Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ironman Canada 70.3 - 2016

Alright, let’s back this up to Thursday before the race.

I had an easy, hour-long spin on my schedule.  Super easy.  “NO effort” was emphatically stated, by my coach. Work has been busy and stressful, so I wanted to take advantage of a break between meetings for relaxing, quick little bike ride mid-day..

I set off, decided the 520 trail was a good idea.  Made it to the top of the hill, went through one light, made it to the next crosswalk and saw I was about 25 minutes in.  “Great,” I thought.  “I don’t really feel like dealing with more crosswalks, so I’ll just turn around now.  Look how easy I am keeping it!  I’m even cutting it a little short!  Impressive!”

I turned, started moving, and realized I hadn’t re-started my garmin.  My 920xt stopped working (a whole different story) so I was just using the 520.  I had my right hand on the bars, and reached over with my left.  Something was off-balance.  My weight shifted, to press the button, and suddenly I felt everything shift.  In slow motion, I felt myself going down.  No no no no NOOOOoooooooooooooo…….

I braced myself, and I was in shock as I hit the ground.  I heard my carbon wheels echoing.  No, not the wheels!!! I quickly scrambled to my feet, as if the faster I got up, I could undo it all.  No one saw it so it didn’t happen, right?!  Wrong.  I was on the corner of the intersection, next to the off-ramp of the freeway.  I’m sure tons of people saw me.  I propped my bike up on the fence.  Super panicky, I tried to figure out what the heck just happened.  Focus, Rosanne.  Breathe.  I felt my knee sting.  Looked down, grimacing, seeing the blood.  It’s fine, it’s just a scratch.

I stared at my bike.  Nothing obvious.  Bar tape is torn and the corner of the bars are scuffed up.  But doesn’t look bad.  Wheels…wheels look ok!  Brakes are all askew.  Fix that.  Rear wheel is fine.  Chain is off, front derailer looks bent…or maybe not??  I took forever, frantically trying to get the chain back on.  Some guy went walking by me on the sidewalk.  I looked at him, bloodied up and covered in bike grease. He looked at me..and kept on walking.  Whatever; I don’t want you help, anyway.

After finally calming down and getting my wheels spinning and gears shifting again, I started to think again.  The bike is ok..I think.  It has to be ok, right?  What about the race?  How scraped up am I, do I feel ok?  Oh no…showering is going to be THE WORST.  I texted Mac.  I thought I could ride, but wanted Kyle to check my bike.  She quickly told me to come over.  I tried to compose myself a bit more.  Calmed down.  And sloooowly made my way to their place.

After that, it was all good news.  Mac and Kyle sent me to the shower to start washing the dirt off.  A banged up knee (three separate spots of road rash, with an enormous bruise which was already incredibly swollen), a skinned forearm, and a big gash down the inside of my thigh—presumably from the broken gel holder on my top tube.  By the time I was washed off and Mac and bandaged me up, Kyle had already re-wrapped my bars with fresh new tape, and epoxied the scuffed spots.  Seriously could not even tell anything had happened.  A quick adjustment of the rear derailer, and I was all set—absolutely no damage!  Hooray!

Anyway, all that to explain that pre-race wasn’t quite what I had been hoping for!  Many very painful showers later, I was in Whistler and prepping for Sunday.  Riding the bike to drop off in T1 on Saturday was painful—and I wasn’t even in aero.  The swelling was all gone, but the road rash sure did sting!  But everyone assured me it would be fine and I wouldn’t even notice; plus, it was just a training day, so there was no big pressure.  So, I carried that into the day and mostly was in denial about the entire race at all (until about halfway through the swim).

Race morning, and I was up early to prep.  A huge amount of Neosporin on my knee, plus tagaderm, covered with sports tape.  The goal was to keep that in place through the swim at a minimum, and protect it from rubbing against the wetsuit.  Another liberal amount of Neosporin on my arm, and then wrapped up tight with coband.  This, hopefully, would stay on well enough through the bike—and hopefully it would be enough cushion that I could ride in aero.

Leg patched, arm wrapped, ready to go!
We watched the full get underway first, and had fun watching the first people come in.  I missed Mac come in, somehow, too!  Super bummed :( but she swam an amazing 1:14 and it was so exciting to find out!  Last minute-struggles getting the wetsuit on.  Then forgetting my (Allen’s) garmin.  Then realizing I needed to…swim.

Swim – 37:56 (9th AG)

Rolling swim starts are great!  Hurray!  Cross the mat with just one or two others, and hit the water.  Took a few big steps as I could, and got to swimming ASAP (some people waiting a loooong time to start swimming!).  I braced myself, waiting for the shock of a combination of both cold (I hadn’t felt the water beforehand) and pain (from the road rash)…and…nothing!  YAY!  I focused on staying smooth, and everything felt good (aside from the fact that I was swimming, and swimming is dumb).  The way out went by quick.  The water was nice, there was plenty of space, really nothing noteworthy.  I did get kicked in the right knee once, which sent a wave of pain, but that was about it.  This is great!  I’m going to write about this, and have nothing to say about the swim!  Super boring and uneventful, the best kind of swim!

Alrighty, time to see what happens with swimming!
Famous.  Last.  Words (thoughts).

First turn came, and I swam cautiously and carefully, to avoid being clobbered on my right side (left hand turn, so the right was even more susceptible).  Made it fine.  Got stuck in a group, someone kept trying to runi into me.  I kept holding back.  Finally resorted to just following this guy, since I was tired of almost getting hit, and we were also now swimming into the sun and I really couldn’t see the buoy, anyway.

Suddenly I started noticing that I saw lots of people when I was breathing to the right.  And they were all getting further away.  Something wasn’t right.  Someone was clearly off course.  Why are they all over there?  Did I miss something?  But there was still a little pack around me, and we all followed this guy up front.  I kept looking around, trying to orient myself to make sure I was going the right way.  Finally, I saw a kayaker rushing over to meet the guy out front, and I KNEW we had to be off-track.  I stopped completely, looked all the way around, and saw that we were actually swimming diagonally, and totally cutting off the second turn buoy! Nooooo!  Before seeing what the kayaker was saying, I turned and took off, back towards the buoy; as long as I made it around all the turns, I was still “on course” and I was not about to cut any corners!

All told, it probably cost me about a minute.  Nothing huge, but really annoying.  That should teach me for only sighting off of one person.

Fine, that was annoying and now I have to write about it.  But the plus side of that ordeal was that I did glance at my watch, and saw it had only been 15 minutes!  I couldn’t remember exactly what the swim course looked like; I knew I probably wasn’t quite halfway, but knew it was probably roughly close, and was pretty stoked with that.

Unfortunately, the way back was not as smooth.  I’m not sure where all the people came from, but I was pummeled.  Normally I would be a bit more aggressive and try to hold my ground (water) a bit more, but I was sooooo afraid of anyone touching me, I did find myself holding up and stopping for a moment to let people by, as soon as I was too crowded.  Granted, I did line up in the 30-35 area, but it wasn’t only people swimming past me—I was also coming up on a bunch of people.  So, I’m not sure why it got soooo much more crowded and violent, but the nice empty water that I had enjoyed before was totally gone.

Also saw some lone ironman swim caps, way at the bottom of the lake.  In the middle of the course.  That was eerie.  I told myself they just came off, and there was nothing bad that had happened—but still creepy!

Finally, turned back.  Then turned again.  Lots of weeds (and another cap!  Creepy!) and fiiiiiinally saw the ground.  Happily, I scrambled out of the water.

Trying to be graceful
Glanced at my watch, was a little bummed at the time but knew I had a lot more conservatively, and focused on the next task—getting the wetsuit off, carefully, and getting on the bike.
Failing at being graceful, but this is basically how I ran through transition
T1 – 3:21

Since the full had wetsuit strippers, the half distance racers got wetsuit strippers, too!  But, I was worried about the bandaging (also just worried about being rough with my knee and arm in general), so I tried to (politely) decline and ran past all the enthusiastic volunteers to grab my bag.  I did manage to unzip my wetsuit and pull the left shoulder down, but other than that, I was fully wetsuit-ed as I sat down in the changing tent.

As I carefully got my right sleeve off (coband was in place and everything looked good! Yay!), a volunteer moved over to me, and wanted to help me take off the wetsuit quickly.  “I have something on my knee, I’m just trying to be careful…here, just let me get the knee…” I got it off, and then let her pull the wetsuit off the rest of the way.  She dumped the rest of my gear, I got what I needed, and she packed up the rest.  I definitely was moving more slowly here than usual, but I really didn’t want to make sudden movements or do anything to hurt myself, especially since I wasn’t really sure myself how I felt.

Stuffing my sunglasses in my top, I ran through the bike racks.  Found my bike.  Grabbed in, and made the long trek to bike out.  And the long run up to the mount line.  And tried to get on the bike.  We had spent most of the morning laughing at everyone (even the pros) try to get on the bike—it was an uphill mount, and NOBODY was doing very well.  Lots of crashing into the fench, falling over, etc etc etc.  Suddenly, it seemed a lot harder, but I did manage it without too much trouble.  Alrighty, let’s see how this goes….

Bike – 2:55:50 (5th AG)

I was in a small gear, but still stood up to power up the little hill; saw Kyle at the top as I crested and Allen right down the road.  I knew he was trying to ask how the swim went, but I didn’t have much to say + I was kinda of stil out of it, so I mumbled about getting hit a lot, then sped away—right down into aero, without even thinking about it.  I was THRILLED that aero seemed to be no problem!
Up out of transition..but can I ride in aero?
The way out, to get to the highway, was a little odd.  It was rolly, it had some rough pavement, I didn’t know how long it was.  I kept trying to find my legs, but even the very first rollers seemed….annoying.  Not particularly difficult, but I felt that I shouldn’t be feeling them at all.  There was some jostling around with other riders, as we passed each other trying to settle into our respective speeds.

Once we got to the highway, I started to settle down more.  I also noticed that my garmin, which I had carefully set up to start in the “Race” profile, was showing Calories in the bottom field—not Power.  I scrolled through all the options. Did I really not set up this profile?!  I could have sworn I did, and used it in CDA, but I finally concluded that there was no way I would see my power numbers.

I debated this for a while with myself.  I don’t have particular targets, but apparently I do pay more attention than I thought, because it was driving me nuts to not know!  I finally reasoned that I could stop, save, then re-start a ride in a new profile, but I didn’t want to mess up the numbers too badly so decided I would do that at 10 miles in.  I rode on.

Up and down, and rolling hills.  Nothing awful, all really short, I felt ok, but not amazing.  I was thrilled to be in aero, though!   It was hard to really know my average speed, since there was so much up and down, but my 5 mile increments were coming in around roughly 13 minutes each so I knew I was doing well.  Except, wait, that means it’s been 15 miles and I forgot to restart my garmin!  I waited until 16 miles (because then it would just be an even 40 miles to go), then tried to quickly stop-save-back-select new profile-restart.  It was a bit of a mess, getting myself situated, but I managed it quickly enough and suddenly I had my power numbers back.  I settled back down into aero, and suddenly saw a bright pink kit with matching bright pink helmet and neon yellow shoes approaching!  MAC!!!  I yelled for her, pumped my fist and smiled, I was so psyhed to see her :)

Soon-ish, I got to the turn, and promptly saw the “1km to 70.3 turnaround” sign.  Kind of silly, really.  Up for one 1km, awkward sharp turn (where I unclipped my foot and help myself turn, much to the amusement of the volunteers), then back down.  Time to head back toward Whistler!

I found Kimberly, on one of the longer hills back up.  We rode next to each other a bit, chatting about the swim and bike so far.  She was looking great, and I was so excited for her to be doing so well on her first full!

The lanes kept moving and I kept having to avoid the middle rumble strip, or turtles, or various other things, but finally made it back to town.  I wasn’t exactly sure where Allen and Kyle would be, but suddenly I heard my name and saw Kyle out of the corner of my eye!  A slight wave as I realized it was him, and then heard Allen on the other side—but wasn’t able to see him.  No matter; I knew they were there, I knew I was in aero and therefore looked good for them to see, and happily kept on.

As we headed out towards Green Lake, it finally started spreading out a bit more.  The views were gorgeous; I kept stopping and looking around.  We passed the sign on the trail next to the road, saying “70.3 turnaround” for the run, and I chuckled thinking how that would be feeling in a few hours.  Suddenly, I realized we were descending a lot more than climbing, and realized that this must be the big looooong descent down to Pemberton.  We hit the new pavement, which supposedly they finished at 1pm the previous day.  It was “nice,” I guess, but parts of it really sketched me out—it was so fresh, it felt really slippery, and there were no guard rails.  Everyone around kept exclaiming how nice it was, but I honestly preferred the other asphalt.  Oh well.

I wasn’t sure how far until the turn-around, since I wasn’t sure how far the first turn-around had been.  Clearly, I was super well prepared for this ;)  I did finally see Sam, coming up the other direction, so I hoped that meant I was getting close!  Sure enough, I started seeing signs for Pemberton, and soon I was heading to the “70.3 turnaround” lane.  A little confusing, but got it all sorted out.  Once again unclipped (while telling the volunteers “ahhh I don’t trust myself!”, as they all yelled “hey that’s the best turn we’ve seen all day!”) and was on my way.  Somewhere around here, there was an aid station.  I had refilled with some Gatorade at some point, but I was getting hungry.  Again.  I was trying to be better about my EFS but that hunger was definitely there.  I saw some volunteers hading out banana halves, and I totally jumped on it!  Perfect.  I took a couple more at the next couple aid stations, and it was enough to get me through.  Few.

I started grinding my way up.  This will be great! I thought.  I love hills.  I can pass people.  I can’t wait.  I’ll feel wonderful!  Just a few-ish miles and I’ll be done!

Except..people were passing me.  And I was getting dropped.  Not that I care particularly about passing people, just that it was a clear indication that I just wasn’t feeling it.  I would have sworn my brakes were rubbing, but I know by now that whenever I think that, it usually means I’m just being slow.

Nothing was bad, I just didn’t feel good.  No energy.  No fight.  I tried drinking more, tried water instead of Gatorade, tried more bananas.. but the legs just weren’t there.

I did have one Aid Station Fiasco, as I got closer to the end of the long climb.  I had a toss bottle of water on my top tube, and it wasn’t quite done yet but I thought maybe some nice cold water would help me feel better.  I grabbed it to toss at the beginning of the aid station, and there was a kid on the side, collecting bottles, so he held his hand out.  Ok, so he wants to just grab it, sure, I’ll do that instead of chucking it at him.  Except, somehow that hand-off didn’t work, because he was way off the side of the road and I wasn’t paying attention at all, and WHY AM I SUDDENLY OFF THE ROAD AND RIDING INTO THE GRAVEL!!?!???!  I dropped the bottle, stabilized myself and got back onto the pavement.  ROOKIE MOVE, KELLEY,  DO NOT RIDE OFF THE ROAD. 

By this time, the next volunteer who had previously been holding water, was too busy staring at me (the dumb biker riding off the raod) to get more water…so, I had to wait for the next volunteer.  But someone else rode up, but in front of me and grabbed the bottle---and proceeded to drop it in front of my tire.  I avoided that, and finally, finally, FINALLY at the very end of the aid station, managed to grab a nice, cold bottle of water. 

Except this bottle, they had yanked the entire closure part of the cap off, so when I put it in my bottle holder it just spilled water onto my garmin.  I mean, I know the thing is water resistant, but I didn’t exactly want to be dumping water on it the entire time.  So, I ended up dumping half of it out on myself, so that at least the dripping was minimized to when there were bumps in the road.  The struggle.

Speaking of struggle, I was still struggling.  Time was passing quickly but distance was not, but I thought I should still be under 3 hours. Hopefully.  The last few miles weren’t pretty, but I finally made it back to Whistler, and wound my way to transition.
Mostly just happy to get off the dumb bike
As I turned the corner and saw the guy motioning to SLOOOW DOOOWN, I unclipped…but heard Kyle yelling at me from the sides to keep going—the mount line was around one last corner!   Errrr, way to make that clear, guys.  Turned, pedaled a bit more, and THEN finally unclipped and managed to stop my garmin before a nice volunteer grabbed my bike away (in hindsight, that seems so odd.  My poor bike!  But in the moment, it’s totally second nature—off the bike, let go, and don’t think twice about someone else taking it away).
See?!  From far away, that arrow just looks like a dismount line!  Right?  Just tell me I'm right...

T2 – 0:59

I rushed off to grab my bag.  That morning, I had intentionally paid close attention to where it was.  The numbering confused me, but I know where it should be.  Apparently, it confused the volunteers, too.  As they shouted my number, to try to help, I had multiple volunteers trying to grab me and take me to a differnet line of bags.  “Over here!”  I finally got kind of annoyed, and snapped “no, I’m pretty sure it’s right here,” as I ran down the line, grabbed my bag, and ran off.  Sorry, not meaning to be snippy, but I really did know where it was and just needed them to stop trying to change what I was doing and distract me!

The tent was fairly busy, but I found a seat.  Took shoes and glasses off, but left on my helmet.  OF COURSE.  As I got my socks and shoes on, I laughed to the volunteer, saying “ok maybe I should take my helmet off, my husband always makes fun of me for leaving it on!”  “it wouldn’t be the first time someone ran off with it on!” she laughed.

After confirming I didn’t want my glasses, the volunteer gathered the rest of my stuff and I was off!

Run – 1:50:54 (5th AG)

And soon enough, I was off.  I heard a big group of cheers, from various friends (sorry, I didn’t even see exactly who was in all the groups but I kept recognizing faces; now I can’t remember which groups I saw where! But hi!!!!)…and as I ran through the chute at the start of the run, I quickly realized that the tagaderm-and-sports-tape combo, which had been flapping a bit on the bike but was otherwise fine, was now INCREDIBLY ANNOYING.  I knew there was no way I could keep it on for the run, flapping around like that, and decided right away I’d have to stop momentarily at the first aid station to toss it.

Hooray, hi Allen!  I'll pretend to look happy about the start of the run, sure!
Turning the corner, there was Allen!  After smiling and running past, the flapping tagaderm on my knee was still bugging me.  I tried to keep going.  I got like 5 more steps before I realized there was no way I was even going to make it to the aid station—so I stopped, ripped it off, turned and yelled “ALLEN!!!!” as I threw it over towards him, pointed and ran off.  I did feel bad, leaving a wadded mess of sweaty, oozy tagaderm…but…sorry.  :)

Then he made the mistake of asking how I felt, and the truth came out...

I wound my way slowly through the first part of the course, around lost lake. Everything was uphill!  WHY IS EVERYTHING UPHILL?!  I was struggling, it felt so so so hard, I could feel myself working way harder than I should be.  Finally, from the other edge of Lost Lake, things started going down more than up, and I tried desperately to pick up the pace.  Figure it out.  I was dodging pedestrians and mountain bikers, since the trail was still open to other use.  I made it to the intersection, where special needs was for the full, and saw Kyle and friends shortly after.  Kyle yelled at me to run someone down, but I didn’t know who he was talking about—it didn’t matter, anyway.  There was nothing in me.  No energy in my legs, and absolutely no spark to push it.  Allen saw me a few yards down, and tried yelling at me to push the pace as well—I waved him off, and couldn’t even try.  He told me afterwards that he could tell right then that I didn’t have it in me, since his yelling didn’t even perk me up momentarily.  No fight.
Normally, this would inspire me.  Not today.
Regardless, I was now about 5k down, which mean there was “only” 10 miles left! I reasoned with myself that 10 miles was just like an easy long run, no big deal.  I did finally find myself settling down, and things started feeling sustainable vs the frantic, “how am I ever going to keep running” feeling at the beginning.  The garmin must have been loosing satelites, because it kept dipping down to like, 15 minute miles, and I knew I wasn’t THAT slow, but I knew I was nowhere near where I “should be.”

Let’s get a wider perspective here, though, and take a look at my running since CDA.  In other words—nothing.  My running has been feeling so flat, and honestly a huge struggle.  I haven’t been running anywhere near my “normal” times, so at least in my head, I knew that while I WANTED to be running faster—there was nothing extraordinarily wrong with the day.  I was just not running super well lately.
At least these photos make it look like I was running! :)
But, back to the course.  It was all uphill, did I mention that??  It wound through various neighborhoods, and trails, and all sorts of places.  Super pretty, lots to look at, but MAN I was struggling.  Lots of games with myself, making it to the next mile, the next landmark.  I saw Sam coming back, yelled at her, then knew the next thing to hit was the turnaround.   FINALLY it came, but the downhills I was looking forward to, after the uphills to get there, just weren’t quite as much as I had hoped ;)
At least it was pretty :)
But, I kept going.  It ebbed and flowed, sometimes feeling better, sometimes feeling worse.  But finally, I made it back to Blackcomb Way, and I could see and hear the finish line!

Unfortunately, it’s still quite the trek to get TO the finish line, as you have to go past it, wind through more trails, head back to the village, run under an overpass, turn to run a block THROUGH the village, then run over the overpass and finally, finally, FINALLY turn onto the street with the finish line at the end.  Kyle was there, near the turn, and I heard him cheering for me.  As I hit the red carpet, I actually saw Allen for once, waved, and TRIED to give five him—it almost worked!

Almost to the finish!  Finally!

The high-5 that ALMOST happened
In the end, I still very happily crossed the line—unaware of my time, or anything else, just happy to be done with a solid day of training.


Swim 37:56
T1 3:21
Bike 2:55:50
T2 0:59
Run 1:50:54

Overall 5:29:00

5/13 AG, 102/536 Overall

Not my best, not my worst.  All told, it was about exactly what I expected, given where I am with training and especially considering crashing.  I know I CAN be faster, which makes it hard to get super excited about these results, but I also never went into it with the intention of being competitive.  So, with that, I think it was a really successful day.

I still had a good swim, and I’ve solidified that I can swim faster than last year—even swimming conservatively, off-course, and trying to protect my knee and arm, I swam much faster than at Cabo last year.

I may have felt smoked on the bike, but I still averaged 19+ mph, on a course with something like 3500’ elevation (I still haven’t uploaded any data, since it was Allen’s garmin…oopps), so that’s nothing to be too ashamed of.

Running wasn’t great, but it was still a 8:28/mi average which….isn’t great, but for the end of a 70.3, and considering I was struggling with that pace last week..i’ll take it!  A very fair assessment of my running ability right now.

Now, I finally feel like I can fully focus on Australia!  That is the next race coming up, and I’m super excited and motivated.  Time to get my legs back, and get going!!!  :)

Trusty Sherpa!!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Ironman Coeur d'Alene 70.3 - 2016

Coeur d’Alene 70.3 is in the books, and what a weekend it was!

Heading into this race, I had been nervous.  I knew it would be packed with strong, fast athletes.  I was intimidated...  At least, until about a week or two before, and taper was in full swing and I caught myself feeling—relaxed?!  Sure, I was looking forward to racing, which always brings some slight anxiety, but it was a really happy, excited type of anxiety.  This was new! 

Even once we arrived in town, and surrounded by the hype, I was pretty calm.  Never got super nervous, until a little bit well into the evening the night before.  Nothing new there.  All that to say: I felt good.  I did a nice, full taper.  My knee and IT band were acting up all week, but even that didn’t throw me for much of a loop.  I was remarkably calm and just wanted to get things started.

Quick swim test with Allen, Mac and Shawn who had just gotten in to town.  Ummmm, the water is really cold, guys.  Standing on the steps in the water, my feet felt chilly.  Finally took the plunge and tried to swim and instantly got a total ice cream headache.  The water was rough, from the boats and sea planes in the lake, but we pushed through.  After what felt like forever (but probably only 3 or 4 minutes), the pain subsided as everything just went numb.  After a few more buoys, we turned around.  I mostly just wanted to feel the water and know what kind of cold to expect, and that’s about as much time as I wanted to spend in the water (plus, seriously, choppy!).  Even that freezing cold didn’t faze me too much, as far as race nerves!

Yuuuup, the water is chilly...eeek!
 Back to the house to get the bikes ready.  Quick spin out on the run course, tightened my rear wheel which was clunking again, and tried to loosen up my knee.  It was ok, but I could definitely feel it.  

Spinning things out and checking out the run course

Soooo aero ;)
Made it back to Ironman village for bike check-in and athlete meeting….

…I’m sorry, what?  Where are our bike racks?  Way the heck in the middle of nowhere?!

Look, I get that you can’t always have a great spot.  I really do get that.  But for all the hype that Ironman make about “AWA Status,” with one of the “perks” literally being a better transition spot, this was pretty disappointing.  Honestly, I would have cared a lot LESS, if they hadn’t always made such a big deal about “prime transition spot!”  Anyway, not only was transition huge, but Mac and I were at the furthest end, on the furthest side of the furthest row…  Seriously, all the other higher number spots were better, because that area of transition was narrower and thus the racks didn’t even go out as far as ours.

Way the heck in the middle of nowhere
 ANYWAY, it was frustrating, but what can you do.  After getting confused and trying to figure out where exactly the run swim in and bike out, and bike in and run out were (never quite was sure) we headed to the athlete meeting, which had been going for a while but we could mostly hear it from transition anyway.

A quick little run after that, and I gingerly tested out my knee. 15 minute easy, that’s it.  I won’t hurt it, right?

Well, I left from the expo and MAN I was feeling good!  I instantly knew that the taper had worked—my feet were light and my legs were fresh.  Even better, I could barely feel my knee at all and it didn’t seem to be interfering with my running!  I had to work to keep an easy pace, and secretly knew that even my easy pace was way faster than it should be.  Content, I cruised back to meet everyone.

After the rest of the usual pre-race procrastination and packing (and epic pep talk text from Monica, below), it was time to set an early alarm, and get ready to race!

I mean, how is that not inspiring??
The next day, the alarm went off way too early, and I had a split second of “what am I doing?  Oh.  Wait.  I have to get up?  And RACE??  What?!”… Dragged myself up and went into auto-pilot.  Headed to transition, set up my stuff, visited the porta-potty five billion times.  Mac barked at me to get my wetsuit on already (standard procedure), I hemmed and hawed and got the dumb thing on, before giving last hugs to my parents and Kyle.

Please note their wetsuits are on all the way and mine isn't.  This is not an unusual situation.
My dad gave me a hug, and very seriously whispered “don’t die out there, ok?!”… Kyle gave me a hug, and very seriously whispered “go kick some ass today, ok?!”

My dad during the swim...making sure I don't die.
As we joined the massive surge of wetsuit-clad athletes swarming to the entrance of the swim area, I felt myself fidgeting with my wedding ring….  Wait.  What.  What?!?!?  Why am I still wearing this, and there is NO WAY it will stay on for the swim!  I stopped, told Allen I would find him, and had to fight my way back to my parents.  I suddenly recognized the sheer magnitude of athletes that morning, as I tried to make my way “upstream” to the group.  I finally just hopped to the grass and ran that way, which was much easier, but it really quik wake-up call that holy cow there a lot of people racing.  After frantically passing my ring to my mom, I ran back..and realized I had NO idea where I had actually left Allen on the sidewalk, and that everyone literally looks the same wearing black neoprene.

Somehow, I did spot him (probably because he was the only person standing still), and we made our way to the beach.  Just as surprisingly, Mac somehow spotted us and called us over.  PHEW!  All accounted for, all set to swim, and all able to get into the right corral area in the right time.

The cannon went off, and athletes started streaming into the water.  Allen, Mac and I had situated ourselves in the 31-35 minute swim group.  As always, this is a highly optimistic time for me, but due to recent debacles in races, it seemed the best bet.  It seemed they were only letting people in a few at a time, which was really nice, but also took a while as we slooooowly made our way closer to the start.  As we neared the turn to the water, I spotted Kyle standing on the wall, and we waved and yelled to him and my parents.  ALWAYS good to make contact and a last-second boost.

By this point, they were funneling us basically single file, and Allen, Mac and I stepped over the start mat and spread out, into the water, side by side.

Swim – 0:37:33 (28th AG)

Into the water, and I immediately found Mac’s feet.  I could see Allen next to me.  Surprisingly, we stayed together for a while, and it was pretty nice to be able to follow Mac’s feet, as well as see Allen next to me every time I breathed.  I remember reaching the first buoy and thinking “oh cool, first buoy and we’re still all together!”…before promptly veering off course to the right, and totally losing them.  Ooooh well, it was nice while it lasted.
Swim start!  I think these are actually the pros...
I also realized—it wasn’t that cold!  I kept waiting, expecting to feel the cold sink in.  I was initially surprised that there was no shock of cold as I dove in, but I figured it would come.  But it never did!  I did opt to wear my normal swim cap under the race cap, which wasn’t a whole lot more insulation than the previous day but apparently it was enough.  Water temp was 62F that morning (supposedly) but the cold wasn’t an issue at all.  Phew!  Much prefer a cold pre-race swim, and being pleasantly surprised during the race.  The water sure wasn’t toasty warm, and obviously colder than last year, but nothing crazy and nothing noteworthy, other than the fact that it had felt SO cold the day before.

As I made my way out, the sun started rising over the resort to my left, and I quickly settled for breathing only on my right.  I did try to breathe “normally” aka every 3 strokes occasionally, just because it “felt” better, but then sun was so bright I couldn’t keep it up for long.  I kept drifting to my right, which was pretty frustrating, and I spent a good chunk of time on the way out trying to get myself back on track and in the middle of things—the nice thing about the spread out start was that “being in the middle of things” really wasn’t that worrisome or crazy.

I wasn’t sure how many buoys there were, I realized, which kind of made it feel like forever.  About halfway out, I got an enormous wave of water down my throat while trying to breathe.  Those giant mouthfuls of water are both bad and good, because A) your lungs prefer air, to water, and you think you’re about to die, but B) it’s so abrupt that after the initial shock that this is the end, this is how it all ends for me, you realize that actually you’re actually quite alright, and you get back to swimming within seconds.

Fiiiiiiiinally I reached the turn buoy.  It was choppier here, due to the turn, but I think it was less choppy than during the full ironman swim last year.  Swimming across to the next turn buoy, we were headed right into the sun, and I didn’t even try to sight—just swam forward-ish and tried to keep people around me.  Suddenly the second turn buoy was there –wow, that was quick!- and it was time to push back to shore.

Again, I realized I didn’t know how many buoys there were, and I got irritated that I hadn’t even counted on the way out so there was no way of knowing how many there were on the way back.  I entertained myself a bit by looking at the actual number printed on each buoy as I passed, but a few were out of order and I wasn’t sure if they were descending or ascending and I then I’d miss one and wasn’t sure….sigh.  Someday, I’ll remember to actually look at the course and take note of these things, first.

I stayed on course a liiiiiiittle bit better on the way back, which was good.  Swallowed another huge mouthful of water, but otherwise uneventful.  At about the same spot as last year, with the resort and docks to my right, I started thinking “Gee Rosanne, concentrate, you’re swimming a (half) ironman!” and had to remind myself to stay focused.  What can I say, swimming is just boring!  I need to work on staying engaged and focused, because it’s highly likely I started slowing down for no reason other than I got bored.  Whoooops.

Suddenly, I started hearing noises coming from the beach…yes!  I think that’s my favorite part of a swim; when you finally start hearing the announcer and music on shore.  The end is near, and there is life outside of this swim!

Stroke, stroke, stroke, there’s the bottom!, stroke, stroke, keep going until you can touch the bottom with your fingers, stroke, stand up!  Splashed out of the water and onto the beach, and that swim is DONE!

(Final Grope Count, for Monica: 2-4, depending on your definition/severity)

The only "swim" photo I'm in (hiding in the back).  That is my happy face to be done swimming :)
T1 – 4:02

Scampered up the beach, feeling out of usual.  I heard my parents, and looked over and saw them cheering and waving!  That was fun, I usually don’t notice anything out of the swim.  I slowly tried peeling off my wetsuit.  Nothing was functioning quite right.  I glanced at my Garmin – is that a 36?! – and hit lap, to start my transition.  As I went back to fiddling with my wetsuit, and trotting along in the wave of athletes, I kept thinking “what?!  Is that seriously my swim time?!”  Please note that my goal had been 40 minutes, and even that seemed a stretch in open water.

I managed to get my left sleeve undone, as I got up to the grass, and realized I was still wearing my caps and goggles.  Dangit!!  This is all of order and now how I normally do things, what is going on!?  I tore them off my head, fiddled with  my right arm and struggled getting it off over my garmin.  What is happening, Rosanne?! You aren't doing anything right!  Finally off, I shoved my cap and goggles into my right sleeve, just so I didn’t have to hold them.  But, now it’s bouncing.  Grabbed the wrist of the sleeve, and kept on running.

And running, because we were still running through the grass, and where the heck is transition!

And running and running, but suddenly my sleeve feels lighter.  I think my goggles and caps fell out.  Someone is yelling something about dropping something.  UGHHH.

I should have stopped.  I should have gone back and grabbed my stuff.   But I was on auto-pilot, and while my brain was there telling me what to do, it really was not in control… my body was just trying to go back to its normal post-swim routing, and my normal routine does not involve back-tracking and picking something up, soooo that’s just not gonna happen.

Of course, in hindsight, I really, reaaaaally wish I had stopped because it would have taken all of 3 extra seconds, and now I lost my FAVORITE pair of goggles for open water, AND my favorite swim cap.  Yes, I'm still very bitter about it.

But, I kept running. And running.  I ran past transition, could see my rack spot on the other side of the fence, why can’t there be an entrance to transition here?!  I saw Mac’s bike still there, and was surprised—she must be in there somewhere, ahead of me.  I still had to run all the way around to the other end, then all the way back up through transition, then all the way to the end of the row.  FINALLY, as I was running up to my row, I saw Mac heading out with here bike!  “HI MAAAAAC, GO GO GO!”
SERIOUSLY, strava told me t was 0.4 miles.  Ridiculous.
I got to my spot.  There was one bike there, and one bike gone.  Better than normal, when I’m the last bike still there.  I tried to get my wetsuit off, had to yank it off with my hands and try not to fall over.  Always graceful.  They had given us bags for our wetsuit, but as I stood there soaking wet, with a very wet wetsuit, I just couldn’t figure out how to easily open the bag and shove it in.  So I ducked under the rack, and hurled my wetsuit over to my transition bag, which was laying against the fence.  Good enough.  Ducked back under the rack, and back to my bike.

“How much time are you going to waste, Rosanne?!  Seriously, time's a-ticking.  Quit running around trying to make transition pretty, just get ready and get on the bike!”

Luckily, the rest of transition was smooth.  Glasses, helmet, shoes, GO!  I ran up the row, and right as I rejoined the main  walkway—there’s Allen!!  We ran side by side and exited transition together, which was crazy but pretty cool!

Of course, after such a long transition, why on earth would they put the mount line close by—as we ran along the street a bit before finally, finally, FINALLY reaching the line.   Over the line, leg over the bike, push off and GO!

Bike – 2:45:27 (4th AG)

Like the jerk that I am, I totally ditched Allen without a second thought as soon as I got on the bike.  Oops.  As the course spun us through town I heard Colleen yell my name, and I managed a quick wave.  The first few blocks were crowded, as expected, and I started to try to both get my speed up and settle down, ready to see what this would be like.
The always-flattering just-out-of-transition photo, where everyone is trying to figure out what's going on.
As we headed out past the neighborhoods, it was good to finally get in aero.  Just go.  The course was crowded, as was very much expected.  I passed a lot, got passed some, had to keep re-passing some people… I just tried to hold it pretty steady.  I kept getting stuck behind big packs—frustrating.  It was less about being stuck and slowing down; I mostly didn’t like the fact that I was essentially forced to be in a drafting position.  I tried to stick to the sides, and ended up surging a few times just to get ahead, because it just felt better to not be stuck behind a group.

Always passing
Along the lake, things felt good.  It was fun watching people come back in, already.  It was a gorgeous day, and while there had been speculation that it may be chilly for the first part of the bike (coming out of the cold water, and before the sun really warmed anything up), it was never a problem—in fact, I dried off pretty quick and just felt comfy.  I was riding strong, mostly focused on getting around people and finding my rhythm.  My legs “hurt” a little, in a sore, why-are-we-being-used way, but it was nothing too alarming so just pushed through it.

Bennet Bay hill approached, and I was so glad I didn’t have to come back and run up it later.  And—look at that!  Just ahead, about halfway up the hill, I saw a little pink POC and blue chevron Betty kit.  Mac!  I kinda yelled, then spun up to her. After a brief “geez my legs hurt” whine (seriously, why were my legs feeling so sore?!), I pulled away a bit, and made it up the hill.  It was a good warm-up, before getting to the “real” part of the course, on 95.

Coming down, I saw a few Wattie teammates going the other way—that was cool!  I was happy to see them on course, and realized it was the first time I had really seen that kit “in action” in person.  Not sure why, but that thought kept sticking with me.  I was glad they looked good.  ;)  After a few more back-and-forths with a few other guys, the turnaround very suddenly appeared!  Big turn (and hey, no need to be back here for special needs later!  Woohoo!), and it was time to head back.

Just a short time later, I saw Mac making her way to the turnaround.  HIIIII MAC!  I started scanning everyone coming towards me, hoping to see Allen.  Eventually I saw him, briefly, but I’m not sure he saw me :)

Saw a couple more Watties, said hi, spun up the hills, and made my way back.  I started noticing my power numbers seemed a little low, but I was maintaining a good speed and figured it was fine.

Another good shot showing ALL THE PEOPLE (actually this was a less-crowded part!)
Coming back to the main streets, as more and more spectators started lining the sidewalks, I started wondering where my friends and family were.  Coming down past Calypso’s, of course, I head a big bunch of cheers, and I knew it was them :) The Mile 15 sign came shortly after, and I suddenly realized—hey!  Only 41 miles to go!  This is cake.
Just after the packed streets through downtown
 It was an odd feeling, actually.  A 20(ish) mile out and back, and the bike would be done—already!  Hey, this 70.3 distance is great!  I don’t have to see everything twice, like last year!  Haha!

The no-pass zone on the bridge loomed, and I braced myself.  In April when we came and rode the same spot, the wind was crazy and the bridge was really scary.  No such problems today!  Thankfully, the first small little hill was right afterwards, which meant things finally started to spread out and thin a little.

Things were mostly uneventful, and much sooner than expected, we hit the first climb.  Well, first we passed the spot where my chain came off for the first time, last year.  I cautiously laughed to myself as I rode by, and very tentatively shifted—no problem this year!  I haven’t had ANY issues, or even any reason to be worried, since updating the entire groupset earlier this year (KNOCK ON WOOD), but it was still a relief!

Spun up the first climb—but not quite as easy as last year.  This is about when I started realizing the difference between the two races.  Sure, I wasn’t going HARD, but I also wasn’t consciously trying to keep it easy-easy-easy feeling the entire time either.  Keep it steady, Rosanne!

I started leap-frogging a few guys, who I ended up leap-frogging all day.  Kind of nice to have a little “group” because it kept me grounded and focused.  I finally started having some of my EFS (which I just flat-out didn’t feel like I wanted or needed on the first little bike section), and was glad that the Gatorade I had opted to go with seemed to settle well with it.  While I train with Skratch, it just never seems to be quite “right” on race day, and I really did not want a repeat of the stomach issues I had on the run at Troika.

Downhill, finally! This was the shorter of the main descents.  It was relatively straight, and nothing technical about it.  Stay in aero, Kelley.  Come on.  Just STAY IN AERO, don’t you DARE get up on the bars, stay relaxed, you’re totally fine, whatever you do you will stay in aero, ok, just keep it calm and STAY IN AERO—” and suddenly I realized I was not in aero anymore.  UGH.  Apparently my body was not listening to my brain, and totally subconsciously decided I was just not comfortable.  Oh well, I made is most of the way before wimping out.  :-\  (I did pass one guy going downhill, who only had one arm.  MAJORLY IMPRESSED!  I would be soooo terrified, if I only had one arm to stay stable with!!)

Ok, Kelley, you’re doing good, time for the next climb.  This time, I knew it would be longer.  Some guy was mashing the pedals past me.  Go ahead, dude.  “Teamwork makes the dream work!” he said, as he passed…..wait, what?  I spent the next portion of the climb contemplating what that even meant, in the context of triathlon (and more specifically, in the context of passing someone uphill on the bike).  I’m 100% certain he was just spouting out generic motivational phrases, but it was still pretty entertaining, and kept me amused for a bit.

I did start noticing, again, my power numbers seemed low.  I saw it hit like, 86W at one point.  Uphill?!?  I wasn’t taking it THAT easy, was I?  On the other hand, it did tell me that I probably COULD go a little harder, so I kept an eye and would bump it up a little if the number looked too absurdly low.  Overall I was still making decent time so wasn’t too worried, but instead just used it as an indicator of whether or not I could afford to push it a little more.  Definitely still learning the most useful way to use that data.

The long descent, nope, sorry, no aero for this girl.  But that’s ok.  The next rollers hit, and it was time to GO!  More leap-frogging with the same guys.  I finally got low enough on my Gatorade that I took a new bottle from an aid station, to top it off.  I realized this was probably the first time I had Orange Gatorade since the ironman last year…but hey, this time it was nice and ice cold ;)
Orange gatorade in my speedfill straw can mean only one thing--an Ironman race
The  pros were coming back the opposite direction, and I saw Heather Jackson—wait, was she the first female?  I wasn’t sure, since I hadn’t been paying tooooo much attention, but it was still cool.  The fast Age Groupers were also starting to trickle by, and suddenly having a parade of bikes going the other way made things a lot more exciting.

Counting down miles, nothing was feeling awful and I was staying pretty consistent.  Times were slipping just a bit, but given the climbing I wasn’t surprised nor was I too worried.  The wind was picking up a bit, more blustering and annoying than anything, but…pretty sure it’s a slight headwind, so at least there will be a little push on the way back in!

The rest of the way out was, again, uneventful.  Just the way I like it.  Turnaround, wide circle as I demonstrate my Stereotypical Triathlete With No Bike Handle Skills talent, and time to head back!

…except that tailwind I was expecting, wait, no.  This is not a tailwind.  THIS is the headwind.  ARGGHHHH!  Honestly it wasn’t much, and I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it if I hadn’t been expecting and waiting for a tailwind, but it was a bit of an annoyance—not to mention, it was moving me around a lot more than before.  Still nothing crazy, still super comfortable, but kinda made you roll your eyes and groan.  Of course.  That’s what you get for expecting a tailwind, Rosanne.

Now, the line of athletes going the opposite direction was non-stop.  I scanned the field, finally saw Mac and we yelled and it made me smile.  Next up: find Allen.  I eventually saw him too, and got to yell at him as well.  I did have to force myself to stop looking, for a while, because I realized I was basically just watching the other lane, and not watching where I was going—and hitting some of the small downhills, plus the wind, I really should be paying attention.  Nevertheless, it was infinitely more interesting on the way back, watching everyone.

Passed the second spot I dropped a chain last year.  HAH!  Kept recognizing other little sections, and remembering what I was thinking and feeling a year ago, at the same point.  I was also acutely aware of how stoked I was that I was heading back to transition, and did not have to go do everything again ;)  (very different races, and very different mentalities, to be sure.  I just wanted to go fast!)

The course looks empty, but I swear it was packed!
The way back on 95 passed by more quickly; maybe it was the combination of watching everyone, counting down the miles, and looking forward to the run, but it sure passed by quick.  I didn’t really follow any food/liquid schedule, but tried to get as much EFS as I could when convenient (basically any time we were going up), and got down as much Gatorade as possible.  Had some plain water as well, and even dumped a few squirts of water on myself, just for old times’ sake. ;)  In the end, I only had about half my flask of EFS, and probably 1.5 bottles of Gatorade, plus my clif fruit stick which is always my turnaround/halfway-ish treat.  Next time, I need to try to get down a little more, since (spoiler alert) I got hungry – like, actually hungry – at the very end of the run.

I also had to go to the bathroom.  Actually, just like last year, I head to go to the bathroom since the time I got to the swim start.  But try as I might, I can’t go in my wetsuit, and I wasn’t about to stop on the bike (I feel like I literally wrote the same sentence last year).  So, as much as I kept drinking the Gatorade, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was really a good idea.  Worst comes to worst, I figured I could stop in transition.

With about 10 miles to go, at the start one a hill, I saw a very familiar kit standing dejectedly on the side of the road, bike upside down—another Wattie teammate!  Since I was now relatively close to the end, I knew I could proooobably afford to leave her with my saddle bag, if she needed anything.  But as I briefly slowed down and put a foot down, asking if she needed anything, she just said she just couldn’t fix it.  As much as I would love to help, it was still a race and I couldn’t afford to stop and try to help (no guarantee I could help, especially if she couldn’t), so I kept going..and felt pretty bad.  But, I kept my eyes out for bike support.  They had to be around somewhere, right?

And, wouldn’t you know it, about a mile up the road I saw another cyclist getting help from a motorcycle.  Since it was still a climb, it also meant I was moving relatively slowly, and had time to get a few words out while I went by—“are you bike support?? There’s a girl, just at the bottom of this hill!” I yelled, pointing back down to where she was.  The motorcyclist nodded, said “ok, got it!” and I was able to go on my way, feeling much better about leaving her, and hoping she would get help soon.  (I talked to her after the race, and I don’t think he ever made it to her or found her—she ended up walking her bike another 15 minutes, before trying to get her chain unstuck again, and finally got it sorted.  She still had a great race, aside from the 20minute delay, but bummer that my attempt at getting her help didn’t actually help!  Maybe she just got it sorted before the guy found her.)

Anyway, by the this time, it was really time to head back down into town.  This also means the scariest descent, for me.  In all honestly, there’s nothing scary about it, other than the fact that…it’s a descent.  There are a few small turns.  It’s long.  I’m a baby.  Etc.  It’s also pretty narrow, which makes it feel scarier, but I just sat up and tried to stay off the breaks and go as fast as possible.

Of course, near the bottom, I did hear a slight noise behind me, and I pulled over to the right even further.  “Thanks!” some guy said, as he blazed past me.  Then another, and another. And a couple more.  OOPS, was I holding everyone up!?  I wasn’t trying to take up too much space, but with the narrow section, you basically needed to be way over to the side in order to have space for two bikes.  I felt bad, but I wasn’t going TOOOOOOO slowly…right?!

By the time they all passed me, though, it flattened out, and everyone pulled up.  Meaning I rolled right up to them, and…had to pass them, again.  So, I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad, right??

Rolling and feeling good!
Last short little hill.  Last time over the bridge.  Last push through town.  I heard a yell (Crystal?  I think?) as I was eying my garmin, watching it creep closer and closer to 2:45:00.  My goal had been a 2:45 bike split, but knew that might be pushing it, based on how the climbs went.  As I rolled through town, it hit 2:44. I could see crowds up ahead, but nothing else.  As it hit 2:45, I finally saw the dismount.  27 second later, and I was off the bike, with a close enough time that it felt respectable enough.

(Final Pizza Thought Count: Only 1, which didn’t last long, because apparently thinking of pizza while sucking down vanilla EFS just doesn’t really work)

T2 – 2:38

As expected, the run in with the bike was in the grass and getting muddy.  And it was uneven, and long, and oh my gosh, where is the opening to actually get into transition?  Once again, we ran alllll the way past transition, before actually getting to the bike in arch.

Then another bumpy run down to my rack.  Rack is empty—score!  Easily racked my bike, threw off my bike shoes, and, yes, plopped down on the grass to deal with my shoes.  I did manage to unbuckle my helmet first, but as always, I focused on socks and shoes before taking my helmet off.

Grabbed the spare gu, shoved it in my jersey, jammed the hat on my head and ran off, taking way too long to get my race belt to buckle in the process.  Did not stop for the bathroom, because now, 3+ hours later, I was suddenly fine.  Go figure.

Run – 1:41:53 (3rd AG)

Following the instructions of the volunteers, I turned out into the run out chute, but missed where the run officially “started.”  It felt odd.  The start of the run was different than the full, and everything felt…off.  It was an awkward run out the park, and through the parking lot.  An awkward twist through the resort (oh wait that’s Colleen, quick Rosanne, look happy, Hi Colleen!), my feet were numb and nothing felt good and what is happening?

Trying to figure out my number and - more importantly - figure out how to run!  Where's the course!?
As I rounded a funny turn to get to the park, I heard the announcer calling in Andy Potts, winner of the race. Well that’s cool, he’s winning and I’m just starting the run!  Man…

I knew we had to get through the park somewhere.  Followed random cones and volunteers.  Where am I, is this an uphill or am I just out of shape?  Then suddenly, Monica appeared, so obviously I have to make a face and make sure she understands that literally less than 3 minutes into the run, all hope is already lost.  As I tried to scowl, all I got from her was a “no, no, don’t you shake your head at me!!”  Well, hmph.

A little further up the path in the park, still struggling and feeling like a million pounds, Shawn and Kyle appeared.  “Keep going, Patrick is just ahead, go catch up!”  Again, I shook my head and made a terrible face.  What is happening Rosanne?!  Ugh, and now even your coach saw me look like I'm dying already.

Finally, as we wound out of the park and spread out a bit, back to the “normal,” familiar part of the course, I forced myself to relax.  Settle down Rosanne.  You always feel bad.  You’re running a 6:30 pace, you are NOT running slow, SET. TLE. DOWN.  I tried to relax, tried to will myself to fall into a grove, and shake off the feeling that this was going to be an awful run.  Slowly, slowly, I eased up and feeling started returning to my toes.  First mile: 6:49/mi.  You better ease up there, Kelley.

Through the first aid station, and through the little neighborhood by the lake.  Finally, a straight, flat stretch of road.  I fiiiiiiiiinally started settling down, finally started to feel less awful.  I kept running.

The stark contrast to last years’ run was obvious.  Last year, every single house had people outside, and basically every other house had a sprinkler or hose or ice.  There were a couple sprinklers this year, but it was soooo much cooler it hardly seemed necessary.  There were still lots of spectators, it just felt different—they were spectating this time, not outside, worried, trying to keep everyone alive ;) (only a slight exaggeration).  This is not a bad thing at all!  Just a tangibly different feel to the race, which was interesting to notice right off the bat.

I also noticed that my left foot hurt, on the inside, as a blister started forming.  What is with the Claytons, and getting blisters on the inside of my left foot??  This annoyed me the entire time, although by the second loop I think I was just used to it and managed to tune it out.

Still feeling slightly off, I took out my gu.  It wasn’t that I felt sluggish, and needing fuel, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.  I nursed that gel for about 2 miles, but I managed to get it all down—and I actually do think it helped!

The “happy fun corner” was still there, the aid stations were the same, and there was still plenty to pay attention to!  There was a constant stream of athletes coming the other direction – slower male pros, and fast age groupers, mostly.  As I ran along the long stretch along Mullan, I saw a Heather running towards me, complete with a bike escort!  “YEAH, Heather!”  She gave me a HUGE smile, and I realized I hadn’t seen any other bike escorts (or females).  She was in the lead, heading back with only a couple miles to go, and there was NO ONE in sight behind her.  It was another few minutes before I saw the next female pro, so it was super cool to see her and know she had the win in the bag!

As I made my way onto Lake Drive, and looked up the hill to the resort, it hit me that I was actually remarkably close to the turn around.  Instead of another looooong stretch along the lake, and then up and over Bennet Bay hill, etc etc etc…it was almost time to turn around!  This was so weird to me, and it struck me how much harder the full IM was.  I mean, obviously it’s harder, I never thought that it wasn’t, but it was at that moment, on the run, that the difference really made itself clear.  As I ran up the hill, I saw Francis (huge high five!) and Sam.  I had already been getting high fives and cheers from other Wattie teammates, and honestly each time I saw someone I knew, it was just better and better.
Coming to life, just a bit
Up the hill.  Down the hill.  Turn around!  As I headed back up, I turned my attention on everyone coming back towards me.  I knew Mac was back there, probably soon, plus it was just so much more interesting!  I scanned everyone, said hi to a few more people.  Looked for another gu at the aid stations, since I figured it might not hurt to try forcing down another for the second half, but they didn’t have the right kind.  Darn.  Tried to take advantage of the downhill, and bump up my speed.  Turning the corner again, to head back to the neighborhoods, I saw the best neon hat and Betty kit, and had to yell at Mac to get her attention.  Biggest cheers!  YES!  That perked me right up, and I put my head down to head back to the park.

I saw Allen, who was not looking super thrilled at this point.  Yelling for him helped me a bit, but it didn’t seem to help him.  Whoops.  Head up, Allen!  Chest out, lift those feet!

The whole first lap, I felt..bleh.  I just couldn’t get into it.  I was happy seeing everyone, I was focusing on other things, but the run just didn’t feel right.  Nothing felt bad, but nothing felt good, either.  I was keep my pace up alright – a little slower than I had wanted, but honestly it wasn’t awful.  So what was wrong?

Through the park, and suddenly inundated by cheers.  Laurie and the Project 13 group were there and cheering.  Spectators everywhere!  And Monica, again!  I MUST TELL HER ABOUT MY BLISTER!  I found the “to second loop” sign (darn, why can’t I be headed to the finish), and was impressed by the nice easy path to the second loop.  The race took advantage of an over/underpass, so there was no confusing crossing, and instead it flowed really well.  Joined up with the original course again, and started running through people just starting their first lap; the run through the park still felt weird (not sure why), but this time, I knew what to expect and just told myself to get through it.

OK fine, let's get this park part over with again!
Suddenly, Monica was by the side of the course again.  She told me to hurry up, because obviously she has managed to get there sooner than me, and also in sandals!  Yeah yeah yeah.  More faces (I’m the best at faces; I should stop), but as I ran off, she yelled after me “no, but really, you look great!”  “YOU LOOK GREAT TOO!” I yelled over my shoulder.  ;)

Waved to Laurie again, and headed back out to the streets again.  Twisted through the neighborhoods.  Not sure where my head was, but time seemed to pass, and while my pace was slowing and creeping up to the 7:50s, it still hadn’t hit 8.  So far, it was turning out to be better run than Troika, just as long as I could hold on…!

Running along Mullan again, I saw a familiar face on a bike!  Kyle was there, and as soon as he saw me, he turned to slowly ride alongside me.  “Hey, Allen is ahead, just gave him a pep talk and he’s looking better now… How are you feeling?”  I waved my hand and shrugged, and told him I wasn’t feeling particularly bad but wasn’t feeling particularly good, either.  “Well, you look good.  You’re running great....”  I could tell he was feeling me out, trying to gauge how I really felt.  We chatted a bit (well, he chatted and I listened), as he told me that Allen and Mac had gotten out of the swim together, and I was only about a minute behind.  So my fast swim time was true!  (Fast for me, that is)  As I turned to head out to the turnaround again, I yelled at him about my blister (seriously I just needed to tell everyone), and he told me to just keep running strong.

So, run I did.  I was still slowing a bit, but made it to the turnaround and headed back.  I was on my way back, and just a little over 3 miles to go!  That’s it!  You’re going to finish this thing, Rosanne!  The run isn’t killing you!  Still wasn’t quite as quick or effortless as I had hoped, finally hit a mile over 8min, but honestly it was better than Troika, so it was already a win.  Just get to the end.

The last downhill from the resort was noticeably harder, though.  I was running downhill, really TRYING to push it and use the free speed, just barely staying under an 8 minute mile.  There were a couple of girls behind me, just chatting, and it was driving me crazy that I couldn’t get away from them—I was trying to run faster, and they were still nonchalantly chatting right behind me!  I also suddenly realized I was hungry.  Like, really hungry.  Why didn’t I eat more on the bike?  Or bring another gu?!  I remembered there were oranges at the aid stations, and promised myself I would grab some next time.  That should get me to the end, right?  At the turn into the neighborhoods, I saw Mac gain, who yelled at me to go faster :) I’m trying, I’m trying!!

And as I rounded the corner, I saw Kyle again, who must have just finished talking to Mac.  I yelled to get his attention, and he suddenly circled back to ride next to me again.  This time, though, he was a lot more serious.

“Ok, so..listen.  You were 4th off the bike.  You’re running strong.  You need to drop the hammer, now.” I was surprised.  I honestly hadn’t given my placement a second thought while on the run.  But I nodded, knew what he was getting at, and tried to pick it up.  Fast feet, loose arms, you better kick this into high gear, Rosanne!  Meanwhile, Kyle was still talking, next to me.  “Yup, that’s it, keep swinging your arms.  I can tell you still have something left in you, so use it.  Go harder now, even if you can’t make it all the way, you just need to make it to the park; you’ll get more energy as soon as you hit those crowds.  Just go hard to the park and put some time in the bank now.  You’re running great, it’s been a great race for you and you’ll be leaving some hardware here soon, just keep it up.  Just ramp it up, slowly….”

Trying to ramp it up.  I vaguely remember Kyle talking and what he was saying...
And one more cool photo from this stretch, as I tried to kick it up!  I didn't even realize I ran past Ed, behind me, until I saw this.  Oops!!

I glanced down, and realized I had cranked it up a bit TOO much.  6:50 was probably not sustainable.  But it was in my head now.  I couldn’t coast in to the finish, like I had basically accepted.  I also couldn’t stop and get my oranges.  HMPH!  As we got to the end of the street, right at the turn, Shawn was waiting.  Kyle yelled up ahead, letting him know I was on the way, and as I ran by him, he yelled after me, “You got anything left to give? Yeah, you better be using it up!” Thanks, coach…  ;)

But now I knew both my friend (who can read me while racing like the back of his hand) and my coach (who literally knows every bit of fitness data about me) were telling me to kick it up.  And if those two thought I could, well then I darn well better do it.

I wish I could say I really ramped it up, but I didn’t.  I sped up a little, and got it back to sub-8s, so really I just kicked it back to where I had been running previously.  But, it was enough.  It made me work, it kept me engaged.  At the last aid station, Kyle and Shawn were there again.  They must have ridden over to meet me.  I was really glad I was still focused and running strong, because they looked (and sounded) very pleased to see me still putting in an effort :) I ignored everything around me (including Allen, who apparently was going through the aid station at the same time, but I totally missed him, as well as the giant T-Rex who was dancing around).  Why are there so many gradual uphills to this finish!?

Last couple turns down the street.  Last little uphill, seriously this is the rudest half a block uphill EVER, and last time coming into the park.  Monica was there at the park, clapping and yelling at me, “yes, you look great, you’re top 5, I’m pretty sure you’re third!!” (to which I huffed and puffed “ugh we’ll see”)  Emily was there too, smiling and yelling and telling me I was looking strong at the end.  Suddenly, that turn off to the finish line felt sooooo far away, and I really, REALLY wanted to not be running anymore. Thankfully, Kyle had been right, though—I made it to the park, and all the spectators and energy of the area was enough to carry me, when I realllllly just wanted to stop.

Got to the split.  A volunteer was standing there, indicating which side to go to.  I stayed very, VERY far to the left, so that there was no mistake I was going to run another lap.  He happily pointed me to the finish, and the spectators all cheered for me, as I turned up and over to head to Sherman.

I knew the run down Sherman would be shorter than the full, but it still felt so long!  With the temperature only in the 80s, it was FILLED with even more people and the magical view of the finish line at the end of the road was in front of me.  Spectators spilled past the red Ironman carpet and fences, creating a giant funnel.  Seriously, there is nothing better than that Coeur d’Alene finish line :)

Love the energy!
As awesome as it was, though, I really seriously wanted to be done running.  I saw my parents, was SO happy to see them, waved and ran, and into the chute.  I don’t think I’ve ever run through a finish chute wanting it to be over soooo badly, but it was like a slow motion “one more step, come on, there’s the finish, keep going, almost there, just a few more….”

Longest finish line, and I am definitely NOT smiling on the inside
I did some awkward thing with my arms, and happily, so happily, crossed that finish line.  :)

(Final Dumped Calypso’s Coffees Count + Kicks from Monica: 0, but I did make her run across the park in sandals, so I call that a win :P)
Total Time: 5:11:33

 So, what else to say about this race?

It was technically about 3 minutes slower than my 70.3 PR... but that was from Troika, and I'm pretty sure that swim was short (Garmin measured 1870 yards; at CDA, it measured the full distance--actually a bit over, but we know I don't swim straight :) ).  Troika also had a much smaller, and much more efficient transition (2 minutes for each), whereas CDA was WAYY longer.  So, all things told, I think the times were pretty comparable, and CDA may have been a bit "better."
We all made it!
Aside from straight time, though, CDA was a much better race for me.  I honestly can't pick out a single thing I needed to do better, or necessarily improve upon.  I felt good.  Ok, I didn't feel great, and I kind of hated it (as always) during the run, but deep down I know that it didn't feel that bad.  I never hit the wall, I never blew up, I actually felt a bit better the more I ran (even if I slowed a little)...and when I slowed down, it wasn't THAT much.  In that sense, it was a much better race.  It played out well, I executed it the way I was supposed to.  I just need to do it again, but faster.  Literally, just be faster.  At everything.  And that's a good place to be!  I'm happy to have had a solid race at this distance.  I know I just wrote five million paragraphs, but in summary, it was actually a pretty "boring" race, which I guess is a pretty good thing!
Allen is obviously thrilled to be done with his first 70.3 (and 2nd triathlon ever)
3rd AG isn't too shabby either, and I think I can finally feel pretty redeemed and justified in going to Australia.  Not that I didn't before, but it just felt good to feel that maybe I do belong in the mix and it wasn't a huge fluke after all.  I may not be at the top, those girls are CRAZY fast and I have so much respect for them..but I can hang alright.  :)

What's next?  We'll see.  I hear there's a 70.3 in Whistler in a couple weeks............  ;)