30 November 2009

It Has Been Ten Years... And You're Still the Same!

I got to go back to high school for the evening last Saturday. It was my 10 year reunion and I thought it would be an interesting experience. Interesting to see how people have changed, what they are up to, etc. Turns out it was interesting, mainly because that night it didn't seem like anything had changed. At all.

I didn't have a specific clique in high school. I circulated between various groups, had my best friend Katie, my great friends on the track/x-country teams, as well as friends that graduated in different years than myself. I suppose the past is always seen through rose colored glasses when you're looking at it in the rearview mirror. I actually remember telling people in college/post-college that high school at Alvirne was pretty cool - everyone was nice, people were friendly, and it wasn't too "clique-y." Well, that rosy notion was trout-slapped from my mind soon after my arrival at the reunion! I blame it on unwittingly seating ourselves next to the people from high school who thought they were better than everyone else back then and, despite the fact that they STILL live in the same town and are STILL hanging out with the same people, they continue to look down on everyone else. You would think that being ten years older might make people grow up, leave their "high school superiority" attitudes behind, and be nice. Not the case. Again, let's blame it on the "big fish in a rapidly shrinking pond" syndrome. Socially, they have never actually graduated from high school. Who can blame them for reverting back to their familiar roles when surrounded by former high school classmates. But seriously, giving the stinkeye, pointing, laughing, and hushed whispering are soooo 1999. I hope for their sakes that they outgrow it by the 20 year reunion. And this begs the question, is this how they act when out at work and/or hanging out with non-high school friends? Or is that an answer we'll never get BECAUSE they have no friends outside of their high school peers? Oh the mysteries!

Contrary to what you're read so far, the reunion wasn't all bad. Facebook has made it easy to know what people have been up to. The phrase, "Well, I was sort of Facebook-stalking you..." was heard alot. I did enjoy talking to old acquaintances in person and catching up on details not captured via Facebook. And I got to sit with the people I wanted to see the most anyways - my friends Katie, Kim, Kathy, and Kristin (I only hang out with people whose names begin with Kuh) and their significant others. I keep in touch and see them fairly regularly. If nothing else, we'll ditch the 20 year and just treat ourselves to a nice dinner.

Funny note: Katie, my best friend from high school, and I accidentally wore almost identical dresses to the prom our junior year. They were the exact same gowns, save the fact that hers had a faint floral pattern while mine did not. It was only appropriate, then, that our better halves showed up to the reunion in matching outfits - eerily similar sport coats, pink shirts (same shade), no tie, and top button unbuttoned. Unplanned, I swear! See Exhibit A below. The only difference - Mark had brown pants and Kevin was sporting black. The twins bonded over their similar outfits and shared enjoyment of watching a plethora of awkward conversations.

Speaking of awkward conversations, here's one!

Old Classmate: So, what have you been up to, have any kids?
Me: I've been doing well, no, definitely no kids (uncomfortable chuckle).
Old Classmate: (steps closer, invading personal space) Why not, I have kids, don't you want to have kids?
Me: (stepping back defensively) I'm actively trying NOT to have kids at the moment.
Old Classmate: (Looks extremely puzzled, walks away) [end conversation].

On another note, alot of people knew about my triathlon habit and were really encouraging and impressed by it. I was flattered. And being part of a triathlon club where so many people have done Ironman, I forget that those types of athletic endeavors are not really the norm.

And finally, a self-pep talk. I like the way I turned out. So, despite the fact that I felt old feelings of shyness, social inadequacy and insecurity creep in as people reverted back to their clique-ish high school ways, I did feel content and confident talking to people. Swimming, biking, and running 140.6 miles, going to grad school, having a career, and living a life that you are proud of will give you confidence in any social situation, even a high school reunion.

So, that was the reunion in a nutshell. Will I go to my 20 year reunion? Right now, I'm inclined to say no. But I suppose I could change my mind over the next ten years. I mean, people will have outgrown their "high school superiority" complexes by then, right? :)

26 November 2009

Turkey Trot Road Race - Derry, NH

Ahhh, the Turkey Trot. The race that gives you permission to indulge in mass quantities of food for the rest of the day guilt-free. The race that is over in a handful of minutes rather than a handful of hours. The race that leaves your lungs burning, your legs wobbly, and your mind wondering "why am I doing this?" It's official - my body would prefer an Ironman over a 5k. With Ironman, you have an excuse to plod, go a little slower (I've been racing for 12 hours, you'd be plodding too at this point!) whereas a 5k is short, fast, and painful. There is sprinting involved. I hate sprinting. I suppose perceptions of distance and speed are relative, though. Back in high school, I would've rather run a 5k than do the mile in spring track. The mile is even more painful. So, give me longer, slower any day.

Anyway, on to the race report. When I found the Greater Derry Track Club Turkey Trot online, I pictured it being like the Turkey Trot I did in Amherst, NH two years ago - maybe 100 people, no timing chips, and no road closures. HA - this race had over 1300 runners, we ended up parking at least a half a mile from the start line (we were also running a bit late, big surprise). I was wondering how I would find Ashley and Tim, my best friend Erin's husband and brother, respectively, in the crowd. Fortunately, we ran into them as we went to grab our packets. We got our timing chips, pinned on our numbers, and got ready to line up with Ashley and Tim (for the record, there are advantages to 5ks when compared to Ironman - MUCH less prep time race morning, no worries of someone clawing off your timing chip in your swim, and no chafing).

I didn't have any time expectations for this race. I haven't done speedwork in weeks and I haven't done too much running since Ironman. I had a secret hope of going under 21, like I did during last year's turkey trot in California (20:25), but I didn't know what this course would be like. And I had no placing expectations either; Londonderry and Derry seem to breed ridiculously fast runners. My high school cross-country and track teams really never had a chance in meets with their high schools. I was preparing myself for a fast, competitive race- although I didn't have much competitive spirit in me that morning. Even though we had timing chips, there was only a mat for the finish line (more turkey trots than mats from timing system companies), so the race would be gun time. The start was crowded, but thinned out quickly, I didn't have to dodge too many people. It was mostly flat and downhill for the first mile, which was nice. I did the first mile in about 6:40 and felt okay (there was a voice in the back of my head wondering if I could keep that pace for another two miles - then another voice tried to shut the first voice up with a reminder that I've done 2x2 mile track workouts at a faster pace than this and was just fine). The second mile was, well, uphill. I'd heard chatter about a hill before the race, and was definitely less-than-thrilled when I saw it. And when I watched my average speed slow down by 15 seconds. Got to the top of the hill, and wished the finish line was not 1.5 miles away. I had stopped hoping for a PR or sub-21 the moment I saw the hill. Fortunately, the rest of the race was mostly flat or downhill, with one small uphill towards the end. The second mile was slower, definitely over 7 minutes. I just wanted to grit it out and get the race over with. I felt like I was moving so slowly and it was difficult to keep my pace under 7 minutes. Fortunately, the finish line come into view shortly thereafter and never have I been so glad a race was done. 5k's are PAINFUL!

According to the results, I finished in 21:18, with an average pace of 6:53. I finished 106th overall out of 1306 participants, I was 3rd in my age group out of 125 (20-29 age group), and 9th out of 630 women. With no time expectations, I am very pleased with how the race went. Tim did really well, setting a PR, and Ashley did great too. It was great to see them.

And now, the big news... Mark beat me in the race. I have now abdicated my throne of fastest Lauver at the 5k distance. He finished in 20:31. I have a feeling it won't be much longer until my reign at other distances will end as well :) Mark is a great runner, I am very happy for him.

The rest of Thanksgiving was GREAT! I got to see a bunch of great friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in quite awhile. I met my goddaughter Reagan Kylene for the very first time. She is my best friend Erin's daughter, she's two months old, and she's adorable and ABSOLUTELY perfect. Here's a picture of us - I love her! I saw Karen, Ed, Jonathan, and Lara a bit later. Then I saw Bethany and her girlfriend Carrie and their two adorable daughters, as well as Bethany's little sister Jillian. I grew up down the street from Bethany and Jill (who is about my brother's age) - we went on vacations together up to the lake, we had sleepovers, and spent so much time together during middle school. It was amazing to see her.

The rest of the day Mark and I spent time at home with my parents and had alot of great turkey, stuffing, and PIE!

Happy Thanksgiving!

24 November 2009

Back in the saddle...

I jumped on my bike today for the first time since Ironman, riding for a whopping 20 minutes on the trainer. I've found a new toy that I want to invest in - a CompuTrainer. It advertises being able to raise your average speed 2-4 mph within five months... that could be rather useful, I wonder if it's true. But it's as expensive as a low-end tri bike, though with both of my Ironmans being really hilly next year, I wasn't going to invest in a tri bike next year anyways.

I haven't figured out my schedule for the rest of 2010, aside from IM France and IM Wisconsin. I am pretty sure I will run the Shamrock Marathon in March down in Virginia Beach with my tri club. I love the Mooseman 1/2 and it's about 3 weeks before France, so maybe that's an option. Now that I'm not running Boston, I can join in the fun at the Rumpass in Bumpass triathlon festival down in Lake Anna in April, maybe do the Oly. I REALLY want to do Timberman, but that's pretty close to IM Wisconsin, so I'm not sure. And no Savageman next year either (tears) because it's one week after Wisconsin. But there is chatter that the team will do the Beach2Battleship Half next year, either that or MiamiMan - either one would be great. So yes, next year's racing schedule is going to look REALLY different from this years. Probably not as many 1/2's, no Boston, but maybe I can throw in a fall marathon and a late season half. And, to be honest, I am going to have to be a little less fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants when planning next year's schedule. Two reasons: 1) the two Ironmans will probably take alot of energy, and I want to do them right and if that means less racing, so be it. Plus, the wallet will probably be grateful for a fewer race entry fees. 2) I'm investing in a coach for next year. I'm still staying with Team Z, but I want to get a little more personal attention, hopefully a more aggressive training plan, and be able to get one-on-one feedback after races and such. And I've done my research and think I've found the person - Jen Harrison (her blog is now on my blogroll). I'm not going to have school to occupy all of my time, so I can really put 100% effort into training, racing, and recovering. And, Jen will probably have quite a bit of say in my race schedule to make sure I'm being smart, not stupid.

Okay, back to the paper writing. Yessssss!

Kind of Like Ironman but A Lot Less Pleasant...

... Capstone paper writing, that is. I can honestly say, without a shadow of a doubt, that I would rather be swimming, biking and running for 17 hours than writing the 100 pages of papers standing between me and my Masters diploma. The papers are due in about two weeks. Right now I have 47 (not quality) pages of one, and I just hit the 30 page mark on the other one. This means I only have about 20 pages left to go. Easier said than done. This is where the concentration gets tough, the motivation starts to disappear, the energy is sapped, and you just want to go to sleep. Hmmm, kind of like miles 24 and 25 of the Ironman Florida marathon...

The end is so near, I can practically touch it. I find myself daydreaming about what I'm going to do with all of my free time (bedtime at 8:30! watch mind-numbing television! see my friends! find a bar and sample every drink they have available - kidding.) I've even thought about what my facebook status posting is going to be once I turn these suckers in and it's official that I am DONE with grad school. 2+ years of hard work, limited sleep, and paper writing agony. Don't get me wrong, as evidenced by my blog, I love to write, I just don't like to be graded for my writing. It's that same feeling I used to get at high school track practice when my coach would break out the stopwatch and make us do timed intervals - the nervous stomach, the desire to just walk off the track. Now, when it comes to paper writing, I just get hives. Yup, I am allergic to school. I think that's a really good argument to NOT apply for a PhD program (a notion I entertained for a hot second this fall).

Yes, this point in my graduate school career is very much like the last few miles of an Ironman marathon. There's a little doubtful voice in the back of your head, leaving you slightly uncertain as to whether or not you're ever actually going to cross that finish line. There's the desire to go faster, but you just can't. There are moments that you just want to give up. But you're so close. And if you don't finish, all of those long hours you put into this endeavor, all of the fun times with friends and family that you've sacrificed for this goal, well, it will feel like it was all for nothing. And so, I will finish. Even if it turns me into one giant hive.

Speaking of Ironman, I completely forgot to mention this in my last post. J'irai a France l'ete prochaine! Et je ferai Ironman France! I've always talked about wanting to do this race and, on Friday night, I made it official by signing up! 27 June 2010. To make it even better, Mark's mom, dad, and three sisters Allie, Jackie, and Stephanie will also be there! It will be one, big, awesome vacation! I can't wait to get back to Nice, go to Haagen-Dazs in Place Magenta as a patron not a waitress, show Mark and his family where I used to live in the old part of town. And I can't wait to try my hand at the epic bike course, swim in the Mediterranean, and run along the Promenade des Anglais. And speak French. And eat cheese and drink wine at an outdoor cafe. And enjoy some gelato. And just plain be back in France. It has been almost four years since I was last there (the 2006 spur-of-the-moment trip to Paris was the last time I was there - a story for another post).

So, 2010 - a tale of two HILLY Ironmans. I can't wait! Oh, and no grad school. Now I REALLY can't wait!

22 November 2009

A Little This, A Little That...

Our move to our new place was successful, no problems at all! And my new commute from my new place to my new job is pretty painless, I don't mind the bus nearly as much as I thought I would. We live off of the Columbia Pike, a major thoroughfare in Arlington, so there are ALWAYS buses going up and down it to the Pentagon and Pentagon City metro stations. I love my new job, although I miss my old co-workers and the fun we used to have in the office. But I really enjoy the stuff my new job is focused on. I actually feel like I'm decent at it too, which is a plus. I didn't realize how much I felt like a fish out of water at my previous jobs until I started my new one.

Anyway, back to the new place - we have so much space, I don't think we know what to do with it all yet. We have our big TV set up in the finished basement and our small one set up in our bedroom - we didn't want to have one on the main floor of the house. My friends Ryan and Christine, who I visited over the summer, don't have a TV on their main floor either, just a stereo, and there are so many less distractions. We found ourselves just hanging out and talking alot more than we probably would've had there been a TV present. So, Mark and I are doing the same thing and we don't miss the television AT ALL. We've watched it a little in the mornings and while folding laundry, but that is it. We eat dinner at the table like civilized people, and I think we talk alot more. Best decision ever.
We are still in the middle of unpacking, but the kitchen is pretty much done, as is our bedroom. We have the cable and dvd hooked up in the basement, and I have a little desk set up in the spare bedroom so I can shut myself away and write my final papers for school. The cats LOVE the stairs, they are constantly chasing each other up and down them. We couldn't be happier with the new place.

Switching gears to triathlon, I've been doing some light running post-Ironman. We are lucky enough to still live less than a block from the bike path, so I've been venturing out on that during most of my runs during daylight. This morning I was sporting my M-Dot visor when I did my easy 5 miles. I don't know if I was just imagining it, but I felt like people on the trail looked at me a little longer or gave me a second glance. I'm blaming it on my visor. Or the fact that I was shuffling kind of slow and perhaps they were wondering how such a slow person scored an M-Dot visor. I'm also trying to figure out the delicate balance between wearing no M-Dot gear and Ironman Apparel Overkill. I bought enough clothing and accessories to outfit a small army the day after Ironman - visors, shirts, socks, mugs (and I don't even drink coffee) and an awesome jacket. But I think wearing the jacket with one of the visors while sipping water out of my waterbottle might be a bit much. Brings back painful memories of being 9 years old and wearing my NKOTB (oversized) shirt, with my NKOTB hat, both covered in a variety of NKOTB buttons. Like I said, overkill. So, I may just stick to carrying the water bottle around and bringing the visor out for a run every now and again.

In other news, my final papers for school are trying to kill me. I can feel the hives of Summer 2008 coming back. Take a deep breath and repeat - it's all (hopefully) over in less than two weeks. I hate you, school.

20 November 2009

Race report published-really!

I've been writing my race report in installments. And, with the big news that I had to share about our house, I mixed in some other posts during that time. So, my postings appear a little out of order, but below the "Interrupt this Race Report" is the rest of the race report from IM Florida that I just posted. Enjoy!

12 November 2009

We Interrupt This Race Report...

... for some big, yet non-triathlon related news! Over the next three days, life as I've known it here in DC will be changed. Within hours of my last day at the company I've been with for five years, Mark and I close on our first house. The next day we will move out of the neighborhood I've lived in for five years for a new one (I'm being overly dramatic - the new neighborhood is still in the same town, just a few miles away). And on Monday morning, not only will I have to figure out my new commute, that commute will take me to a brand new job in a totally different field than the one I've been in since 2004. Ironman and writing my final papers for school (just applied for next month's graduation - hooray!) has been a pretty big distraction so it just hit me today how much everything is going to change in just a few days.

Today at work they had a goodbye lunch for me. Even though I don't like to be the center of attention or have a big deal made on stuff, it was so touching to see everyone there who came to say goodbye. I packed up my things and cleaned up my desk at the end of the day and Aaron helped me carry my stuff down to the lobby (Mark was picking me up after work today, so I wasn't going to have to lug this stuff on Metro). And it was then that it really started to hit me that I was leaving. In my new job, I'll be working on stuff more closely aligned with the career path I want to follow and my overall interests - something I've been wanting for awhile, I will have my own office, I'll be right in downtown DC. All great stuff, but the team I have worked with over the past 1.5 years is the best group of people you could ever want to work with. Brilliant people, everyone understands the meaning of teamwork, no big egos, and everyone knows how to have fun. I consider many of them to be my friends, not just co-workers. I'm going to miss sharing an office with Aaron, it's just nice to have someone right there to chat with during the day. Having my own office is going to be strange. I'm going to miss working with Coy and Cynthia, and I'm going to miss everyone's sense of humor. My new job has some pretty big shoes to fill, my current group of co-workers set the bar really high. Saying goodbye tomorrow is going to be harder than I thought...

And on a final note, we did one last walk-through of the house today - 15 hours and it is ours! It was just as pretty as I remembered it - the crown molding is GORGEOUS, the lighting is nice, and the kitchen and bathrooms have granite countertops. We'll finally have a guest bedroom. We can finally store our bikes out of the main living space. Our new place is awesome and I'm so excited that Mark and I are going to be homeowners in a matter of hours! Once the madness surrounding school is over, I will be able to turn my attention to decorating! Thank goodness it's the off-season, more time for painting and picking out furniture!

11 November 2009

Ironman Florida Race Report Part 2: THE RACE!

I was awake an hour before my alarm went off on race morning - the world is a quiet place at 3am. I just spent some time thinking about how I wanted my day to go and what I would need to do to make it happen. I heard Bryan start stirring around 3:45 and knew it was about time to get up. Had the usual breakfast of a bagel with butter, coupled with some friendly banter with Bryan, Mel and Iwan. Iwan amused us all with his a cappella version of Eye of the Tiger - if that doesn't get you pumped up, I don't know what would! We left the house on time (shocker!), the car stuffed with the five of us, two skateboards, four special needs bags and two dry clothes bags. Fortunately, it was a quick ride to the transition area - we even got some prime parking next to the finish area. We dropped off our special needs bags, got body marked, and walked into transition. I got a big smile on my face when the music playing in transition suddenly turned to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin." I had been hoping I'd hear that song before the race. I did all the usual pre-race stuff, check bike tires, strap on the nutrition, get the wetsuit on. And I didn't have to rush because I actually got to transition early (another shocker). Team Z had a tent set up on the beach so after my special needs bags had been dropped off, my gear bags updated, and bike fully prepared for the race, Mark and I headed to the tent. The sunrise was gorgeous, the water was beautiful, and it was a little chilly, but you could tell it would be a perfect day weather-wise. After some pictures with the team, Mark walked me over to the swim start. I wasn't terribly nervous, just hopeful that the day would go the way I hoped and that I would enjoy myself. I luckily ran into Sinead and Emily as we were going into the swim corral area and then saw Kate and Joanna. My initial plan was to go really far right so I could avoid getting beat up by the 2600+ people who were going to be running into the water all at once, but at the last minute I decided to stick with Kate and Joanna and stay in the middle of the pack, just to the right of the buoys. It was a beach start and the anticipation was palpable in the air in the minutes before the start cannon went off. And then, I was plunging into the Gulf with 2600 of my closest friends!

THE SWIM: 1:17:12 (2:02/100m pace, 32nd place in AG)
The beginning of the swim was less violent than I thought. Perhaps it helped that it was a beach start or because there was ALOT of space for people to spread out, but I didn't get kicked in the face or punched right away, in fact, you could almost call the swim... pleasant. And then it got crowded. And a little less pleasant. People started to crowd the buoys, especially around the turn, so you had to swim a little defensively. Here and there I would try to draft off some feet, but inevitably would be interrupted by an errant swimmer. But the water was warm, the jellyfish were staying far below the surface, and I didn't have any encounters with sharks, so it was a successful venture! And there were waves, oh boy were there waves. It was kind of like a ride and you had to time your sighting just right so you could actually see the buoys, not the wave that was about to throw you around. I enjoyed my new goggles (TYR Nest, with a smoky lens to keep out the sun). I finished the first loop in about 37 minutes. The second loop was a little less crowded, but I could feel myself getting tired at the end. It took me about 40 minutes to complete that loop. And with that, I was out of the water!

T1: 7:53
Not as fast as I wanted, but at least it doesn't look like I sat down and had a picnic lunch in transition. The wetsuit strippers were great and the freshwater shower felt great, I took my time passing through it because I wasn't going to be changing my clothes. I went into the correct changing tent (room) and got ready for the bike - helmet, sunglasses, headband, food (of course!) and ran out of the changing area. A volunteer smeared sunblock on me as I ran to get my bike (note to self: make sure the get sunblock on my lower back or else I will have a sunburn "tramp stamp" forever marking me). With that, I grabbed my bike from one of the wonderful volunteers and exited under the Bike Out banner.

THE BIKE: 6:03:00 (18.5mph, 28th place in AG)
I was moooooooving during the first 20 miles of the bike. I don't know if it was the adrenaline or the tailwind, but 22mph never felt so effortless. I was passing people, heart rate was still pretty low, and I felt like I could go forever (granted, this was still at like mile 7 - I still HAD forever left to go). As I settled into a rhythm, so did others around me, and I was passed by people, including girls, who I had a) passed at the beginning or b) were crummier swimmers than me but MUCH better bikers. I tried not to let it get to me, even when a few pelatons flew by me like I was on a tricycle. I was there to do my own race, at my own pace, and if I put the smack down while out on the bike, it was likely I would have nothing left for the run. I told myself that I would see those bikers later on the run, and hopefully I'd be blowing by them like they were standing still. Around mile 22/24, we took a right hand turn - right into the wind. That headwind stayed with us for about 30 miles, until mile 50. I wanted to cry. I watched my average pace dwindle down, 21.5... 20.2... 19.8.... until the low point of 18.2 was reached. I was talking to myself, trying to make my legs go faster because I didn't want to drop below the 18 mph mark.

But misery loves company and IM is a big race, so I was never really by myself on the bike course, which was rather nice. I saw some Z'rs out there in the race, which was great. Even more awesome were the signs that all of our spectathletes had put out along the bike course, in remote areas, for us to see - they were so obviously Team Z signs on bright green cardboard, with sayings such as "are you staying in Zone 2?" And during the headwind portion of the bike (which also had some hills - nothing like Savageman, but a little up-and-down) an SUV crammed with Team Z'rs went by me, hooting and hollering, it was great.

Once I turned the corner at mile 50, just a bit after the special needs pick-up (where a biker who didn't know the rules of the road almost ran me over), I got a bit of a tailwind, picking up both my speed and my spirits. This went on until just before mile 70 where two things happened - the good: I saw the Team Z tent with lots of people cheering; the bad: another headwind. Fortunately, the headwind only lasted 5ish miles, and then we turned around for another tailwind. I saw the Team Z tent again, going much faster this time around. A little further on, I saw a group of girls in bikinis, a guy with no shirt, all holding red solo cups and making a ruckus. "awww" I thought, "those college students look like they are having so much fun." And, for a bit, I fought the urge to just pull over my bike and join them - they clearly looked like they were having a good time. This was in the middle of nowhere on the course, no college campus ANYWHERE nearby, and why would a bunch of random college kids be out cheering on an Ironman on a Saturday morning anyways? Then, as I got closer, they recognized me - these weren't college kids, it was Annie, Amanda, Amber, Jenny, and others who were out cheering everyone on. Awesome!

By mile 80 I was still feeling pretty good on the bike. I had eaten my weight in Clif MoJo bars, PowerBars, and drank a bit (but really, not enough). I had the urge to pee early on in the bike, but that had subsided by this point, which is kind of a tip-off that I wasn't drinking enough. I had been cramming down 300+ calories an hour for the first three hours of the bike, knowing that I wouldn't be in the mood to eat later (which was untrue this time). 260 calories/hour is what I should be aiming for. I did become really full and for the next two hours, really cut back on how much I ate, simply because I was no longer hungry, definitely not reaching the 260 calorie quota for those two hours, a bit of a mistake. During the last hour of the bike, I. Was. Hungry. I started eating fritos and pita chips like it was my job, I was having a buffet on the bike at mile 110, trying to make up for that deficit. I was torn, knowing that eating so close to transition is a bad idea, but I Was Hungry, so I threw that logic out the window and down the hatch went the pita chips and fritos.

The last 30 miles of the bike was surprisingly pleasant for the most part. Many of the roads that we were riding on had been newly paved, making the ride really smooth and fast. It wasn't too hot and I was still around alot of people so it wasn't lonely. My average speed was gradually going up, at one point reaching 18.7, before dropping to 18.5 at the end. I had hoped to do the bike faster than last year's 6:37, preferably with a sub-6:15. I had a secret hope of getting under 6, but I didn't want to be disappointed if I didn't do it. As I closed in on the last few miles, I knew that it was going to be really close to the 6 hour mark. I ended up missing it by just under three minutes, but I'm still overjoyed with my time. I kept a very consistent speed throughout the bike, going much faster than I truly thought was possible, and I didn't feel completely fried. Success!

T2: 7:45
Again, no picnic lunch, but no drive-thru either. First things first, port-a-potty. It. Was. Great. The porta-potty was even pretty clean. I had some very helpful volunteers and it felt so nice to sit still and not move at all, I may have dawdled in transition just a bit. I got my visor out, sunglasses came off, grabbed whatever food I wanted to take with me, and I left the changing area, I got some more sunblock smeared on me, and was on my way.

THE RUN: 4:07:54 (9:28/mile, 13th place in AG)
I started off the run in Zone 2 with the plan to stay in Zone 2 no matter what. An Ironman marathon is a whole different beast than a stand-alone marathon, but I like to think of an IM marathon as being a gentler beast. You don't have the pressure to go super fast because, hey, you've already been racing for 7+ hours. You can walk through the aid stations because, hey, you just biked 112 miles and need more than water and gu to get you through the race. You can shuffle and that's perfectly acceptable - as long as you are moving forward, you are looking good! So, with that in mind, off I went. I passed by the Team Z tent right at the very beginning, it was great to see everyone out there cheering. It was still warm out, the sun was shining, and I was feeling pretty good. I was determined not to bonk on the run, at least not bonk as a result of not eating/drinking enough, so I made an effort to start eating right away, about 15 minutes after I started running. I figured I would drink water at every other aid station and eat a few Honey Stingers chewies at about that same time too. My legs felt surprisingly fresh, I enjoyed seeing the various cheering stations ["You Are Now Entering the Girl Zone" - cue scantily clad, busty women, some carrying whips to cheer the competitors on - keep in mind, the ratio of men to women in IM is 4-to-1, so I am sure the majority of competitors really enjoyed passing through this station 4 times, I myself found it rather amusing. Some of the men looked like they might just stop there and throw in the towel on the rest of the race]. The run wound through a really pretty state park and then back into town. The sun was definitely lower as I was heading back into town on the first loop. My stomach was also feeling uncomfortably full, I couldn't tell if it was food/drink not being absorbed or if I was also drinking in alot of air every time I drank water. Turned out to be the latter, so I started walking through the aid stations in which I was taking in liquids. But once I started walking, it became a little bit more difficult to stay running - walking was just so... easy. Anyways, it was great motivation to pass by the Team Z tent at the halfway point in the run and I went off to start the second loop still feeling pretty good, and definitely uplifted.

The second half of the second part of the run is where it got ugly. I realized that I was really hungry and thirsty - at aid stations, I couldn't get enough of the chicken broth and gatorade (I had given up on solid food, my stomach was hating me and only accepting liquids at this point). The chicken broth was great, it tasted so good, and I would feel an immediate pick-up whenever I had it. Mentally, I just kept talking to myself, just putting one foot in front of the other. To tell you the truth, I wasn't all that plugged into the mileage of the race - the miles kept ticking by, but I wasn't really keeping track. At this point, it was also dark, extremely dark in the State Park. But I knew I only had six miles left and, really, ANYONE can run six miles. So I just kept plugging away. I saw some more Z'rs as the course looped back and I crossed paths with those headed out to the State Park as I was headed away from it. I kept telling myself that I needed to run between aid stations, and, as a reward, I could walk the aid stations when I got to them. This strategy worked pretty well, but I was tired. After the race, my teammates who saw me out there said that it was obvious both on my face and in my demeanor that the last six miles were tough - I wasn't cheerfully saying hello to any of them - I would maybe wave my fingers at them, and that was it. When I passed by the Team Z cheering station at mile 24 (which was also THE HOUSE I WAS STAYING IN - I would've given anything for a quick nap in my bed, but I resisted the urge...), Melody saw me and texted Mark, saying "Caroline just ran by and she does not look happy." I kept plodding along - it was great to have Damon and Iwan out there cheering and walking alongside me for a few minutes during those dark, lonely last miles. I finally got to mile 25 and told myself, "Anyone can run one mile, that's all you have left." And then I promptly ignored that silly voice and started walking. Walking like a drunk person apparently because Amber and Amanda saw me and asked if I wanted them to walk with me. I must've looked bad. I told them I was fine and continued plodding on my way. I was just so... tired. I've never felt so completely tired before. And not physically in a way where you feel like your whole body hurts, this was more like, I just need a nap for an hour or two. But in a way, this was good because it let me know that I had left it all out on the race course and I probably couldn't have gone much faster. It was a good feeling. Once I crossed the street and was basically in the homestretch, with less than a mile left, I picked up the pace and began jogging again. It was pure adrenaline, coupled with my wild desire to eat real food, that got me going. A buffet of food was less than a mile away and the faster I could run, the faster I could eat. I was so focused on the food, I sort of forgot that this was supposed to be a magical moment, a moment that I should relish and revel in. But all I could do was grit my teeth and make a run for the food. I did acknowledge everyone at the Team Z tent as I rounded the corner, and the whole way down the finisher's chute, I wasn't thinking "Hey, I'm an Ironman." No, I was thinking, "I wonder which tent is the food tent." I did pay enough attention to hear Mike Reilly announce my name and tell me that I was an Ironman. And the smile on my face as I crossed the finish line, it's there because I know that I'm going to have a large slice of pizza in hand within about 35.6 seconds, not because I was an Ironman. Priorities, it's all about priorities...

FINAL: Overall time of 11:43:42, 18th in my division, 766 overall.

POST RACE - Well, I made it to the food tent in record time. Grabbed so much of it, I could barely hold it all, but I solved that problem by quickly eating about half of it. I signed up and got a free massage (awesome). The masseuse tried to take my grapes from me as I got on the table, but I literally pulled and turned away and said "no" like a petulant five-year-old. I did end up giving him the grapes because I needed both hands to get up on the table, but only under the condition that he return the grapes to me immediately. Not that it really mattered because as soon as I got on that table, I was practically asleep and didn't eat any grapes at all. After the massage, I found Mark, changed into warm, dry clothes, and went to the Team Z tent to cheer everyone else on. Turns out I was the third Team Z'r to finish and the first girl, with Kate Green only 8 minutes behind me. I was really happy with my time, slightly disappointed that I didn't break four hours and instead slowed down significantly in the last few miles, but I really had nothing left. After getting some more food in me, Mark and I headed back to the house so I could take a shower before coming back to watch the last hour of the race. I felt human again after the shower, and actually quite awake. I got dressed in warm clothes and headed back to the race site.

The last hour of the race was so emotional and amazing - words cannot adequately describe the electricity and feeling in the air. It was packed, the music was pumping, and the finishers were looking so thrilled to be running down that finisher's chute. I will watch the last hour of every single Ironman race that I go to from here on out. I'd have to say that was my favorite part of the whole day (aside from eating mass quantities of food immediately after I finished).

Well, there is is, the race report. I will likely have some reflections in a later post, but overall I am really happy with how the race went. I exceeded all of my expectations and had a faster split on everything (except the swim, but that's to be expected seeing as I had a 59 minute swim split last year thanks to the incoming tide at Beach2Battleship), I felt good through most of the race, and I think that if I work hard, I can improve even more during next season.

It's the off-season now and guess what... I miss triathlon already. Counting down until next year!

10 November 2009

Ironman Race Report Part 1: Pre Race

To preface my pre-race race report, I'm happy to say that I'm sunburnt, chafed in all sorts of places, including some lovely wetsuit bite on my neck, and my two big toenails will definitely be falling off in the near future, but all of this means I competed, completed, and LOVED Ironman!

Now, for the pre-race race report!

So even though I did a triathlon last year that was 140.6 miles long, I didn't feel like I had the full "I AM AN IRONMAN" bragging rights because it wasn't an Ironman-brand race. There was no M-Dot gear to buy, no announcement when I crossed the finish line proclaiming that I was an ironman. And even though I enjoyed the low-key atmosphere of Beach2Battleship, I wanted an Ironman water bottle and an M-Dot visor, a kind of visual validation for all the world to see that I was really and truly an Ironman.

I felt pretty confident in my ability to compete and complete Ironman Florida. I already had one 140.6 mile race under my belt, Florida was a flat course (nothing scary like Savageman), and I had done all of the training. So I wasn't nervous in the days leading up to the race. The lack of nerves could also be attributed to the fact that school is kicking my butt and Mark and I close on our first house 6 days after Ironman - so there have been other things on my mind. But I still found it slightly odd that I was totally calm about the race in the days before (I did have a freak-out in the middle of the night the night before the race - more on that in a bit).

Mark and I arrived in Florida on the Wednesday before the Saturday race, 14 hours of driving in one day. I harbored a not-so-secret hope that Ironman would take me less time to complete than the drive to Panama City Beach. We stayed in a Team Z house with Bryan, Mel, Iwan and Robin. It was right on the run course and about two miles from the finish line. I was also thrilled that we were staying with Mel and Iwan because it was the first time I got to hang out with them since they eloped last month! There were in FL to be spectathletes extraordinaire. Plus, sharing a house with Mel and Bryan brought back fun memories of Mooseman 2008.

Thursday morning, Bryan and I met up with other Z'rs who had arrived to poke arond transition and see the swim course. I had NO IDEA the Gulf was such pretty shades of blue and green. As the day progressed, PCB became overrun with ridiculously fit athletes sporting copious amounts of spandex and riding prohibitively expensive bikes. The line was loooonnnnggg for packet pick-up, but the volunteers were great. I even got to use my (super rusty) French to help a guy from France figure out the medical release form. I then went on a little shopping spree for M-Dot gear (mug, magnet, socks, shirt, water bottle, two visors). But because I am superstitious, all of that stuff sat in a bag until I completed the race. Bryan and I had a gear-bag packing extravaganza that afternoon. And holy crap Ironman demands alot of gear, fluid, and nutrition! I'm going to type up my packing list for use in future races. After the packing extravaganza came a bike cleaning extravaganza. By the end of the evening, the bulk of the preparations were done - dry gear bag, T1, T2, bike special needs, and run special needs bags all packed, the bike was clean and sporting a new aero water bottle holder.

Friday morning was a pre-race brick, beginning with a frolic.... errrr swim, in the Gulf. The buoys looked REALLY far out and it was hard to wrap my mind around swimming that course twice on race day. But the water was beautiful both in looks and in temperature, although it was choppier than I had expected, because from the shore it didn't look like there were waves. But I didn't feel motion sick and the waves were actually kind of fun, which was a pleasant surprise. I was less concerned with what it would be like to have a choppy swim on race day. Then it was off for a 30 minute bike ride. I rode with Ryan for part of the ride, but took a detour on the way back so I could pick up a snack from the rental house because I was STARVING! Then I did a 15 minute run and the last workout for Ironman was complete! The weather was beautiful, I definitely got some sun, and I was feeling good for race day. I dropped my gear bags off in transition along with my bike. I hemmed and hawed on whether or not I should let air out of my (super cool rented) Zipp tires so the tubes didn't pop if it got hot. I decided not to and it turned out to be fine. The rest of Friday was just a hurry up and wait kind of day. I kept looking at the clock thinking "in 24 hours from now, I'll be halfway done with the bike... I'll be on the run... hopefully I'll be finished the race... etc." We went to the team dinner, ate some yummy pasta and I totally grabbed like 4 little desserts because they all looked good (I planned on splitting them with Mark). It was so nice to be able to mingle and chat with my teammates and supporters who came down to watch - there were so many of us! Forty-three racing plus about 100 people coming down to just watch. Awesome! We did a team picture and Ed gave a very touching speech, and suddenly I realized that the next time I would see everyone, we'd all be wearing wetsuits and be on our way into the Gulf! It's kind of funny, when I first joined Team Z in November 2007, one of the first team events I went to was the holiday brunch that December. They showed the team video from Ironman Coeur d'Alene that was taken that summer - there were shots of the pre-race dinner, interviews with the racers beforehand, and shots from the race itself, all complete with music that perfectly fit the mood of each moment. That video really made an impression on me, I could feel the nerves of everyone getting ready for the race, the excitement and anticipation of the start cannon, the emotion and pride of everyone because of all their hard work, and it made me want to do Ironman. I downloaded alot of the songs that were used in the video and even now, two years later, I always think about that video when I hear them. So, in a way, it was surreal that here I was, two years later, about to have that same experience for myself - the pre-race team dinner, the exciting start, the exhilarating finish. I was really happy to be a part of Team Z and I was really grateful that I had the motivation, desire, and capability to compete in a race like Ironman.

I went to bed early the night before the race, only two wake up two hours later feeling like I had a butterfly emporium in my belly - hello pre-race nerves, I was wondering when you'd make an appearance! I don't know if it was all pre-race nerves, I was also nervous about eating at the buffet dinner that night. I am really particular about my food in the days/weeks leading up to a race because I don't want to get sick before a race. I like to prepare my own food, stay away from too much meat, just so I know what I'm putting in my body. At the pre-race dinner I just had bread, pasta and alfredo sauce, and the requisite dessert. So I was fine, just paranoid. I managed to go back to sleep and when I woke up a 3am, I felt fine, just excited.

Race morning had finally arrived!!!

05 November 2009

Hello Florida!

We're here! Mark and I got up at 3:30 am yesterday and were out the door before 5am for a 14 hour drive to Panama City Beach, FL. It's beautiful (at least the weather and the beach are beautiful - there are too many hokey gift shops on the "strip" for the rest of Panama City Beach to be called beautiful) and warm and sunny and I haven't seen any big waves on the water. Here's to hoping it stays that way through Saturday! I started feeling a little nervous today as we were walking around the transition area and picking up our packets. SO MANY PEOPLE. And we're all going to be swimming at the same time. Scary. I bought some M-Dot gear (two visors, shirt, mug, socks, magnet, water bottle) and plan on buying finisher gear (maybe a nice pullover) on Sunday after the race.

So now the bags are packed, nutrition has been figured out, I have my clothes set for tomorrow's pre-race brick. Mark and I took a sunset walk down to the beach and the water is PERFECT! Hello sleeveless wetsuit! The swim course looks pretty good actually - it's two loops and seems manageable, maybe even pleasant! I bought some new goggles to ward off the sunshine, I'm going to try them out tomorrow.

I'm excited, much more excited than nervous. This is the reward for all of the hard work, all of the training, all of the time spent swimming, biking, and running. So, in my mind, Saturday is just going to be a party and a celebration for 12+ hours (perhaps one filled with chafing, sports food, and sunburn, but a party all the same). I'm thrilled to be doing this race with Team Z - it will be amazing to see everyone out on the course, both spectators and other racers.

Time for bed!