikes in transition, we head back to the hotel. Then back to the reservoir. So annoying, ugh!!! But an hour later, we were back, and actually go to test out the water.
 
FYI, putting on a neoprene wetsuit when it’s in the 90s is really not a fun thing, but the water was cold (60-62ish I think they said) so as soon as we got into the water, it was worth it! Luckily, my wetsuit felt much better than it did when I tried it on (for the first time, shhh) in the hotel the night before, and as much as I grumbled about the whole swimming thing, it felt “good.” Allen swam a million times faster than me, and I quickly remembered how much I hate open water swimming (ok, so I’m not sure if it’s necessarily the open water I hate, or just the swimming in general), so after a quick 10 minutes we called it good. It’s not like I was about to gain any big swim improvement, and I had confirmed the new wetsuit was a go!
 
 

Next up was a dinner get-together with Wattie Ink teammates who were in St. George.  So much fun!  We had some good food and a fun time chatting about the race (and laughing at how sunburnt Allen and I were from being in a state with sunshine for 24 hours), before all heading off to bed.  Something about a race the next morning… ;)
 
Up until this point, I was still very much in denial about a race.  I think because of the house distraction, I just hadn’t been thinking about it much and it truly did not feel like there was this thing I had to do tomorrow!  Usually I’ll be fine, but then finally start getting nervous the night before—not this time!  I tried to go through the motions (also hard, as the first race of the season meant I couldn’t really remember what those motions were) and honestly didn’t give anything much thought.  Maybe I should have cared a little more –and it’s not that I didn’t care, I just didn’t feel any pressing urgency to anything—but I got everything ready to go, and went to bed.
 
Early alarm clock the next morning.  I distinctly remember looking at myself in the mirror, brushing my teeth at 4am, and asking myself what I was doing.  Why do I even do this?  I could be asleep in bed right now.  Seriously, Rosanne, WHY!?
 
But instead of think about it too much and trying to remember the “why,” we grabbed our bags, grabbed some coffee, and hopped onto the hotel shuttle, which dropped us off at T2, where we would take the bigger bus out to T1.
 
That’s when I realized that I had left my cold bottle of Gatorade and my bottle of EFS (aka my bike nutrition) in the fridge in the hotel room.
 
Ok, quick, change of plans.  There was always the chance to go back to the hotel and get it, but that was going to be stressful.  I had a package of clif shot blocks in my T2 bag (which we had access to) as a “just in case” thing, and I knew the first aid station on the bike was only 10 miles in.  So I grabbed the shot blocks, to at least have something with me out of the water, and figured I could just drink my speedfil bottle (full of Herbalife CR7) for the first 10 miles.  Clif products were on course, so as long as I was diligent and took nutrition in the form of shot blocks or gels every chance I got, I figured I would be fine.
 
Got to transition.  Started feeling a bit more real, and the nerves finally started to kick in.  Tried to remind myself that I always seem to figure it out once it all starts.  Pumped my tires, prepped my CR7 bottle, and arranged my bike transition (which was literally just helmet and shoes and the shot blocks, so it took a good 30 seconds) …and waited around.  Killed time using the porta potty as many times as possible.  Dropped off morning bag, started wiggling into wetsuit, and hung out with some teammates as the gun went off and the pro race began.
 
The swim start was in AG waves, which were originally 5 minutes apart.  Due to the high wind advisory that was supposed to start around noon, race officials moved up the pro start time by about 5 minutes, and then adjusted the wave times after that to begin only 2 minutes apart (instead of 5), in an effort to get as many people off the bike as early as possible.  All things considered, I think this was a good move, though the swim did get a big congested (for a wave start swim), especially at the end.
 
In any case, I was in the 3rd to last wave, so Allen went ahead to his group a little earlier and I was left to wait around a bit longer.  Soon enough it was time to queue up, and I found my group of red caps, and we made our way to the water.  Even the sand here was red sand, which was kind of cool :) Things were a bit rushed, because of the quick 2-minute staggering between wave starts, but it worked out ok as long as you were paying attention.
 
A short little swim out to the deep water start, and suddenly the announcer was saying it was 15 seconds to the start!  Without really feeling real, I got my garmin ready to go and…. GO!
 
Swim - 39:31 (18th/54)
 
I actually felt good swimming, right off the bat.  The starting mess wasn’t really that chaotic, and I felt like I got into a rhythm pretty quickly.  I started counting buoys, and realized I had no idea how many there were (standard procedure) and that I had also completely forgotten how long a 70.3 swim really is.  I reasoned that 20 was a good number of buoys, but wasn’t really sure what the course looked like (other than 2 left hand turns), so after a while of getting bored, I started thinking we must be nearly done by now.
 
And then we finally hit the first turn.
 
I contemplated looking at my watch, but convinced myself that it had probably been only a few minutes (and not an eternity, which is how it felt), and kept swimming.  I started passing people in earlier waves (although I also started getting passed by those in the waves behind me), but generally it was all fairly tame.  I vaguely wondered if I should be swimming harder, but just focused on not freaking out and moving forward.
 
The line of buoys was yellow, with red buoys at the turns; up ahead, I saw a reddish blob, and was exceedingly pleased that we were indeed coming up to the point where we could finally turn and head back to shore.  Yay! Almost done!  Thank goodness!
 
Except when we reached it, we didn’t turn…because this was actually an orange buoy, not a red buoy, and now there were a ton of other orange buoys still to go, and suddenly I realized that the yellow buoys must have just marked the first HALF of the swim, and now I had a full set of orange ones to go.  How did I miss that?!  I also saw that the orange buoys re-started at #1, so my guess of 20 buoys total seemed about right.  On the plus side, I reasoned, I haven’t been violently kicked, and I haven’t tried to drink half the lake!  No gasping and choking is always a plus!  Har har har, I bet I just  jinxed that…
 
Annoyed, I kept going.  Finally, the REAL red buoy appeared, and as I tried to correct my course (always off course), I was finally able to turn and NOW we were heading back to shore!  Now it was basically just like what Allen and I swam yesterday, right?
 
But suddenly, the water was super choppy.  There were people everywhere.  Did they just pile up and get stuck here, on the last little leg back in?!  People kept stopping in front of me, blocking me, getting in the way.  The choppy water kept going down my throat—so much for the not choking and dying bit.  The entire swim back in was incredibly frustrating, feeling very slow and trying to navigate through the choppy waters and other people.
 
Finally, finally, I found the ramp up.  Finally, people around me started to stand up and trudge out of the water.  Finally, after swimming past more people who were trying to WALK through 4 feet of water, the ground came up to meet my face, and I scrambled out.
 
The ramp was crowded.  I ripped off my goggles and hat, lapped my garmin (and was highly irritated it was in the 39-40 range), and forgot about the whole stupid swim.  Yup: business as usual.
 
T1 – 2:39
 
I suddenly remembered I needed to take the dumb wetsuit off, so I held my cap and goggles tightly (not wanting to repeat the CDA 70.3 debacle) and fumbled to unzip and get my arms off.  There were wetsuit strippers, so ran to them, and got that thing off lickity-split.
 
Still clutching my cap and goggles, scampered back into transition, and made a beeline to my bike, yelling over to Sam along the way (not sure he heard, but yay, teammate!  And yes, he also started after me, but shhhh).
 
Transition was funny, since everything had to be in bags.  I’m sure it was NOT the smoothest transition ever, as I started my 520, shoved my helmet and shoes on (and clif shots into my pocket!), all while trying to get my wetsuit (and those darn goggles and cap, don’t lose them this time, Rosanne!!!!) back into the bag.
 
Awkwardly ran out of transition, trying to remember how this all works, and made a fool of myself trying to mount quickly.  Again—business as usual.
 
Bike – 2:53:00 (8th/54)
 
Ah, finally, the bike!
 
It is (obviously) no secret that I’m a pretty abysmal swimmer, and that getting on the bike is like the BEST.THING.EVER.  I also like to go 10000% right out of the gate, and I will never-ever-ever understand people who don’t just start GOING.  I passed probably 20 people in the first 100 feet, not even kidding.  It was a nice, downhill exit out of the park—literally an empty parking lot (aka TONS OF ROOM) and I got down and hammered.  I think I just like getting rid of the swim.
 
Anyway, after turning onto the main road, I got quickly overtaken by Sam, but was happy to keep him in sight at least for a little while :)
 
The gently rolling road around the reservoir made for nice riding, albeit a bit bumpy with the chip seal at times.  I got down in aero and—OW, WHAT IS THAT.  My back/neck/shoulders were absolutely on fire.  I wondered if something happened swimming (no) when I realized: that darn hotel bed and pillow!!!  I kept trying to settle down into aero but it hurt so, so bad that I would have to sit back up after about 25 seconds.  I briefly wondered what this would mean, and resigned myself to a long, painful 56 miles where I knew I would force myself into aero no matter what.
 
Luckily, with some more gentle pushes and maybe just stretching it out, it did eventually get better (taking well into the second half of the ride).  The surrounding roads in the first portion of the course were absolutely gorgeous, with farms (and horses!) everywhere and some terrific red rock backdrop scenery.  It reminded me a lot of riding out in the valley, except for all the red mountains around us.
 
This one guy wearing a blue kit on a road bike kept passing me.  Then I’d pass him back.  Back and forth and back and forth.  He was kind of annoying though—just got the vibe that he was irked about it, and never made any kind of acknowledgment (I feel like usually once I start going back and forth with someone, we usually at least smile, knowing “yup, passing again, see you in a few”).  This guy just seemed always angry.
 
Some fun, fast sections here (maybe it was the wind?) kept my speed up really nicely.  Speaking of the wind, the fact that it was there was…troubling.  I thought the high winds weren’t supposed to start until the afternoon?!
 
After passing a school with lots of spectators out front, we turned onto the highway—and what a view!  This is definitely a gorgeous race course; everywhere it took us was fantastic.  From the farms around the reservoir, to a highway, to Snow Canyon later…there was no shortage of fantastic views.  I definitely took the time to look around and soak it in (while TTing) because it was so beautiful.
 
The first aid station was also here, but didn’t see any nutrition—only water and Gatorade.  I grabbed a water for my top holder, and refilled as much of my speedfil as possible with Gatorade.  Unfortunately, I seemed to have forgotten how my speedfil works, and conveniently had it oriented facing downwards, which meant it was really hard to refill it.  Most of the Gatorade ended up all over me, but at least I had kind of a full bottle of some form of calories and electrolytes now.
 
Racing with cars in the lane next to us was a bit unnerving…especially because now that I think about it, we were riding on the left hand shoulder, so the cars were coming at us head-on.  There were lots of cones, but even so, with lots of riders around and wind, it definitely made you think twice.  Another fast section, it was really fun to bomb down some of the little hills along the highway, and lose hardly any speed going back up the other side!
 
Around here, there was a short little climb, and I heard a motorcycle riding up alongside us.  The road bike guy with a blue kit rode up next to me.   I was passing someone else, then looked around to move back over to the right, but he had followed and was right there, and not giving me any room.  What is this guy doing?  I kept riding, and looking around to see where to go.  There was no one behind me on my left, but blue kit guy would not get out of the way on my right.  The motorcycle (with what was clearly an official hanging off the back) kept riding beside us.  I really hoped he wasn’t going to get mad at me, since now I was kind of just riding in the middle of the lane, but I couldn’t move over… when suddenly Blue Kit Guy went ahead and passed me on the right, then snaked around some other people.  Well that was dumb, I thought.
 
Motorcycle and official sped away, and I went back to my ride, but shortly realized that they had slowed down and were now talking to the Blue Kit guy…and shaking a card at him!  Blue Kit guy was totally getting a penalty (and he did not appear to be taking it well), presumably for blocking and/or passing on the right, and I wondered if he had honestly not realized there was an official right there watching us (I mean, a motorcycle riding on the inside shoulder, with someone hanging off the back staring at us, seems like it should be pretty obvious?).
 
Anyway, the highway continued with its undulating course, and I really enjoyed it.  My bike felt fast, I was ticking off miles and riding strong in aero (would have to get up and stretch on every uphill, but was getting through it).  Despite the winds, everything seemed to be going fine.
 
It occurred to me that I had still not seen Allen, and I wondered how long it would take to catch him.  I started keeping my eyes peeled in the distance, trying to spot a yellow helmet, but so far, nothing.
Finally, off in the distance around a turn up ahead, I saw him!  A little yellow helmet, with a checkered HIT squad kit.  It took a bit longer to catch up to him, but finally, going up a little hill and 1:08 after starting the bike (…not like I checked…), I was able to pass him.  We exchanged a very quick gripe about the swim, and off I went.
 
Another guy on a road bike and disk wheel saw me pass him, but he was much nicer—“nice work, girl, keep it up!!” as I passed him.  We continued to go back and forth passing each other for the remainder of the race, up until the very end, but his was a much friendlier vibe.  It’s always nice and grounding to find someone else out there who you sync up with unexpectedly every once in a while, even if you don’t know them at all.
 
Finally, another aid station, and this time, I saw volunteers holding out various foods.  I had long since eaten all my clif shots, and they are easy to eat and store so I rode up to grab some—and promptly knocked the package out of the volunteer’s hand.  Sighing, I set my sights on the next one up to road and—same story!  And now there no more volunteers with any kind of food, so I settled with yet another Gatorade (and also dumped about 75% of it on my legs in the process of refilling.  Seriously, what was going on???)
 
I knew this was highly sub-optimal, since I was over an hour in with about 200 calories + Gatorade (plus the swim).  But there wasn’t much to do about it now, so I kept trying to drink as much Gatorade as possible (and started dumping water on myself) and just go go go go.
 
More pretty views, more rolling hills, and more really fast sections.  I’m not sure how or why the course felt so fast, but it was seriously SO much fun!  I’m always amazed at how much faster I bike when I race vs in training, but it’s always a big relief to see that it shows up when it matters.  I also knew the Snow Canyon climb was yet to come, so as much fast time in the bank now as I could deposit, the better.
 
We finally started snaking back through St. George, and out to the west, where I knew Snow Canyon was…somewhere.  I also realized I was feeling really hungry.  Ugh.  This is never good, because usually by the time I actually feel hungry, it’s way too late.  I still felt relatively good, but my energy levels were starting to drop a bit, and I just really needed more fuel.
 
Big long out and back.  Finally, a chance to see some people!  I saw a couple teammates, as well as Allen, on this section, which is always a good morale boost.
 
But I was still hungry, and now we were turning towards what I knew had to be Snow Canyon.  Thankfully, there was an aid station just outside the entrance to the park.  There wasn’t a lot, but I knew I needed as much of whatever I could get.  No clif shots this time, but there were a couple people holding gels, and I was desperate enough that I didn’t even care :) Thankfully, I was able to actually grab and hold onto a gel this time, and I tore into that thing.  It was some kind of lemon flavor and super messy and got everywhere (pretty sure the sticky mess of gels is the #1 reason why I don’t like them) but I slurped up as much of that thing as I possibly could.  Definitely could have used about 5 more, but hey, it was something.
 
The entrance to Snow Canyon is nice and gentle.  Some little up and downs, and you start wondering how this is possibly a canyon climb.  It’s also even more gorgeous, if that’s possible, and again, I found myself just looking around and ogling the sights.  How lucky I am to get to travel and race and see all these things simply because of this hobby!  There were birds and flowers and of course more red rocks in the craziest formations, and the fresh pavement sprawled out ahead of us.  I am endlessly thankful for the new places I’ve seen and experienced because of triathlon, and this was definitely a highlight.
 
Speaking of the sprawling, windy road, it very suddenly was UP ahead…because now the road really did seem to be going uphill.  It came in short, pitchy climbs, then evened out, then steeper yet, and soon the lesser-uphills seemed flat just in comparison.  Guess this is the climb, then, and I thought back to Shawn telling me to just “do my thing.”  Do your thing, Rosanne, just spin and ride strong and pass people and ignore everyone else and do your thing.
 
My time up Snow Canyon was nothing phenomenal, and I certainly wasn’t trying to attack it or anything, but it felt good to ride strong, conserve energy but keep it steady and purposeful.  There were a few short, pitchy sections (and I think I may have gotten out of the saddle once? For about 3 pedal strokes?  Because I was too lazy to shift??) but all in all it was a good, fun little climb and never felt that bad or steep at all.  In fact, probably less steep than many of the climbs at home—just went on for longer.
 
Nonetheless, I was happy when it ended, and turned out onto the highway again.  But this time, it was for a 10-mile descent back down into St. George.
 
This was also hands-down the scariest 10 miles I’ve ever spent on a bike.
 
Leaving the park, and on the exposed highway, we were suddenly faced with wind.  LOTS of wind.  It was only a bit after 10:30am, but the high winds were definitely already picking up, and it was relentless.  Less of a headwind, and more of just swirly gusts, I hung on to my bike for dear life.  At times I was in aero, and wanted to get up but there was no way I could let go for half a second to sit up, so I was forced to stay down.  On the other hand, sitting up just increased surface area to be blown around, and created less of a steady feeling.  Oftentimes, I just settled for holding on to the bars but crouching down; I have never gripped the bars as tightly as I did then, always trying to push down and hold as much as my weight onto my front wheel as possible.
 
A few scary moments, but soon we were back into town.  PHEW.  But even back down the side streets, the wind was insane.  With less than 2 miles to go before rolling into transition, another giant gust grabbed my front wheel and I felt the bars skew to the left; I tried to steady the bike, overcorrecting and veered the other way.  After a few more really sketchy wobbles, I managed to stay upright.  I need to be off of this bike Right.  Exactly.  Now!!  Clinging on and trying to stay on two wheels, I finally reached transition, and not a moment too soon.  I wasn’t actually sick of riding my bike, like I am some times by the end of the bike, but I was really getting worried about being blown over.
 
T2 – 2:02
 
Running into transition, I quickly racked my bike.  The guy next to me didn’t seem to understand that he needed to rack his bike in his own spot, as his bike was very obviously in my spot, so I had to shove his bike over (sorrynotsorry) and got mine racked.  I actually took my helmet off first this time (what?! I think because it was a new helmet), and sat down.
 
I realized I didn’t feel very good.  I felt hot.  I didn’t want to run.  I knew I was wasting time, but I needed to just sit for a second and get myself regrouped and psyched up.
 
I took longer than usual to pull on socks and shoes and hat and I was dismayed that I had no more nutrition (I was hoping I had accidentally forgotten about some secret stash of food I had left there; nope) and I also had no more excuses to just sit there taking my time.  Unsure of what was feeling “off,” I hoped that I could just start running and start figuring it out—but there was no question: I knew I was going to go run for 13.1 miles and I just didn’t want to.
 
But the best way to get it over with is to just get started.  So once again, I trusted that I would start and things would fall into place, and got my butt off the ground and started running.
 
Run – 1:55:41 (8th/54)
 
I wish I could say it all clicked, but it didn’t.  I just felt hot, and my legs felt like trash.  Had I pushed too hard on the bike?  Was I just lacking in nutrition?  Was I maybe actually running really well, but it just felt bad?! (A desperate and far-fetched fantasy)
 
I did see I was running a 6:40 pace, and new that was a bit much, so just tried to settle down.  Saw Colleen at the run out, smiled and waved, and headed up the first few blocks, which was of course up hill.
 
I got to the top of that, turned..and kept running along the same road I had just biked down.  I tried to distract myself by watching the bikers coming in.  But it just didn’t feel good.  I couldn’t get my legs to turn over faster, and I knew I wasn’t running fast enough—even without looking at my watch, which confirmed I was running an 8-something pace.
 
I hate to do this but… Numbers time: I should have been running about a 7:15-7:20. After the initial shake out, including that little uphill, I should have been able to settle in to a pace and lock into a 7:20 fairly comfortably (comfortably in a race-type mode, which is not comfortable by any means, but a comfortable push).  Not only was I not feeling good, and not feeling like I was in that comfy-pushing zone, I was a good minute per mile slower than I should be—and trying to move my legs faster did nothing.  This is when I quickly realized my legs were just not showing up to the party, and that I needed to quickly resort to crisis-control mode—and I was less than a mile into the run.
 
But still hoping against hope that I could rally and maybe warm up my legs and get some nutrition, and  that I would magically snap back into it, I approached the first aid station, threw some water on my face, and thankfully grabbed a packet of shot blocks that some kid was holding out for me.
 
They were warm, from sitting out in the sun.  Yuck.  But I knew I needed them.  I tore the package open, and popped the first one in my moth….
 
What.  Is.  This.  I tried not to spit it out, scrunched my nose, and looked at the package.
 
Ginger Ale.
 
Not only was it a warm ginger ale flavor, but I absolutely HATE ginger in any way, shape or form.  JUST MY LUCK!  I grimaced and choked it down, knowing it was way more important to try to force in some calories.  I ran a minute or two more, then forced myself to eat another. It’s for your own good, I told myself.  But after the second (which mostly just disintegrated in my mouth because I couldn’t even get myself to chew it up and swallow it), I gave up and threw them away.  I just really hate ginger :-\
 
At the next aid station, I tried again.  This time, I grabbed Spearmint, which also sounded gross but at least it wasn’t ginger (and those were the only two options).  I held onto the package for the longest time, but never ended up eating any.  I guess on the plus side, the ginger flavor made m lose my appetite, and I wasn’t feeling hungry any more.  Blegh.
 
Meanwhile, I was still watching for Allen, and finally saw him coming back into town—whew!  It was time to focus back on the run, which by the way was still all a very, very gradual uphill.  Ugh.  As we snaked up the road, we finally turned and made a sharp right turn and…
 
…this is the biggest hill I’ve seen in my life.
 
I looked up ahead.  The hill kept going.  It kept going as I could see a stream of runners up ahead, high above me and going around a corner, up out of view, but always still uphill.
 
It was at this moment, I realized this run was really not going to be happening for me.
 
But I ran, slowly.  I got passed more than I ever have before.  I probably could have walked faster.  My watch showed a really sad, slow pace, and I kept eying the distance.  This is a two loop course, right, so we should be turning around soon… although I do NOT want to come run up here again…
 
But the 3 mile mark came and went.  Soon the 4 mile mark did, too.  We kept going and going and by the time we got up on the ridge, the wind was really howling too, because why not add that to the mix now?  It was hot and super exposed to the sun, the winds pushing strong against us, and always up hill, all the time.
 
Eventually, as we started a little out and back, and I realized it was really two out and backs that were side by side, my brain finally put two and two together and I realized that a) it was not a two loop course, and b) I was going to have to run up here on top of the ridge twice.
 
In all honesty, it was probably a good thing.  I was really dreading having to run down then back up it, and really wasn’t sure how I was going to motivate myself to do it.  But now, I was stuck, and I may as well just keep on going, since it was the only way to get to the end, at this point.
 
Not a lot to say about the run, since it was just HOT and WINDY and I felt pretty zapped.  I was exceedingly frustrated that I couldn’t run—I tried, but it was just a shuffle.  I know I am capable of running so much better, but I had nothing in my that day, and it was all I had in me to just keep moving forward.
 
I did finally see a couple teammates on the out and backs, and kept seeing Tu sneaking up closer and closer on my tail (he started in the last wave, so I was really just trying to prevent him from passing me all day ;) ).  It was good to see people and wave and smile, but I was way past the point of enjoying anything at this point.
 
FINALLY, we crossed the point where all the out and backs intersected, and it was time to head back down into town.  4 miles to go.  3 miles to go.  It was finally time to run down the ginormous hill, and I tried to make up some time but I was lucky to stay under an 8:00/mile pace at this point.  I spent a lot of time just being mad—mad at myself for not being able to go any harder, and mad at myself for being mad about it.
 
Down to the bottom of the hill, and now I was telling myself it was just the long straight push before the turn down to the finish.  And yet, it just felt so, so long.  It was a slight downhill, but my times were slipping again.  I tried running as far left as possible, to get any hint of shade, but that didn’t really accomplish anything.  Nothing in particular felt awful or painful, but I still just felt so bad, and wanted nothing more than to just stop.
 
Miles 12.  Just over 1 mile to go…and I almost started crying.  Like actual tears welling up and starting to choke, actually crying.
 
I had 1 mile to go, but I couldn’t even fathom one more mile, and I wasn’t even sure if I was crying because I truly didn’t want to run, or because of how sad and pathetic that was.
 
I ran anyway.  I walked through the last aid station, half a mile from the finish, just because I wanted an excuse to take a break.  This is the state I was in at this point—thoroughly defeated by the run, discouraged, and just ready to be over with this once and for all.
 
At last, we got to the last round-about, turned downhill, and a straight shot down to the finish.  I think I tried to smile at Colleen and she cheered in the finishing chute, and I was also the jerk that magically picked up the pace and started sprinting down the finishing carpet to pass people before the line.  Sorry, I just honestly wanted to stop and never run again, at that point.
 
And finally, 1:55:41 later, I finished my slowest half marathon run ever.

TOTAL: 5:32:53
 
Not quite must slowest time, but close.  Ironically, IM Cabo 70.3 still holds the record for my slowest, and yet I still won my age group there…  Just goes to show that things are so much more than just a time, I suppose!
 
In any case, I’m still processing and deciding how I feel about this race.  The run defeated me, that’s for sure.  But there were some really good take-aways.  Overall, I’m mostly focusing on the fact that I’m happy that the race season is officially underway, and I can confidently say I’m really looking forward to the rest of the summer!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2016 - Sunshine Coast


Alright. World Champs.  I could write SO MUCH about it: World Championships + Australia...  Yeah, I could write a lot.  :)

But, I'll try to keep it at just the race.  That being said, pre-race could be summarized as:

Fun.

We arrived in Brisbane the Monday before the race.  We walked around and explored the city.  We visited the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (AND I HELD A KOALA).

(Yes, this is an important moment which must be included)


We ate a lot of avo toast and drank a lot of flat whites.  We visited the Australia Zoo.  We finally made it to Mooloolaba around 2pm on Thursday, and immediately headed to the Athlete village to get checked in.

RIDICULOUS.  Craaazy line, although I hear it had been even longer earlier in the day!  After waiting in line for ages, I finally got all my stuff, then headed to the merchandise tent.  Immediately, I wanted the finisher pullover because let's face it, it was adorable.  Except there were only 3 of them left, and they were all L or XL.  We kept checking the rest of the weekend, and they never got anymore...seriously?!  Did they not think anyone would want the finisher gear?!  It really should NOT be sold out on the VERY FIRST DAY!  Ok, rant over.

Anyway, aside from that, the prevailing thing on everyone's mind was the weather!  The winds were picking up, and Friday and Saturday were downright stormy!  The ocean was a crazy, angry mess with gigantic swells--even once you got through the breakers (intimidating enough), the swells would toss you around so much once you were out there!  Also tried a bike ride on Friday with Mac, and it was seriously so windy, it was basically impossible (not to mention it was our first attempt at being on the road there, and being in a new city + trying to abide by the rules of the road which were all completely opposite of what we are used to.... SCARY).  I'm ok with biking in the wind, but it was seriously scary.



Aside from that, I started getting a cold on Friday.  Awesome.  I loaded up on AS MUCH vitamin C and Australian meds I could find.  Nothing to do but wait and see what would happen.



RACE MORNING.  At last!

Allen got up first to shower, and looked out the window.  Happily, he turned and let me know that it looked much nicer--sunshine, and no wind!  WOOHOOOO!

We headed to transition, which was an entire block from where we were staying.  I had to drop bottles off on my bike and check the tires, where I ran into Karin and Dusty--good thing, because I was a doofus with no bike pump, and needed to borrow theirs :)  Transition closed at 6am, so that the pros could start at 6:15, so everything had to be done early.  Of course, my start wave was very last, at 8:15am!




Soooo I wandered to the swim start, and sat around with Allen, Mac and Kyle (and later my parents, who we found).  The sunrise was gorgeous.  There was some awesome didgeridoo playing at the beginning.  A GIGANTIC cruise ship appeared, live-streaming the race on it's enormous TV screen on the top deck.  The pros were off!

It finally started to dawn on me that this was, you know, the world championship race that I had been looking forward to ever since qualifying 10+ months ago.  My entire season was meant to culminate here.  Not Coeur d'Alene, not any other race, but HERE.  This was it, finally, and it was time to start appreciating it!

Went back to our room a couple times to use the bathroom, but those 2 hours flew by a lot faster than I expected.  Soon, it was time to get suited up.  I got everything halfway on, said bye to my parents, and headed to the start area where we were rounded up before each wave--and could not shake the feeling that i really wanted to go to the bathroom, one last time!  GOOD JOB, KELLEY.  I tried to convince myself it was just nerves, and that it was fine.  It didn't work.  I had 15 minutes until my wave actually started, which meant 10 minutes until my group would even get into the water.  The porta-potties were in a little park, right next to the beach.  I knew they wouldn't be crowded anymore.  In a now-or-never moment, I made up my mind, and ran back up the beach and to the porta-potties.

So much for my perfectly put on wetsuit.

Still, I felt much better, and now I didn't have to worry about whether I was just nervous, or if I would be able to pee in my wetsuit (never have been able to, so wasn't convinced I'd be able to now!), and I got back to the start area with plenty of time.  Got the wetsuit all the way on again, and was still one of the last people to congregate.  But, I was there, and certainly not late.

With 5 minutes to go, they let our wave into the water, where we had to swim out to the buoys, for an open-water start.  My first open-water start ever!  Odd.  I went off to the right.  Not sure it was the right/fastest choice, but there were way less people there anyway so it seemed to work out.

The nice thing about wetsuits in the saltwater is that you're soooo buoyant, you don't need to do anything to float!  So we all bobbed around, listening to the announcer on the beach, counting down the time.  30 seconds!  Ok Rosanne, time to concentrate.  Suddenly, paddlers holding us back started moving forward, right before they blew the horn--and we were off!!!

Swim - 00:41:09 (94th AG)

Prior to the race, my biggest concern had been that I would be the last person out of the water.  It's one thing to be last in your age group, but since my age group was also starting last, my concern was now being the VERY LAST PERSON IN THE ENTIRE RACE.  I'll tell you now, I was not last, but I sure was close!

I am not a swimmer.  I think we all know this by now.  I can also confidently say that I do not swim well in the ocean.  Luckily, the swim was very tame, but that's probably just because I was so much slower than everyone, I literally just swam all alone the entire time.  Which was nice, it certainly lowered my stress, but seriously, so slow.

It was pretty cool, once we turned and were heading back towards the race, with the giant cruise ship there next to us (relatively) and you could see the race on their big screen.  Not enough to really see and watch it, but you could tell that's what it was.

Of course, on the way back, the currents changed (even the guys told us later that they had been talking about it on shore over the loudspeaker, saying that the currents were changing and pulling us back out).  I realized I kept swimming way off course, way the heck off towards that darn cruise ship.  I tried switching how I was breathing, etc to keep myself more on course, but man that was tough.

There's not much more to say about the swim.  I hate swimming, and swimming clearly hates me.  Still faster than Cabo last year, but only barely, and much slower than my other 70.3 swims this year, which is kind of a bummer.  As slow as I am, I've definitely improved this year, but this swim sure didn't show it!  Oh well.

I also knew that my dad would be there, stationed at the swim out, waiting to make sure I hadn't drowned (not an exaggeration).  I knew I was being extra-slow, and felt bad knowing he would be worrying unnecessarily (I was told later that, yes, he was quite concerned it took me so long.  Sorry, dad!).

However, a very extraordinary thing happened: I passed a green cap.  I passed a couple of green caps!  They had started 5 minutes ahead of us.  I even passed one white cap, which was 10 minutes ahead of me!  I don't say that to put those girls down; absolutely no judgement from me, and I'm sure there's a story there.  But, it was amazing to me and at least I wasn't dead last out of the water.

Anyway, I finally made it to the shore, and stumbled out onto the beach.  I immediately looked around for my dad, and saw him, standing at the verrrrry edge of the tape, as close as you could get to the race.  I yelled at him and waved, and made sure he saw me and knew it was me, before worrying about peeling off my wetsuit.


T1 - 00:04:46

And thus begins the LONGEST. TRANSITION. EVER.

Ran up the beach.  Ran up a bunch of stairs...and turned left?!  I vaguely remembered seeing that on the map, but took me a minute to remember, since all our stuff was to the right.  So, we turned left, and ran alongside transition, before turning back into transition, and back across again.

Grabbed my bike bag (very easy to find, since there were only like 10 bags left out of the thousands of spots on the racks).  Wasn't really sure where I was supposed to put my shoes on, so kept running and looking around, until suddenly there were some chairs along the side of fences, and I figured that must be the spot.   Dumped the bag, put on my shoes and helmet, and really awkwardly managed to shove my wetsuit into the bag.  Now I was running with bike cleats, not really sure what to do with this bag.  Found bins to drop it in, and the volunteers assured me I could drop it in any bin.  Errrr, ok.  Good luck sorting these...

Kept running to the bike racks, and down my aisle.  Finally got to my bike.  Got stuck behind two girls who were leisurely making their way out of transition, but the aisle wasn't wide enough so I had to settle for a brisk walk.  This was annoying, because I knew I was so behind on the swim, and it seemed silly to slow down here...but, whatever.

Finally made it to the end of the bike racks (I was serious about it being the longest transition ever), and UP A FREAKING HILL and through some more turns.  FINALLY there was the mount line, and I could get on the bike!


Bike - 03:01:31 (71st AG)

And get on the bike, I did.  I knew the winds had started to pick up by now, and was anxious to see what the course would be like.  After a super short, silly out and back, including the weirdest first U-turn where I had to turn right (but I got to see my mom so that was good!), we were really and truly starting.

A short bit to get out of town.  These little rollers are a lot bigger on the bike.  Get on the gas, Kelley!

Onto the motorway, and I finally was able to settle in.  I was flying, holding 24mph pretty easily, which of course meant a tailwind.  That's ok, I went with it ;)  I was looking out for Mac, knowing I should be seeing her on this out and back, and finally saw her!! The best.  Navigated a roundabout, which I later heard some people went all the way around (instead of continuing on), therefore cutting the course (supposedly on accident) and getting disqualified.

The bit on the motorway was nice.  It was kind of boring.  But also kind of nice.  I loved looking around, and taking in the Australian vegetation and scenery, so at least there was that!

As we turned around, I was hoping it would still be a tailwind--errrrr, NOPE.  From that point forward, it was a total windy struggle.

We turned off the motorway and headed into the hinterlands, which are really just pretty hills, I think.  I knew what the course looked like, but it was hard to judge the distances, and when these loops would start.  Suddenly, things got a lot more crowded, as the two laps merged together.  Until now, the course was reasonable empty.  Not empty, but always clear space.  The sudden influx of riders was weird, and definitely had to be a lot more alert!

But then, up ahead, I saw the sign for "LAP 1", and the entrance to the Infamous Hill.

Aside from the weather, The Hill was also the only thing people had been talking about the last few days.  Now that athletes were finally flooding into the area and previewing the course, all it was was "but The Hill!" over and over and over.  We hadn't had a chance to ride it, but I had seen the profile enough times to know it had a couple kicks.

Ok, shifted down--let's do this.

Man, ok, yes, that starts up straight up hill!  But, it was short.  I made it up the first little climb.  I mean, I had worked for it, but I was ok, and HEY LOOK AT THAT, I just went up this 20% climb, I am invincible!

A short reprieve, as the road curved, and--gulp.  There was another wall, positively staring at me, and I really had not yet recovered.

Alright Kelley, let's go.

The babiest flat, and then are you kidding me?!  Straight up, again.  This was the longest stretch.  By now, there were athletes everywhere.  Walking.  Every single one of them was walking their bike up the hill, except one guy I could see up ahead.  Previously, the thought of walking hadn't even crossed my mind--why would you do that?!  But seeing these people made me think about it.  Don't slow down, Kelley!!!!  You are NOT going to walk, you are in the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS and you are here to RIDE A BIKE, don't even THINK about getting off this bike.

So I ground up that hill, passing everyone who was walking.  There were spectators camped out on the sides, yelling and cheering.  I didn't get out of my saddle, just settled down and put in the work.  You love hills, Kelley, time to show them how it's done.  By the time I was near the top, I managed to pass the guy ahead of me, which made me very pleased, and much to the chagrin of everyone watching :)

BOOM.  And there was the top.  There was a giant inflatable arch, which I think was an indicator for a penalty tent, but climbing up to it with people yelling at you up a crazy hill sure made it feel like the Tour de France.  It may have hurt, but MAN that was fun!

Of course, by now I was slow.  I was doing ok, but that climb made my legs start to feel it.  I finally merged down to the bottom again, where some people heading to the finish passed me (I think those were the only people who passed me the whole time).  But I wasn't feeling great by now, and that DARN WIND would just not stop!  I started up the second loop, which was a lot more tame, but instead had long, drawn out grades which I was utterly incapable of climbing by now.

I think I blocked most of this part out.

By the time I was done with the second loop, and finally ready to head back in, I was pretty sick of the bike.  Wind kept picking up, which I know is a lame excuse, but at one point I was legitimately going downhill, pedaling, and still watching my speed go DOWN.

By now, I was also looking at my time.  And I realized that transition was too far away, and suddenly, I might be going over 3 hours?!

Battling the last wind heading back to Mooloolaba, I tried not to focus on my time, and just finish the darn bike.  But there it was, staring at me.  Even by the time we were turning back down the downhill street to transition, I knew it was too late--and I was MAD.

Some people were slowly soft-pedaling down the hill, which was also maddening.  I booked it, came skidding to a stop, and basically threw my bike at someone.  3:01:xx and my slowest 70.3 bike split ever, and I was ready to run this thing and get it DONE.

T2 -  00:03:49

Running to the racks of run bags, I ignored all the volunteers trying to tell me where to go.  Until they tried to keep me at the end of the rack, so they could get my bag for me.  I could SEE my bag, it was RIGHT THERE, why are they running to the other end of the aisle!

They came running back with a bag-- 3711, or some other number.  I groaned.  MY BAG IS RIGHT THERE, THAT ONE RIGHT THERE WITH THE PINK HOKAS AND YELLOW HAT, IT'S RIGHT THERE CAN I JUST GET IT, IT'S RIIIGHT THERE!

I'm sure this took way less time than it felt like, but of course it felt like an eternity at the time.

Finally I just walked over and got my own bag...and..now what?!  Suddenly, all the volunteers disappeared, and I had NO idea what I was supposed to do or where to go.  There was no room to change (put shoes on) here...

Luckily, my mom was also standing right there, on the other side of the fence, and pointed and yelled to me to go down the stairs, on the other side.

Ok, great--wait, what?!  Down...the stairs?!

Who puts stairs in transition?  Who puts stairs in transition, which you have to go down while wearing bike cleats?!?!

Whatever.  I tried to not eat it, and made it down to the little area with chairs.  It was admittedly gorgeous, overlooking the water.  A guy with a video camera came and interviewed the girl sitting across from me-- I bet that clip goes into the broadcast later.

In any case, I got things done relatively quickly, positively threw my bag at some more poor volunteers (again, good luck sorting those??  Sorry :-\), and clipped on my number as I bolted out of there.

Not sure where the line was, again, but I turned a corner, and was suddenly on the run--at last!

Run - 01:44:12 (60th AG)

Luckily, my anger at my bike split was forgotten the second I hit the run, and suddenly only one thing mattered: GO AS FAST AS YOU CAN, KELLEY.

There was a big Oakley stand at the base of the hill we were about to run up, blasting music.  The crowds were phenomenal.  Now THIS is a RACE!

I was flying.  I flew up the hill, and I flew down.  I saw Kyle, standing on the side of the road looking down at his phone, and I yelled to get his attention.  He came bolting after me, and managed to get up ahead, to stop and yell at me some more (and get some photos ;) ).  My mom had told me that Mac was up ahead, and Kyle reiterated-- I had somehow forgotten that she would be up there, and that at the very least, we would be able to see each other on the out and backs!

I somehow managed a 6:55 first mile, even going up the enormous hill.  I was running hard, and suddenly that cold was making itself felt.  I was ok, but my lungs felt like they were on the verge of giving out, and I wasn't sure how long I could keep it up.

But this was the world championships, after all, and after a sub-par swim and bike, I was not going to go down without swinging.  I made up my mind then and there that I was going to keep running as hard as I could as long as I could. I figured I'd have to slow down eventually, and I'd rather be as far as possible when that time hit.

I did slow down a bit after that, but I did still manage a handful of pretty solid miles.  I finally caught Mac, and then saw her each time the paths crossed, which was amazing motivation!

The turnaround came, and it was time to head back.  Somehow, these laps felt super long, even though they were only a little over 3 miles each!  No worries, Kelley, just keep freaking running.  I was kind of amazed that I was still running hard, and that I was maintaining a pretty equal feeling of lungs-about-to-give out.

Allen appeared at one spot, which was a good lift.  There were a couple of odd places, running through parking lots, and this was one of them--although it honestly didn't really register at the time, so I guess I was focused enough on running.

And theeeeere was the dumb hill again-- but on this side, it was a lot longer and more drawn out.  My run slowed to more of a shuffle, not nearly as fast as I had been running up the other side!  This was alarming.  But, keep on moving, Kelley.

One girl went BLAZING past me.  Some spectators were yelling "show them how it's done!" and yes, she was certainly showing us all how it was done.  She must have been on her last lap and I can only hope she was going on to win her age group, because holy cow, I only wished I could run like that (on the flat, much less up a hill...)!

No matter.  I had one more lap to go.  As I ran down, I was more or less running with another girl, who seemed to know half the people spectating.  It was kind of awesome though, because she was getting HUGE cheers and applause, and I kinda soaked it up too :)  I jealously eyed the "finish" arrows, but knew I would be seeing it soon enough.  Time to get this thing done.

The way back up the hill was hard, again, but this shorter, steeper side really was easier.  Again-- the crowds!!  It was so amazing, they really provided so much energy and encouragement!

On the way down, I made sure to take in the amazing view.  The plus side to that hill was the incredible view, with the mountains, beach and ocean curving in front of you.  That was definitely a moment when it sunk in exactly what race this was.  (Another moment was realizing that, aside from a few exceptions, NOBODY was walking.  Usually by the run, you see people walking at times, but--oh yeah..world champs)

Buuuuut it was also getting tougher, and I still had like 6 miles to go sooooo enough of that, and time to run again.  My slowest miles were up that dumb hill again, but that's ok.  I managed to push the time back down a bit later, although I was also starting to get a stomach ache, and I started stopping for coke at the aid stations, hoping that it would make me burp and feel better.  So, my times were a bit slower from stopping and walking as I knew I needed to sip the coke, but it was ok-- I was still speeding up a bit, and it seemed to help a bit.

The out felt long, again, but at least now I knew exactly where I was, and even better was hitting the turn around and knowing that now I just had to get back!

I saw Mac one last time, and told her I'd see her at the finish!  Last time through the park.  Last time up the hill (which somehow didn't feel as bad, although I'm sure it was about the same...)

..but it didn't matter, because cresting that hill meant a long, downhill to the finish chute.  And THAT was amazing.

I saw Kyle, waiting at the entrance to the red carpet.  I saw my parents (and had to yell at my mom so she could see me, haha), too.

Unfortunately, I was there at about the same time as two other guys ahead of me, and another girl behind me.  And as we hit the finish line, the two guys in front of me slowed down.  WAY down.  But I also didn't have enough time or space to get around them (and couldn't slow down too much because of the girl behind me...) so my finish line run turned into an awkward, slow jog.  But there was Allen, right at the finish line, and it was all ok.

I was done!

Total: 05:35:27

Swim - 00:41:09 (94th AG)
T1 - 00:04:46
Bike - 03:01:31 (71st AG)
T2 -  00:03:49
Run - 01:44:12 (60th AG)

Overall:  1860/2721
Female:  422/933
AG:  60/101

As I crossed the line, I think I was the most emotional I've ever been--even more than after the full!  No, it wasn't quite the race I wanted.  But I truly felt like I gave it everything I had.  I didn't regret anything, I hadn't made any dumb mistakes (by either going too hard, too easy, or anything else), and most importantly, I knew I had had fun and really taken it all it.  It was an amazing experience, I was so thankful and grateful to be there, and it was honestly a race I'll never forget.  I hope to make it to another World Champs, and hopefully race faster (or at least to the ability I know I can), but if not, I know I had an amazing experience here!  :)