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And it begins again

Steve and I have officially registered for Ironman WI 2011.

So.Excited.

This past weekend I was quite the spectathlete. On Saturday Steve participated in his first half-ironman in Lake Geneva, and I was there to cheer him on. Though the weather was less than stellar (cold & rainy), he did a great job and finished with a smile on his face. Here he is just about to cross the finish line:

And showing off his bling:

I am so proud of him for how far he has come! From basically no exercise whatsoever to a 70.3 mile race in less than a year. Amazing!

On Sunday we headed out to Madison to watch some of Ironman WI and soak up the energy. I was able to see several people I know on the run, which was great! We hung out mostly on State St and cheered for the runners, then headed to the finish line for a bit. I got pumped up big time for 2011.

Monday was the day to register for next year, and it was a serious mess. The online registration got so bogged down that we kept getting all kinds of errors. After a phone call to the credit card company to verify that our card was charged (ouch!) and a call to Active.com, our registration was confirmed. Man, they need to come up with a better system.

This year has been the year of running for me. I didn’t have the motivation for biking, I just wanted to run run run. So rather than drudge through training for a half-ironman, I simply decided not to. I was worried that I really wouldn’t want to train for Ironman next year, but after being in Madison and feeling the race energy, I am ready.

My year of the run will culminate this Saturday, as I take on the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k. That’s 31 miles of trail running, and I can’t wait to be out there! I also have a few ideas for the old blog, so stay tuned…

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This morning I did my first ever Olympic distance triathlon, and my first tri of the season. Steve also did the race, his first tri ever! We spent the night at my aunt and uncle’s house (who were also racing) because they live about 30 mins closer than us to the race site. 30 mins extra sleep = ok with me. I still got up at 4:25am, after not the greatest night’s sleep. I immediately had two cups of coffee to get me going. I got ready and had my standard toast with pb & banana. Here we are just before leaving. Note my enthusiasm at 5am:

We made it to the race area at Ottawa Lake right around 6am. We got our transitions set up, snapped a photo,

got body marked, made a port-o-potty stop, and headed to the beach. I struggled to get my wetsuit on per usual (I wish a little wetsuit fairy would come and bring me a new one 🙂 ). We waded into the water and found it to be very warm. I took a few warm up strokes and then it was time to wait for the start. Steve was in wave 2 and I was in wave 4. We wished each other luck and he headed out with his wave.

The swim: 1500 meters, 29:57

It’s no secret that swimming is my major weakness. I am not fast, and I normally hate the swim portion of races because of all the people and the jostling and the kicking in the head and the general disregard for others that many people display. I have to say however, that this race was totally different. It was by far the most non-violent tri swim I have ever experienced, and dare I say it was actually enjoyable. Ottawa Lake is very tiny, and our course was a two-loop rectangle that took up basically the whole lake. I got into a rhythm fairly quickly, and the swim went by fast. There was some slight congestion right at the end when the Olympic swimmers met up with the Sprint swimmers, but it wasn’t too bad. I was happy to see I was under 30 mins, and ran up to transition.

T1: 2:09

My biggest problem is usually wetsuit removal, but I am happy to say I got it off this time with only minimal struggling. I decided to go sockless today, so it was bike shoes on, helmet, sunglasses, and off I went.

The Bike: 40K, 1:15:48, 19.6 mph

I started off really hammering on the bike. I didn’t really know how to pace myself for this race because I am used to racing longer distances. I figured hard but not too hard would probably be good. The bike course was two loops, with loop one sharing the course with the sprint race. Throughout the entire first loop I was passing people left and right. Well actually only on the left, but it was a lot of people. The course was fast and flat. There was only one section on the back side of the loop that slowed me down both times. It was kind of a long gradual uphill incline, and the road texture was really gritty. I almost felt like it was grabbing on to my tires. I realized that I need to practice focusing on the bike. There were a couple of times that I found myself just cruising along, looking at the hay bails like I was out for a Sunday drive. Then it would click in my head that I was in fact in the middle of a race and I should probably pick up the pace! Overall I think I could have gone harder on the bike, and I would have liked to average over 20mph, but considering my lack of training on the bike this year, I am pretty happy with my time.

T2: 1:28

Bike shoes off, running shoes on, helmet off, hat on, done.

The Run: 10K, 47:57, 7:43/mile

I didn’t really know what to expect from this run. My running hasn’t been great in general lately, and I haven’t practiced running off the bike since last year. The Olympic course was a double out and back, again the first lap sharing with the sprint. As I started running, my legs felt fine, but I felt like I couldn’t get any real speed going. It was tough because I had no idea what my pace was the entire time. I didn’t wear my Garmin, and I was much too lazy to try and do the math, so I just kept running. At one point, I got confused by where a race official was directing me to go. I turned around and started running the other way, then realized it was wrong and got back on course. I was kind of peeved, but in reality the whole ordeal probably only cost me about 10 seconds or so. I was able to really pick it up the last 1/4 mile, so I know I should have been running faster. I guess I was just having a hard time really pushing myself.

Total time: 2:37:18

After I finished I went to grab  my camera and change shoes. Earlier this week I tried a sockless run in my Kinvaras, and it was great except for a little rubbing on my heels. I had a tiny scab on one heel but figured it would be fine for the race. When I went to take off my shoes, here’s what they looked like (warning, it’s not pretty):

Apparently my heels were a little bloody. I could feel them rubbing a bit during the run, but it really didn’t feel that bad, so this was a surprise.

I headed over to the finish line and waited for Steve to come in. Here is my hubby steps away from the finish line of his first ever tri!

So proud! Overall it was a great day. The weather was perfect and everyone had a good race. Here we are afterwards with a delicious post-race beer from Delafield Brewhaus:

And the whole group:

That’s my aunt and uncle on the left, and our friend James on the right.

Some thoughts:

I need to step it up. Though I really enjoyed this race, I should have been pushing harder. I raced in a new division today, which was much more competitive. USAT rules state that you race your age at the end of the year. This means that even though I am 29, I turn 30 later this year (gasp!) so I race in the 30-34 age group. I’m not sure I really agree with this, but whatever. Today I came in 8/16 in my age group. Had I still been in 25-29, I would have been 3rd. I’m not complaining about this, rather realizing that the competition just went up a notch and I need to plan accordingly. I am ready to train harder and get faster, especially on the bike. I am not entirely sure of my race plans for the rest of the year, but I am excited for whatever comes about!

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Tri Bug

Triathlon is sort of like a disease in that it is infectious. Once you do one, it is easy to become hooked. Even if you haven’t done one, it is possible to be bitten by the bug. One way this can happen is by watching a race. The energy surrounding a race is infectious. The excitement is palpable, cities become abuzz on race day. This is especially true at Ironman WI, where the city of Madison becomes electric.

My husband does not work out, in fact he has not gotten much exercise since we met. I had always secretly hoped that my obsessive training would rub off on him, but I had come to accept the fact that he was just not into it. I felt bad during some weekends of Ironman training, when I would be gone for 6 hours at a time biking. I would try to get up really early so I could be back by early afternoon so we could still enjoy the summer days together.

Where is this all going? My husband came to Madison to cheer me on at Ironman. Sometime throughout the course of the day, he was bitten. Maybe it was standing out on the hills on the bike course watching the athletes grit their way to the top, determined. Maybe it was on State St, watching the runners go by and feeding off the excitement of the crowds. Maybe it was walking back to the hotel in the dark after the race, seeing the athletes still out there on State St, running, walking, moving slowly towards the finish line with great tenacity.

Whenever it was, it definitely happened, and the day after the race my husband told me he wants to do this. Not just a tri, but the Ironman. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I was excited picturing the two of us training together. I was also a bit skeptical, after all, I have heard him express his distaste for running on multiple occasions. When I suggested he get into things slowly, do some shorter races next year and then decide if he wants to go for Ironman, he informed me that he would be doing Ironman. It was very matter of fact, and I understood because like me, he doesn’t do things half way. You are either in or you are out.

So it looks like we are both in for Ironman WI 2011. We went out and got an amazing closeout deal on two tri bikes.

Mine:

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His:

IMG_2200

Hopefully we will get to ride outside at least once before we are relegated to a long winter on the trainer. I have taken this journey once alone, and now I am more than excited to take it again and share it with my husband. Let the fun begin!

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Ironman WI – Post Race

After I finished, got my medal, and had my picture taken, the first person I saw was my mom, who gave me a hug. Then I saw Steve who gave me a kiss on the cheek which must have been pretty nasty for him. The area just outside the finish was pretty crowded, and I needed to get out of there. I became extremely nauseous and thought I may blow chunks all over everyone around me. I made my way through the crowd, but there was really nowhere to go and hurl. I made a beeline for some bushes and pretty much collapsed on the ground. By now I was also dizzy, and could barely move. I couldn’t even talk, except to say that the smell of the cigarette butts on the ground were making things worse. Luckily, I am not a puker by nature, and the feeling passed within a few minutes. It also could have to do with the fact that there was nothing at all in my stomach to puke up. I was still quite dizzy, and my mom went off to try and get me something with calories to drink.

After sitting on the ground for a good while, I was able to get up and head a few steps over to a concrete fountain and sit on the edge of that. That was about the point where I almost shit my pants. Literally. My stomach, which had felt good all day, was revolting. There were no portos in sight, so I was more than relieved a few moments later when that feeling passed as well. My body was in utter confusion, and I think it just didn’t know what to do. I was in perpetual motion for nearly 13 hours, consuming nothing but liquid and gel. Then I crossed that finish line and came to a sudden stop. My body was screaming WTF??

My mom was unable to track down something to drink, and the thought of putting anything solid in my mouth was out of the question. I was slowly starting to feel better, which I could gauge by my increasing ability to talk to everyone. My friends Steve and Cammie took off to go home, and a few minutes later so did my mom and Joe. Steve helped me into the building to retrieve my gear bags. I was cold, so he also helped me put on my warm up pants and fleece. I couldn’t imagine sitting down and trying to get back up again, so here is Steve removing my socks as I stand there helpless. Thank goodness he was there to help, or I don’t think I would have made it. We got my bike, and started the 1 mile trek back to the hotel.

As we started to head back, we ran into my friend and training buddy James, who had finished about 20 minutes before me. He was missing one of his bags, so we waited while he went back to try and find it. At this point I became dizzy again, and had so sit on the ground. Another athlete was walking by with a plate of post-race food and a cup. He asked if I was ok or if I needed anything, and I asked him if he had any Gatorade. He gave me his only cup, and when I asked if he was sure I could have it he said “Yes, take it. You need it more than I do.” I guess I looked pretty rough. I needed the sugar, and after drinking it I felt better.

Walking back to the hotel was not as bad as I thought it would be, I think the walk actually helped my legs a little. Our hotel was just off of State St, and as we were walking, the race was still going on. There were plenty of racers still walking/jogging/shuffling down State St, and I was so glad to be done. There were not many people left out cheering for them, and the feeling was sort of lonely.

Back at the hotel, I got in the shower while Steve walked to Jimmy John’s to get me a sandwich. I still wasn’t hungry, but I knew my body needed some food, so I ate the whole thing slowly. A little while later I was out in the hallway getting ice for the cooler, when I saw a Barq’s Root Beer in the vending machine. I normally am not a soda drinker, but suddenly it looked like the best thing in the world and I had to have it. I went back and got some quarters, and let me tell you, that root beer was just about the best thing I had ever tasted.

I didn’t crash out until probably around midnight, and I slept though until about 7:20 the next morning. I went down to the hotel breakfast for some coffee, and then James and I walked to Einstein’s for bagels. I headed back to the room and began the daunting task of packing up all of my gear. I took a quick shower and we headed home.

Once we got home, Steve headed to work for the afternoon, and I decided to get my grocery store trip over with right away. As I was shopping, I suddenly became overwhelmingly tired. When I got home I promptly fell asleep on the couch for about 2 hours. I was surprised that my body was not overly sore. Don’t get me wrong, it did hurt for a couple of days, but no worse than after I’ve run a hard marathon. 

It’s two weeks later, and I am definitely not fully recovered. I did absolutely nothing for one full week, and this past week I did one swim, one easy run (bad idea), played 2 soccer games, and went to spin class this morning. My legs are definitely feeling it, and I’m going to continue to take it easy for probably a couple more weeks. It’s hard because I want to work out, but I know I shouldn’t be pushing it.

And now for the big question – am I going to do it again?? Stay tuned and find out in my next post…

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Dang, I need to finish this race report. I feel like some of the details have already slipped away. Well, this brings us to part 3 – the run.

I run into transition and am helped by the nicest volunteer ever. She dumps out my bag and is quick to hand me whatever I need. I change from bike shorts to tri shorts, load up my pockets with gu’s, change socks and shoes, and I’m off. I drink some water and hit the porto on my way out of transition. I am so excited to run this marathon I can hardly believe it.

I start slowly and am immediately struck by how good my legs feel. Wait, was I not just riding my bike for nearly 7 hours? I take things very cautiously, not knowing what to expect later in the run. I walk my way through every aid station, taking in only water. My plan is a gel every hour, and I also eat some banana pieces. I make the decision not to drink any Gatorade. I haven’t had any all day, and my stomach feels good. Best not to risk it.

The marathon in the Ironman is quite different from a stand-alone marathon. I am not going for speed, which makes thinks considerably more enjoyable. I am taking in the crowd support, and every time someone cheers for me, I yell “thanks!” and smile. Around mile 6 I turn onto State St, which is nuts. There are so many people and so much energy, I couldn’t help but pick up the pace. I see the Steves for the first time at the turn around on State St. They cheer for me and I smile and wave.

The run course is extremely spectator-friendly, 2 loops with lots of little out-and-backs. When positioned correctly, it is easy to see your runner at least 5 times. The next time I spot them is shortly before the half way point. My friend Cammie is here now too, having driven up after work. I get to the turn around and am taunted by the finish line. I can see it right there, yet I follow the sign leading me to the left for loop 2.

I am not dreading the second half, in fact I still feel surprisingly good. I check my watch and realize that if I keep pace, I can break 13 hours. I try not to be too excited about it, telling myself anything can happen. I see my crew again and also my mom and Joe. I yell to all of them finish between 8-8:30! I don’t want to be overly confident but I know in my head I can finish before 8:00.

A lot more people are walking. I pick them off one by one. Keep moving forward. I pick up the pace slightly to see what happens. I still feel good. Before I know it I am back on State St with 6 or 7 miles to go. I am tired, but I know I will finish strong. My face says it all here:

I do one last gel at mile 20 and hope it gets me through to the end. Countless people are walking now, and spectators are commenting on how great I look. Why thank you!  I want to slow down, to stop moving, but it is not an option. I am no longer walking through the aid stations, I just want to finish. I pick it up as fast as I can with 4 miles to go. I know I am running a negative split, which I have never done in a marathon, let alone in the freaking Ironman.

With about 3 blocks to go I am back in Capitol Square. The crowds are going wild and I try to take it in. It is hard to absorb anything mentally at this point, my body is carrying me forward on autopilot. I see Joe with 2 blocks to go and he runs along side me, yelling that my mom is in the left side bleachers at the finish line. I turn the corner into the finish and as I approach the line, I hear Mike Riley loud and clear saying the words I have been waiting for, working for, all day and for the past year:

Laura C from Milwaukee, WI…You are an Ironman!!

I cross the line with my arms in the air, and two ladies “catch” me, one on each side grabbing my arms. Holy shit, I think to myself, I’m done. It’s over. I am an Ironman. I am handed an official finisher’s hat and t-shirt, and I get my picture taken. With that, it’s official.

Official Time: 12:55:51

Swim – 1:27:08

T1 – 11:53

Bike – 6:56:18

T2 – 6:56:18

Run – 4:14:15

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I head into the transition room, grab my bag, and make my way to the women’s changing area. A volunteer is there asking me if I need any help. I dump my bag and change out of my swimsuit and into bike shorts and a tri top. I do a quick spray of sunscreen, grab my biking gear, and I’m off.

Running though the bikes towards my rack I hear “Laura! Yeah Laura!” I look over to see my mom and Joe just on the other side of the fence. I am so happy to see them, and I give a huge smile and wave.

I grab my bike and run all the way to the other end of the transition area. I am off. My only goal for the first half of the bike is take it easy. I wanted to feel like my legs were doing no work at all. The section from Madison to Verona goes by fast, and we are on the first loop. I drop it into a super-low gear and begin to climb the first hill. I feel great, so much better than when I rode the course in training. Still taking it easy, I keep moving forward.

Several times on the bike I am overcome with emotion. I think how lucky I am to be doing this on such a beautiful day, surrounded by great people. I look forward to seeing my mom and Joe, as well as Steve and another friend Steve on one of the hills. I get to the first hill and no sign of them. Second and third hill, I don’t see them. A little disappointed, I head through the cheering crowds in Verona and on to the second loop.

I make a stop in special needs and switch out my empty bottle of Infinit. My legs still feel good, and I am saving my energy. My nutrition and hydration are spot on so far. The crowds are slightly more sparse, the course a little more lonely. The hills are only slightly more difficult this time around, but not too bad. Before I know it, I am on the last set of hills again. First hill, no sign of anyone. By now I am ready to be done biking. Almost to the top of the second steep hill I spot my mom. She yells that Steve is up ahead and snaps a pic. Then I see Joe and he starts running next to me and cheering wildly (second pic).

I see Steve and he starts running next to me. He tells me he loves me and is proud of me and I can’t stop smiling. I say see ya later! and zoom down the other side of the hill. Unless you do this, you cannot understand how it feels to have your family and friends out there cheering for you. My spirits were soaring all the way through the rest of the second loop and back to Madison. The last 12 miles are long, but over soon enough.

Up the helix and I can’t believe the bike is over. I am actually kind of sad that the day is going by so quickly, but I am so excited to get out and run.

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IMWI Race Report Part I – The Swim

The alarm clock in the hotel room is set for 3:45am. So is the alarm on my phone, just in case. Turns out not to be necessary. I wake up at 2:30am and lie restlessly in bed, my mind racing. As if I would oversleep for Ironman.

At 3:30am I finally get out of bed. I look out the window at the few wayward college students stumbling home through the dark streets. I have never felt so awake. I have never been so nervous.

I drink coffee, eat a bagel, get dressed and organized. Before I know it it’s almost 5am, time to go. The walk down a sleeping State St. to Monona Terrace goes by fast. I drop off the special needs bags, and head to my bike. There is a nervous excitement in the air, as everyone prepares for their day. Now it is just final preparations on top of months of preparation. The work has been done. I think to myself, I will be an Ironman today.

I get body marked and head down to the water. It’s 6am, and the first hints of light begin to hit the water.

I remind myself to be calm in the water. Be calm, don’t panic. Over and over. Breathe.

6:15am, wetsuit on. I am doing this. I am ready. Breathe.

6:30am and into the corral, over the timing mats, and into the water. It’s a sea of athletes, I am so nervous. For a few minutes, I stay where I can stand. Someone sings the national anthem. I don’t focus on it because I don’t want to tear up in my goggles. I am really doing this. Be calm, don’t panic.

There is a loud boom as the canon goes off, and a frenzy of screams, cheers, arms, heads, and legs. The washing machine.

I hesitate for a moment, looking for a clearing. Be calm, don’t panic. I put my face in the water and swim. Finding a rhythm amidst hundreds of bodies is hard. It goes one stroke, look up, two strokes, look up , breathe, stroke. I find clear water on the first length and try to stay way outside the buoys. The first turn is in sight, and it is a mess. People everywhere, arms flailing, kicking, elbows. Be calm, don’t panic. I am no longer nervous, I just want to make it through this swim.

Two more turns and the first lap is over. It seems I have been swimming forever. I tell myself it will be over soon. One stroke after the next, just keep moving. I am sure I have been in the water for hours. There is never clear water, never any room. Finally I make the last turn and head towards shore. I realize I have survived the swim.

I unzip my wetsuit and lay down for the strippers. They rip the suit off in one giant tug and hand it to me. I check my watch. Surely I have been in the water forever. It reads 1:27:xx, faster than expected. I head up the helix through the cheering crowd. This is amazing. I am really doing this.

I will be an Ironman today…

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