Friday, June 29, 2012

IronMel (lucky number 77)

June 24, 2012
The journey started a year ago when I made the commitment and signed up for Coeur d’Alene Ironman the day after the 2011 event wrapped up.  I had trained a lot with the Landis team in AZ who were all a bunch of hard core Ironmen and women and I knew back then that I would eventually have to give this event a try.  At the time life changed and I had a big move from AZ to OR in 2009 and put the triathlon training on hold once I arrived in the NW and dove big time into the ultra running community.  Now after doing several 100 mile, 24 hour, 100k, 50 mile, 50k, and quadzillas and triples I was loving my running and also ready to incorporate more!  

After signing up for the event I continued to work on my base training with running and getting on the bike some as well as in the pool.  I knew I would have to really be strategic about the work outs that I needed to do in order to fit in all of the volume that I would need to do.  I was able to get my hands on a pretty complete plan from Troy, a great friend at work and Kona Ironman, and this was the tool that I then based my training life on from January to June.  I carried around the paper print out of this packet of training and as you can see below highlighted, modified, and tracked what I was doing.  It felt great to highlight all the work outs for a day, but also felt terrible to miss a work out here and there, but the plan kept me honest with myself.  

At the start of the full time training and jumping on the plan, I really felt boundless; I enjoyed the mix of new work outs.  I realized how much I really do love to swim, and getting in the pool was very much like my running for my arms and back.  I enjoyed the alone time in the pool to think and train and swim.  I really loved the early cold mornings back in January through March when it seemed as though everyone at my gym was hibernating from the pool and I had the entire thing to myself at 5am.  Those were very invigorating work outs for my mind and body.  

The bike started out with a lot of indoor cycling because OR in January is COLD!!!  I couldn’t stand it though on the weekends so I determined that no matter how cold it was I was going to head out and ride.  Well I learned the hard way on my first ride outdoors on the weekend in January was that I was woefully unprepared!  I headed out to do a nice and easy 50 mile loop from my house.  I then got lost in the back country of Hillsboro/Forrest Grove, ended up in Yamhill and by the time I realized how lost I was I was about 40 miles away from my home.  With hands and feet completely frozen to the point of not being able to move them anymore, I made the call for help once I got to a nice warm post office.  Jash, my fiancĂ©, was in school all day that Saturday, and although I knew he would leave class in a second to come get me, I was hoping that I would not have to pull him out of school for this minor issue.  I was completely mortified and didn’t want to call anyone.  It took a lot to dial up my amazing friend Ned, who at the time was at a coffee shop getting some weekend work done.  He was super busy himself so I then felt even more horrible, but he dropped what he was doing and came out to get me.  Never making me feel bad and just being such a wonderful friend that I am so lucky to have.  Ned you know if you ever need anything – at any time- ever- give me a holla.

I also had other issues on the bike, like the time I went out to AZ in February and wanted to get a long ride in with my old riding group.  Anthony (A-Dog), the guy who I have to credit as the one that got me into Triathlons in the first place, taught me how to swim and bike correctly, and was the best training partner I have ever had, he of course set me up with one of his bikes and arranged for me to join his regular Saturday ride.  We were doing a loop, but I didn’t realize that when we said we were going to the lake that we actually were only going to the lake exit on the freeway and turning around.  So I went to the lake.  Whoops that was a bit too far and on a totally creepy small road with lots of big vehicles pulling big boats driving really fast!!  Anthony had hurt his ribs and shoulder the day before our ride so he had to turn back early.  He called wondering where I was and then when he realized how far I had gone and drove out to meet me so that I didn’t end up with an 80 mile bike ride the day before I was running a marathon.  A Dog is just wonderful!!  I would not have become an IronMel if it was not for him!  And the marathon the next day went just great!  

So training was going, I was getting in my work outs and getting stronger and feeling pretty good.  I also was still able to keep up my streak of running at least a marathon or ultra a month though all of the training which was extremely important to me!!  It is now running 44 months strong!  My May race was the CDA marathon and I think this was very important for my training and mentally really prepared me for the event.  We went out and pre rode the IM bike course before the marathon and I was able to see and feel the big mountains we would be climbing and get that first freak out of how much speed you pick up on the descents (over 40MPH) over with before race day.  I was also able to check out the swim course and run course which gave me a feel for planning on race day.  It really boosted my confidence going into the event.  

Finally race week was upon us and I was ready to get out and get going.  I arrived Friday for athlete check in and it was HOT and sunny out in beautiful CDA.  I went back into town for the athlete dinner and “meeting” but after arriving on time and waiting in a massive line. 
I got to the front of the line only to find out they were out of any of the vegie option pasta.  So my dinner consisted of an iceberg lettuce salad and a bread stick.  The tent was also over capacity and there was no seating left, so I went out to the back side of it and ate alone in peace overlooking the water and sunset.  We were supposed to be there until 8:30pm listening to goodness knows what but after I ate and started hearing the promotional speakers and movies I did not feel that standing for 3 hours to listen to it would be a good use of my time.  So I took off to go find some real food but was not impressed thus far of the lack of coordination on feeding and providing places to sit for an event they had an exact count for and have been doing for 10 years in CDA.  

Saturday we had to check our bike and gear in, which I had plenty of time the night before to put together, a bonus of leaving the “mandatory” event.  Jash and mom arrived late Friday night so we spent Saturday morning sleeping in and relaxing.  We drove into town with all my gear and got everything checked in, besides my bike food which we were told to not leave with the bike as the squirles have been known to get into it and eat it.  I put on the wet suit and went for a trial swim and was excited to feel the water had warmed up to about 59 degrees.  The only issue I found was my wetsuit really irritated the stud in the back of my neck.  

So we looked all around IM village, but no one was selling KT tape.  But we did have a chance to play with some photo ops while we were searching.  
I realized we needed to eat lunch so we moved our adventures back to the car and all of the yummy food that I had packed for us and had a car picnic for lunch. 

After lunch we found some KT tape and headed back to our hotel.  We lounged around for the afternoon before we went out to dinner at The White House Grill in Post Falls (thank you John for this recommendation).  Dinner was delish and we talked about the day to come as well as just general great dinner convo.  I was relaxed with my family and just having a wonderful time.  I was not worried about the next day, I was very excited and ready to do my best, stick to my plan and go with the flow.  I wanted to remember to soak up the experience.  

I went to bed early that night and slept well until about 3:30am when thunder, lightning and some very hard rain woke me up.  I looked out my hotel room window to verify and we were getting dumped on.  Luckily I was in Spokane Valley and this kind of weather just missed CDA. 
We were on the road at 5am driving in to get ready for the 7am start of the race.  Body marking, bike tires checked, bike loaded with food and drink, and everything was in place.  I went over to the shore to sit front row with mom and Jash and watch the start of the pros go off and then hustled over to get onshore for our start.  The back up on the side walk leading over to the beach was infuriating and you really at this point felt like a herd of cattle.   It took 20 minutes just to get on the beach and I grabbed a spot next to the first lifeguard chair and started to make my final adjustments to my cap, goggles, and booties (thank you Amber!)  I realized as I looked around that I was nowhere near the outer edge of the swim, but I looked to my right and saw how far everyone was spread out that way that I thought I would just chance it by starting smack dab in the middle of the swim.  

The gun went off and we dashed to the water.  The water was cold, but not unexpected, the people EVERYWHERE was another story.  I was doing ok though, I just kept moving and trying to slow my breathing down to get back to my regular 1-2-3 breath 1-2-3 breath swim pattern when I heard someone screaming for help.  My first instinct was to pop up and start swimming towards him, but I realized that I would get run over in trying to swim backwards in this herd and also that there were about 15 kayakers that were already on their way over to help.  So back to the swim I went realizing that I was totally fine.  I could do this and I just let go of my thoughts and started to flow with the people around me.  People were still hitting and elbowing me, but I just remembered that no one was trying to do anything on purpose, we were all just trying to get to the same place at our own pace.  

I did ok on my sighting for the first ½ of the first lap, but as I rounded the second red buoy I realized that there was this lady that had been close to me most of the swim and she was swimming pretty dead on straight.  So I let go of my sighting and just swam slightly behind and to the right of her.  At first checking pretty often that she was on track, but then just letting her pave most of the way and I followed along.  We lost each other as we got out of the water the first time and did the beach run and back in the water and I tried again to find a good slighter, but ended up totally off course and had to correct, get back to people and then ran right back into my swimming buddy.  I called her blueberry in my head because her wetsuit had these great blue stripes down the side which made her easy to find and because of the little sheep blueberry that we have back at Jash’s dad’s farm.  Blueberry the sheep stands between you and the baby boy sheep Timmy all of the time and I felt like this lady was my Blueberry sheep that I had to keep between me and the buoys at all times!  The water was much more choppy for the second loop and I ended up drinking a lot of it because I would come up to breath and catch a wave in the face and inhale water only.  I started to get the feel for the waters movement though shortly into the second loop and was able to time my breathing a bit better. 
Coming out of the water I looked up to see 90 minutes listed on the clock and was thrilled!!!  I was 50 minutes ahead of the cutoff and feeling like I swam my pace pretty easy and not completely exhausted.  As we climbed up the beach I told Blueberry thank you so much for swimming so straight and even!  She said thank you and smiled and we wished each other a great race from there.  I jumped up to the first empty handed wet suit stripper I could find and was out of the thing in seconds and off and running to get my transition bag.  I jumped into the changing tent and found the first chair that I could which I lucked out and was one right by the door that someone was just leaving.  I dumped my bag and started getting ready putting on my bike clothes.  I was thrilled that I remembered to turn on my watch first so it caught a signal while I was changing.  I also looked around and saw that some women were not doing well at all coming out of that cold water.  They were shaking and looking very much in pain.  I guess I am glad that I am a NW girl now that has adapted to the cold somewhat because I was actually kinda hot coming out of the water with that wetsuit on and swimming so vigorously.  I tossed my bag to a volunteer and ran out the door drinking the full bottle of water I had packed in the T1 bag before I got to my bike.  

I started the bike and started to do a mental check list of myself.  I had remembered to get all my gear on.  I drank my water.  Stomach felt ok even with all the lake water.  I had on arm warmers and felt relatively comfortable tempter wise.  I heard Jash and mom yell for me in my first mile and I waved back to them though I never saw them.  I was feeling good, but as soon as we got to lake shore a gust of wind blew my left contact out of my eye.  I caught it on my eyelashes and promptly popped it in my mouth while I thought of what to do next.  I decided to take my right glove off while riding and as soon as we slowed down on the first up hill in a few miles I would attempt to put the contact back in.  This plan actually worked, although I am not sure how, and I needed up not losing any time while I tried to mess with it.  For the rest of the race I did a lot more blinking and closed my eyes when I could when the wind picked up, especially for the cross winds that seemed to sneak under the sides of my Oakley’s.  
For the rest of the ride I focused on eating and drinking at regular intervals and riding my own race.  I really liked how the bike aid stations worked and thought that the volunteers handing the water and Gu’s were great at getting those to you while your rode by an didn’t have to slow down too much.  Although I did watch an older guy not slow enough, get off balance and ride right into another volunteer then crash over his own handle bars.  I think the rider and the volunteer were both pretty hurt on that one and I tried to remember that as I went to though the rest of the race and focused on not doing anything that would end my race or harm myself! 

The bike course had a very strong head wind on HWY 99 as we rode out, but once we arrived at the turn around the tail wind really pushed us back home.  The climbs were pretty big and the descents were scary to me, especially the downhill on the way back where they only gave you the bike lane and the gugugugugugugu road things (the ones that make sure you say in your lane and don’t drive off the mountain) did not look friendly.  On the second loop while I was on my way back finishing and just a few miles out.  A rider behind me did not seem to like this no passing zone so as we were going downhill at about 40 MPH she rode the gugugugugugu’s in front of me and her back water bottle went flying out and straight at me landing only inches in front of my front tire.  This was the dumbest thing I had seen all race and I would have got her number and reported her if I was not so focused on escaping death.  

I finished the bike strong in just a little over 7 hours and felt good, I didn’t go so hard that my legs were dead, but I was pushing it.  I wondered how my legs would feel for the run.  Back in the changing tent I completely ditched all my bike clothes and was into the running gear- I do not know how all of these triathletes run in those spandex get up’s but sorry they are NOT for me.  Back in my regular running gear with my hand bottle I was in my element and ready to rock and roll!!  I saw Jash and mom as I came out of T2 and leaned over the fence to give Jash a kiss.  I was running pretty good, but the afternoon was getting hot so I was taking ice at each aid station and keeping it in my hat and sports bra to cool my core temp.  I was not able to eat anymore so I was taking Gu after Gu and although I really was sick of them, I could feel the energy they were giving me for the run.  I did the double out and back and said hi to Antony and Jerry – really the only 2 on the course I knew back from my AZ tri club.  It was a treat to say hi to them out there.  I also talked with other runners as there was not much else to do with no music.  Most everyone was nice.
I got to my final 6 miles back from the last turn around and was ready to take it home.  I knew I would be done and I wanted to beat the sunset and finish with the sun in the sky.  I ran with everything I had for those last 6 miles (which was only a 10 min mile) but after that bike and swim I felt like I was flying!  I got to the end and the finish shoot was so crowded with spectators and so loud I just focused on that finish line as it was really overwhelming and actually for me not very pleasant of a finish.  I guess I am just used to the low key ultra finishes and this was just a bit much after being out on the course for 13+ hours.  I just was thinking cross the finish line and then I don’t have to have these people screaming at me anymore.  Listen here and you can see what I mean:
  So I did and ran my marathon in just over 4:40 which I am pretty happy about!  
I grabbed 2 slices of cheap pizza and met Jash and mom outside of the finisher’s area and we went to go sit on the grass by the shore and watch the sunset and enjoyed realizing that I just finished in 13:46:47!! 

Overall I am happy that I did this event although it is something that I will probably not go back and do again.  The experience that was valuable to me was the intense training leading up to it and getting into the unknown again after doing many ultras it was a new feeling that I really did enjoy.  The people I met were very nice, but the overall IM style is really just not for me.  I guess their tag line should have told me that: “swim 2.4, bike 112, run 26.2.  Brag for the rest of your life!”  I don’t do events for bragging rights I do endurance sports for the physical and mental challenges and to push myself to different levels.  I am sure that is why many other people do IM as well, but the overall feel of the entire weekend about being told over and over that we were so amazing for just being there and making such a fuss over everything was just a bit much for me.  I like to show up do my thing and go home and be done, not be forced to be at this kind of event for days on end and pay what I deem is an exorbitant amount for entry fees.  Well that and there is just WAY too much spandex involved in this sport!  Low key events like ultra running are really more my style and I think for the long run I will stick to those, but I respect everyone that loves IM as a sport as well- it was not easy and I am proud to be an IronMel. 

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