Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The DYNAmic Race...

Last week in a fit of fingers, I punched out probably my shortest blog ever: It's Called a Race... and yesterday, I completed that race: Ironman Chattanooga, 70.3. For those of you short on time, I'll tell you right now I totally CRUSHED the Shawna Block division! For those of you with time on your hands, read on. (It's long, but there are pictures.)

Ironman Augusta 70.3 in 2016 didn't quite go as planned. In a post race fog and after a visit to the doctor's office, I registered for Chat 70.3. Some of you may remember that I have put off early season races in the past as lacrosse season keeps me busy and exhausted. This spring, even with less reffing, was no different. This time around, Coach and I had to figure out how the travel and stress of coaching a team would wear on me as it did very much, at different points.

I didn't feel prepared for this 70.3. I felt like I had barely been on my bike outside (maybe 3 rides over 50 miles). As a matter of . fact, in my race plan, Coach put: You are ready. Direct quote. It's like he knows me or something.

It was an easy trip up to Chat on Friday and I was able to check in, get the usual swag shopping and be done with Athlete Village. I always grab a water bottle, pint glass, mug, and a race t-shirt. Speaking of which, if anyone has an extra Chat 70.3 water bottle, one of my friends lost her's on the bike and would love to buy it from you.

Friday night I did what I always do, I made sure I really had everything I needed to race. If I am missing something, this gives me a chance to have someone bring it to me from home or go buy it. I had everything I meant to pack.

With athlete check-in completed all I needed to do was get a quick ride and run in to make sure my bike was in order for Sunday. My original plan was to pop the bike on my trainer and spin it out for 25 minutes, but after chatting with some Dynamo teammates Friday night; Karen and I decided to drive out on to the course for a quick spin. We got to the parking lot as Joseph, Kyra, and Thomas were wrapping up and Katie was getting there to start. Quick chats and then Karen and I rolled out. I start going through my gears and drop from big ring to little ring and my chain drops. I try to spin it back up and my pedals are LOCKED. We are maybe .25 miles from the car. We walk back in and Joseph asks if I have a flat. I said no, it's my chain. He took a look at it and we all agreed I was heading straight back to the Athletes' Village to the Quintana Roo tent. 
See the chain almost makes a 90 degree turn between links and it isn't even close to where it belongs on the cassette? QR swiftly and calmly took care of my bike, but I used the word f@ck many, many times.

I called Coach on my drive back to town and he reminded me this is why we wake up early and check everything out, just in case. After I took my bike in, he called back to check in and he told me while I waited to check out The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@ck. I assured him, many f@cks were shared.

Karen came back from her ride confirming her bike was race ready and I popped out with her for a short run. Then back to QR. A new chain and Sam, the QR mechanic/tech had me ready roll. A quick 5 minute ride in and out of all the gears, and I agreed.

Saturday night I coordinated dinner for a few friends and then by chance a few more joined in.
photo cred: Nadya D.
Over dinner we were able to discuss the possible scenarios for tomorrow's race. The weather forecast had been crap and we had no idea what we would really wake up to. Possible options if the storms that were to roll in Saturday night lingered through the morning:

  • cancel the race
  • cancel the swim
  • delay the start
  • shorten the swim
  • race as scheduled
Having been through IMFL 2014, the weather was the least of my concern. There was nothing I could do about it. However, as we had already discussed when Coach called, we did need extra nutrition/calories with us at the swim start in case we were delayed so as to stay on top of our fueling needs for the day. Fun dinner with friends and then time to get ready and try to get some sleep.

Race morning went about uneventful (no rain!), except that I kept feeling like I was missing something, transition went too smoothly. Or maybe, I'm getting good at this. Still unsure of the weather, I set out my bike needs, but left all my run needs in a ziplock bag.
Swim start as the sun began to rise
We hopped on the bus to take us up to swim start and we got in line with other Dynamo teammates. A little close to the front for me. OK, a lot close to the front for me. However it was great to spend the morning with familiar faces and chatting the time away. The pros launched first and after they did, there was a longer than usual delay. They were changing the course. Instead of swimming up river to 2 right turns and down river, we were going to swim across and then down. It made the course about .9 miles instead of 1.2. I think without the change, I'd be typing this blog from the river.

The river was WILD!!! I average 1:30ish/100 yds. My training average is 2:25/2:30. Holy crap was the river moving. I didn't enjoy the swim. As a matter of fact there were many times I was in a deep scary place in my head wondering if I was going to get through it. I was getting the crap beat out of me (which I knew was going to happen) and I couldn't catch my breath. I tried breathing on every right stroke. I tried breathing on every left stroke. I tried bilaterally breathing. I could hear Maria's voice to keep my head down and still on the breath and I couldn't as I think I was drinking most of the Tennessee River. Still not sure how there is water left to flow.
Dazed, confused, and thankful to be done!
With my wetsuit off, it was time to start the climb to T1. On the way, I felt like a freaking rockstar! So many cheers from Dynamo teammates and coaches and from friends on both sides of the fences. Having a not so common name, I knew they were yelling for me.
So very happy to be on dry land! Photo cred: Andrew N.
As always, Coach had given me a race plan. This time, I was making a solid effort to follow it. On the swim, I modified the plan to "Don't get pulled out of the water!". It was time for the bike. I was going to be riding primarily by heart rate, but I also had some power numbers to reference. My power meter on  my bike is still wonky. Determined to make this work, I put a crib sheet on my bike. Winner winner! The stickers stuck for the entire ride.
I also added some additional reminders to the stem for my ride: SMILE, LET'S DO THIS!, and WE CHAT THIS.
As I left on my bike, it really hit me hard that I needed to pee. Seriously, I needed to go. Beside being hydrated, I told you I drank half the river! I have never peed on my bike. Never. Ever. OMG, I had to go! I kept thinking if I stuck to my hydration plan, eventually, I would basically wet my pants and it would be all over. At mile 15, I couldn't take it anymore. I regret to inform everyone, I stopped on the bike and peed in a port-a-potty. I'm still hanging my head in shame, and was sufficiently tongue-lashed by 2 of Dynamo's finest after the race. Moving on....
I was trying to cross my legs on the bike, but it just didn't help.
The bike was great. I rode with Jesse for a few and then he pulled away. A few miles later Fred caught me. We chatted for a brief moment and then he took off. I was really happy to see Fred and get to say hello since he saved me from a DNF in Augusta last year. I was rapidly, seriously I couldn't believe the splits I was putting up, approaching the toughest climb of the day: Andrews. I knew it was coming after I saw mile marker 25 on the ground. I looked down at my bike and thought: Let's do this! I got my gearing right and up I went! At the top was an EMS vehicle, I asked them if they had oxygen for us. They just laughed.

I was/am so very happy with this ride. I averaged 18.2 mph and my average cadence was 83rpms. This means I actually RODE the ride. I pedaled. I kept my head in the ride and kept my legs turning over. Y'all! I train at about 15-15.5 mph. It was the absolute PERFECT weather to ride! I followed the plan, I came back in a little faster than I went out. More fun: I hit 39 mph on one of the descents: WHEEEEEEEEEE! Nutrition I alternated between Cliff Shot Blocks and Salty Balls.

Interesting bit of information I found out today when having the wheels switched back: My back wheel was rubbing my frame the entire ride. Surprise! Ugg. Still so very happy with my ride!

T2. Dry socks, running shoes, hat, and decide to skip the sunglasses. As I turn the corner to run out I see Nick from when I got my USAT certification. I give him a big hug and Jason runs past me and yells some trash talk. I left Nick and took about 5 steps towards Jason and wised up, fast! Bye-bye Jason.

Now the fun starts! The run is when the spectators really get to be involved. Special thanks to Atlanta Track Club, ITL, Peak Racing, Endurance House, BTA, TriCoachGeorgia, the women from Ironwilled who said hi, and so many friends who were out there cheering and taking pictures. (I hope I didn't miss anyone!)

This is my third season training with Brent and Dynamo Multisport and really my first team race. I've done the same race as other teammates, but not in this volume. We had 35+ athletes on the course and I think just as many cheering from the sidelines. It was amazing to see everyone in action and be supported throughout the course by coaches and teammates from beginning to end.
Photo Cred: David X of ITL
I came out of T2 and Coach told me to get moving and keep going. LOL... his race plan said don't go out too fast. Keep it contained. I followed the plan and got my feet under me. I also needed to stop at the first aid station to fill my water bottles.

another great pic from Andrew
The run had a bunch of out and backs and which allowed me to see lots of people. The first loop went well. I was feeling good about my pacing and my running. Usually I get through the run by going aid station to aide station and walking each one. That was not the plan this year. Heck, the last two 70.3s I did I got through the run barely! This year I ran through almost all the aide stations or only paused long enough to refill bottles. 1 to drink, 1 to pour on my head and body.

My fueling strategy was a gel at miles 3, 6, 9, and 11. Mile 3 chirped and I was fine. I felt fine. I wan't hungry. I was good. And then I kicked myself in the butt and took the gel. I reminded myself I had to stay ahead of the game or I would fall apart. I stuck with this plan through mile 9. At mile 11, I took in Gatorade as I wanted nothing to do with a gel.
Race plan said to smile. So I did, as much as I could. Photo Cred: Tanya U.
I have voluncheered this race for the past 2 years and it was incredible to be on the course. The first loop went well. I ran my first 3 miles contained as I was told. Then I tried to go a little bit more, but didn't succeed to well, but I do think I held on fairly well.

I crossed the bridge to start my second lap and Coach is there. He asks if I'm doing okay. I really didn't have a decent answer for him. I was fine. But I wasn't. Both knees and both ankles had really started to hurt. HURT.

So I didn't answer him, and kept running. I had thought back to the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F@ck, and had two choices: I could give a f@ck about the pain, or I could not. See it was going to hurt if I walked 17 minute miles or it was going to hurt if I ran 11ish minute miles. With 7 miles left to go, the math was easy. There were no f@cks to give about how much I hurt. The hurt was inevitable, focusing on it was not.

There is so much support on the run. Familiar faces at every turn. Friends on the course. Friends cheering. It was truly an incredible day. The volunteers were amazing as always.

Last cheer from Coach to finish strong.
I'm a headcase in case you are new around here. I think what I am most proud about from this race is that I took a really tough start (struggling with the swim) and turned it around. I stayed mentally tough the entire route. I cheered on me. I cheered on others. I smiled. A lot.

I turned the final corner and surprised everyone with the timing of my arrival. And it was time to go! I pushed the best I could down the final down hill and am not sorry at all to the people I passed in the finish shoot.

It's really hard to compare races to each other as the terrain and weather greatly impact everything every year. The last time I completed a 70.3 successfully (no melt downs on the run) was Augusta 70.3 in 2014. In 2014 I was about 5 weeks out from a full Ironman. I had already completed a few 7-8 hour workouts. This year I'm just about to start those training days. Anyway: On a much tougher course: my bike was faster this year and my run was not only slightly faster, but much more consistent.

This weekend would not have been nearly as amazing without the endless support and encouragement of my coach and project manager (2 different people as I've been told, no one can handle both roles), my sherpa, Kris my overly patient cycling companion, and Karen who knows how I feel about her.
#wechatthis #NFQS
If you have read to the end, thank you for being part of a my amazing support network who continue to help me accomplish just a wee bit more everyday. I love the triathlon community and race day just brings out the best in everyone.

Next up are a couple tris in New Jersey while I'm on vacation and then Ironman Chattanooga and another go at the Marine Corp Marathon in October.

1 comment:

  1. Love your spirit and attitude! Congrats on an amazing race!