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I’m in NYC this week shooting a K-Swiss Ad Campaign. This AM, we went to the showroom where all of the exciting new shoe and clothing samples live before they are mass produced and distributed. I’ll post some pics later today.
The rest of the day has been a whole lot of “Hurry up and wait”! Chris Lieto and I have been at the studio–trust me, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds, though it is pretty interesting to see how the whole operation runs–since 10AM. After 45minutes of hair and make up (I even got a free trim by the stylist–yeah!), we have been waiting to do the shoot. It is now 6pm. Although I’m sure it sounds like it, I am totally not complaining; it feels somehow strangely relaxing to have some forced downtime.
Oops, here we go–time to go run on a treadmill while being sprayed with fake sweat: )
Wow, how time flies! It seems that as soon as I finish one blog post, I’m already procrastinating on the next one: ) After several friendly reminders today, I figured I’d post a quick race recap before Kona ’09 is here. . .
Just gettting to the start line in Kona was a huge celebration for me this year–much more so than any other year in Kona, or any other race, for that matter. Independent of all the pre race excitement, I was thrilled to be racing because a year ago, I was in Kona watching and wondering if I would ever race again. After spending all of the ’07 season battling chronic fatigue (I know what you’re probably thinking . . .”Does that really exist?”. Trust me, it does.), by the time Hawaii rolled around, I could no longer even fathom completing any one of the disciplines, much less racing a full Ironman. My “workouts” for the preceeding six months had consisted of sessions like 45′ on the elliptical and walks on the beach. Even that was exhausting. I wasn’t unmotivated or lazy, I was just–for lack of a better description–completely cracked.
Last year, after a full week of being inspired by a collection of the fittest human beings on the planet, my own race day workout plan consisted of a 30′ jog. . .of which I completed about half before needing to walk. After one failed attempt, I then decided to swim to the first buoy and back, which nearly resulted in a drowning. The rest of the morning was spent spilling tears of frustration under a Banyan tree along Allii Drive.
This year was much different. Not only was I there to participate, I was there to race. I had a good swim–the pro wave is not that big, and I am far from the strongest swimmer among them, so it was a relief to find myself in a pretty big pack after the initial frenzy. The effort felt controlled, but not too easy; probably the closest thing I’ve found to an ideal draft scenario in a race. Despite the chop, I found myself actually enjoying the swim.
I exited the water feeling good, hi-fived Andy as I ran into transition, and jumped onto the bike. The bike is where I am always looking to make up time, and for the first 56 miles I was doing exactly that, although to be honest, my legs never felt quite right. Just after Hawii, however, things got really, really tough. The winds were blowing hard, and I really wanted out of that saddle! Energy wise I felt great, but my biking legs were not out on the Queen K with me.
Strangely, as soon as I got onto the run, the bad patch was over. The miles along Allii felt like one big party, and I just built that part, feeling good and enjoying the scene. In fact, with the exception of a few tough miles coming out of the Energy Lab, the entire run went really smoothly, and I finished feeling strong, which as been an unrealized goal for quite awhile!
Challenges are opportunities for us to grow stronger. Needless to say, I grew a lot from that experience last year, and was able to carry a lot of that motivation into my season this year. I was also really fortunate to link up with LifeSport last year in Kona, and owe the majority of my success this season to Coach Paul. Thanks to his good coaching, patience, and sometimes blind optimism, I was gradually able to build back from the months of “not being able to run 20” to 3 IM races this summer, including two top 10 finishes and a day in Hawaii that didn’t involve any crying under a tree.
Perhaps the title of this post should have been: “speak now or forever hold your peace. . .” Well, better late than never! It’s been nearly two weeks and I am finally finding a moment to post on an unforgettable Kona experience. There was so much that went on that it’s hard to know where to begin. Of course, there was the usual pre-race excitement / anxiety, friends to catch up with, last bits of taper week training to do. Oh, and just one other little thing–I got engaged!
I’ll spare you the mushy details, other than to say that Andy and I are thrilled! Kona is a special place, and I was glad to have such a happy experience to carry with me for all 140.6 miles on Saturday. As you might imagine, this sort of trumped all of the rest of the week, although race day was a close (ok, maybe not so close–think Chrissie Wellington’s victory over the rest of the field) second.
Now that I’ve gotten that tiny bit of news out of the way, let me back up. . .From the minute I arrived on the island, it felt as though I’d entered some strange time warp–a whirlwind of nervous excitement punctuated by pier swims, bike rides to Hawii, trips to Lava Java and the farmer’s market, and–oh, yes, the ever famous Underpants Run.
The best part of Kona is that “everyone” is there–it’s virtually impossible to go more than 2 minutes without bumping into people you know. Actually, it usually starts before the plane even lands. For example, on the flight from SD to Honolulu, I was one of the last people to get to my seat because I was busy inconveniencing the airline stewardesses with a wheel bag that would not fit in the overhead. When I finally got there, it seemed that someone was already sitting there:
Those Aussies, what a bunch of thieves; ) I took it as a good omen that Kate Major had nabbed my seat, but still told her to move her ass. (Not really) BTW, although Kate’s podium streak was broken this year, her performance was possibly the most incredible yet. Because of a foot injury, the longest run she had managed in the last 6 weeks pre race was 30′. That, combined with a mechanical on the bike would have sent most pros to DNF-ville, but she stoically finished it up with what, for most, still would have qualified as a killer time.
Now, back to ME; ) Besides the obvious, there were lots of race week distractions to keep my mind from hyperfocusing on the race. Distractions may seem like a bad thing, but when you’ve already spent the last 364 days or so thinking about something, I find that it’s good to take a step back. Otherwise, those last few days wind up being stressful, which detracts from the whole reason we’re there. To that end, I took advantage. . .
K-Swiss cruise on Tuesday
Mixer at the Palace on Wednesday
Got ENGAGED on Thursday!!
Friday was all the usual last minute scramble. Managed to lose my spare tire on a training ride, had to replace that. Couldn’t find the bento box I swear I’d brought. Where the heck did my electrical tape go? Blah, blah, blah. The good news was that our race kits were finished just in time:
After that, there was nothing left to do but race!
The Malibu Triathlon was a great way to ease back into racing after IM Louisville. I was only doing the bike leg of a relay, so it was a lot of fun and totally low-stress. (Not to be confused with easy. . .when will I stop forgetting how badly this short stuff hurts?! 45′ at HR 175-180? I think I’d rather do an Ironman!) But, it did give me plenty of time to check out the celebrities, or at least their surrounding swarm of papparazzi, in some instances (i.e. J. Lo).
My fabulous K-Swiss relay partners were both able to check the ultra famous AND super athletic box. Our swimmer, Kaitlin Sandeno, went to the Olympics in both 2000 and 2004 in so many events I couldn’t even keep track as she rattled them off. And our runner, Anna Kournikova, is. . .well, Anna Kournikova.
Let’s just say we didn’t do too badly: )
Can anyone guess who the guy on the right is? (The guy on the left is my friend Nate, who, thankfully, saved me from having to pull the total groupie “can I have my picture taken with you” card since they know each other.) Look closely. . .
I always say that if I lived in LA, I would never see any celebrities because I am terrible at recognizing people. Could be that I’m not that great at actual facial recognition (isn’t that a sign of Asperger’s? Great.) OR, more likely because my pop culture IQ is startilingly low. This, I blame largely on my parents who raised us in the TV equivalent of a strict vegan household–one TV, allowed on one channel–CNN. (Thanks Mom & Dad–do you KNOW how many hours of quality sitcom viewing I missed because of you?!) Still, even I know who this guy is–although it did take me about 30′ of silent “Where do I know this guy from?!”–in the transition area to put my finger on it.
In any case, I was going to make you guess, but with hat and glasses it’s a little tough. . .it’s Zac Morris from Saved by the Bell!! I guess his real name is Mark Gosselaar and he has a new show now, but to me, he’ll always be Zac.
Even better, I was able to catch up with Jenny & Kristin, celebs in their own right–two amazing friends who always manage to be fantastically fit even with crazy work schedules.
All in all, a fun weekend of triathlon before shipping off to Canada for an even more fun, though slightly more hard core week of training with my LifeSport teammates.
The thing I love most about Ironman is that just when you start to feel like you might have things figured out, you realize that actually, you don’t. It’s part of what makes the sport exciting, intriguing, and occasionally a little bit frustrating. It’s also why, as long as I’m able, I’ll be coming back for more.
My experience in Louisville last week had all the elements of a Western movie–the Good (the first 2/3 of the race). The Bad (the majority of the run). And, a little bit of The Ugly (my night in the hospital ICU). First, a bit a bout “THE GOOD”:
I arrived in KY feeling great–much fitter than I was before IM France earlier this year, and with a lot of solid bike and run workouts on the books, feeling confident and ready to race. The week leading up was actually almost relaxing. . . The airlines returned my lost bike box within 24 hours. My homestay was AMAZING–not even complaining when I turned off the AC, converting the upstairs into a virtual sauna. Felt good for all of my week-of-race training. Caught up with friends and family who came to support me. Still managed to get my bike and gear bags dropped off early and spend the rest of the day off my feet. . .All the little pre race things that make me happy.
(Although Hillary & I call each other BH, which stands for “better half”, we did NOT plan our matching outfits. It did, however, score us a free lunch at Hard Rock Cafe a little later in the day. I guess our fellow patron was really excited about Ironman coming to town: )
Although, I was a little nervous about the swim–non wetsuit is not really my cup of tea–by race morning I was in a good place with it. I spent the swim feeling solid, followed my plan of using the river current by hugging the shoreline where the water moves slower on the way upstream, and swinging wide around the turn buoy staying towards the middle of the river where it moves a bit faster on the way in. I finished the swim feeling fresh, if not fast, and excited to put in some work on the bike.
Leading up to the race, I’d had some great training rides, including several weeks worth of Swami’s and the Wednesday ride–two of San Diego’s best group rides. I know I’m in good riding form if I can even stay in the same postal code as some of these guys, and leading up to the race, I had been kicking their butts (just kidding, Greg)! But, I was feeling optimistic about the ride. I used the first 30 miles to build into a good rhythm, get down some hydration and electrolytes before settling into a steady effort.
There was great spectator support and scenery–lots of corn and horses, and I was able to stay with my nutrition and hydration plan–taking in lots of water, 2 salt tabs every 30′, and a mix of carbo pro and Clif bars. I was feelin GOOD! The miles ticked by quickly and before I knew it, I was back in town, and headed for the run.
The first part of the run was an out and back over the bridge. Just a short two mile section. I was feeling ok, not fantastic–legs were a bit heavy, but still thinking I could pull off a pretty good marathon. Then, things started to deteriorate. . .although I was sticking to my fluid and fuel intake, my body didn’t seem to be processing it. I had the whole “pregnant with triplets” look going on, which was upsetting because after all this hard work, who wants THAT in their race photos?!? Only joking. That was the least of my concern.
Although at this point, I was beginning to feel sub-par, I reminded myself that 1) it doesn’t always take a killer marathon to have a good IM race 2) it was hot. To quote Greg Bennett: “if it’s hurting me, it’s killing them”. Unfortunately, for me, in this case, I seemed to have it nearly backwards. . .
By about the halfway point I realized things were not great, probably not even good, and from that point on, it was pretty much survival mode. Counting 10 steps at a time, “left, right, left”. . .that sort of thing. I was still holding on to 10th place, but I was not setting a great pace, and things did not seem to be improving. I decided to worry about that later, and just focused on running as well as i could at each moment. Unfortunately, that only amounted to a geriatric-like shuffle. I knew I wasn’t alone–there was a lot of race course carnage from the heat and humidity. What a relief to see the finish line!
But, my day still wasn’t done. NOPE. Not even close. . .in fact, this is where it was just about to get UGLY! As soon as i crossed the finish line, I was helped to the med tent where my “post race party” started off with not one, not 2, not 3, but 4 IV bags. Looking around, I could see I was in pretty good company–Mariska, Lisbeth, and Heather were all in nearby cots. At some point I remember hearing mention of “ambulance” and “hospital”, and remember thinking–“are these people crazy? I don’t need the hospital”. From here on, things were a bit blurry, but from what I’ve been told, I made these sentiments known quite vocally: )
Unfortunately, it turned out I was wrong. . .by the time they got me to the ER, a lot of the fluid that hadn’t absorbed from either the race hydration or the IVs had made it’s way into my lungs. Also, my intestines and kidneys were “paralytic”–I guess they had gotten tired and decided to take the rest of the afternoon off. Doctors and nurses were putting every tube imaginable in every place imaginable; all the while, I was alternating between projectile vomiting and trying to convince them that they really should let me go home.
Instead, I’d qualified myself for a night in the ICU. While I am incredibly grateful for the excellent care I received, I can tell you that nothing spells Ironman recovery or comfort like being immobile, sans shower, and on a “clear liquids only” diet for nearly 48 hours post Ironman. Let’s just say that in Kona, I will be striving for a different sort of after party!
Big Congrats to all the other IM Louisville finishers, and THANK YOU to all the spectators, family, and friends who offered their care and support both during and after the race. Guess it’s a good idea to give those bike and gear bag pick up tags to someone, after all!
Last weekend I was in Louisville, Kentucky to help out with the LifeSport Ironman preparation camp. It was a fantastic few days of casing out the course, meeting other athletes, and getting in some good quality training of my own. After three days of previewing the course by car; swimming, biking, and running over nearly every square inch of it, the only thing that remained somewhat of a mystery was how to correctly pronounce the town’s name : )
The other athletes who attended the camp were phenomenal. People from many different backgrounds, levels of experience, and with different goals were there. From first timer to Kona qualifier, each brought something special to the camp. Without going all NBC Special on you, I was totally inspired by the level of commitment that each of them displayed–not only throughout the weekend, but also in their journey to the starting line next month. There was the business owner who told us he gets up at 3 AM some days to get his workouts in–ouch! The mom of 3 kids who flew all the way to IM Austria, got too sick to race, but didn’t give up on racing an Ironman this year. And many others who, despite slavish work schedules or family obligations, are still finding a way to compete. To me, this is the biggest part of what Ironman is all about! To all of you, good luck in your continued preparation–see you at the finish!
Besides being there to help out with the camp, I also had my own little agenda. I came into the weekend a little unsure about whether or not I would be racing in Kentucky. Although it was on the plan Paul and I had etched out earlier in the year, a welcomed, but not totally expected, Kona slot at France left me with the option of substituting some shorter races into my Hawaii build up, instead. In some ways, this seemed like the “safer” option, since 6 weeks between Ironman races can be tough–much too long a gap to focus just on recovery between the races, but much too short of a time frame to do a complete recovery and rebuild.
On the other hand, I had been DYING to do this race ever since it was announced. Although I’ve become quite accustomed to the San Diego lifestyle, I spent the better part of my childhood growing up in Kentucky–chasing horses, attending tractor pulls, the whole bit. And, while the Southern twang I used to have has been almost entirely neutralized (it does tend to crop up after a few drinks. . .i.e., not that often these days), I am still very much a Kentucky girl at heart. Although Louisville is several hours away from the tiny town where I grew up, for now, this is the closest I’ll get to a hometown race.
By the end of the weekend, I had totally forgotten that whether or not I’d be racing was even a question. Although there were other factors involved in the decision, (you can’t get totally caught up in the emotional side of things, as Coach P chose to remind me. . .I’m a girl, Paul, what do you expect; ) ultimately, it just feels right.
By the way, while I don’t think there is an “officially correct” pronunciation, here my observations:
“Lou-IS-ville“: You are NOT from around here, nor have you ever visited. In fact, you probably don’t know anyone that has ever visited. Technically still correct, but it ain’t going to earn you extra helpings. . .(not that you’ll need them in these parts. Just ask Paul & Mark about their $6 carrot cake)
“Loo-ey-ville”: Nice try. Definitely better than the previous one, but you’re still not from around here. Could be from Canada, or something.
“Luh-vull”: Good chance you were born within 100 miles of here. Absolutely no more than 1 degree of separation between you and someone who drives a big truck with mud flaps and a gun rack.
Gotta get on my bike. See y’all in Kentucky!
Remember how much you loved summer camp as a kid? Running around outside, seeing old friends, meeting new ones. . .Some things never change; while the “running around” was perhaps a little more structured at last week’s training camp in Canada than the outdoor camps I went to as a kid, in many other ways the experience was very similar.
Pre-race Ride–Cheryl, Jenny, me, Bree, & Lance
The week started off with a little talent show, aka a half ironman, in Vancouver. Two of the three of my flat mates from Oz, Bree and Eileen, were there, as were a slew of other speedy ladies. The third roomie from Oz, Kim Loeffler, was busy kicking butt at Lake Placid—way to go, Kim! Cheryl Murphy, the eventual winner, happened to be coming off a 1:11 half marathon, so when I found myself next to her in T2 (she sat down to adjust her socks. . .I guess you can do that when you run a 71’ half mary; ), I sort of knew how that story was going to wind up!
As with any talent show, there were also a few unfortunate bloopers. Poor Bree, who was leading the swim & first part of the bike followed the lead motorcycle (except that it was actually a media motorcycle) waay off course. She still managed a 3rd place finish, and taught us all a lesson about how to deal with the inevitable race adversities by taking it totally in stride. (Obviously, this is sooo 12 blog posts ago for those of you who read Bree’s blog. If you don’t, you should: www.breeweehawaii.blogspot.com . Unlike mine, hers is actually updated regularly. Like, really regularly; ).
My race? Well. . . it was a good training day and fitness booster, which was what I was after since it was 3 weeks out from IM France. My legs reminded me of this for most of the bike and run. Not that it was a total sufferfest, I was just a little flat. I spent the majority of the run feeling like a big diesel truck—lots in the tank, just couldn’t quite get it really going, and I wound up 5th.
Post race, we took the ferry back to Victoria where the rest of camp was based. The ferry ride was a cool experience in and of itself, but was made even better because we were treated to both an orca whale sighting AND an all you can eat buffet, where I think I consumed about a pound of shrimp. If the whales had been watching us, instead of the other way around, I think they would have been impressed!
The rest of our time in Victoria was nothing short of amazing. Like my favorite camp counselors from back in the day, Coaches Paul & Dan kept us in line (15’ early & arm circles, anyone?), but also made sure we had so much fun that no one wanted to leave. We had great team workouts: lake swims, scenic bike rides, and my favorite: a 8 x 2k run workout, followed by an ocean ice bath.
This is one of the approximately 3 French phrases I picked up last week while in Nice for IM France; it means “very good”. But, from start to finish, everything about my trip to France, including the race, was better than very good–it was amazing! For a first long day back in the office, a 5th place finish and Kona spot was a welcome reward!
The second I stepped off the plane in France, I was met at the airport by my homestay host and contact at Aquasphere, Lindsay, who whisked me away to her gorgeous villa in the hills just South of Nice. As an added bonus, her husband, Simon, is an avid cyclist who not only took me on guided rides of the course, but also drove me around the entire course so I could preview it before the race. Oh yeah, did I mention he is also a gourmet chef?! The meals were so good that I started joking that it must be a conspiracy plan to fatten me up that he’d designed with Alexadra Louison, the adorable and very tiny French pixie who won last year’s race; ) With that sort of 5 star treatment, the days flew by, and before I knew it, it was time for race day.
I had a lot of both nervous energy and excitement heading into this race. Fortunately, I had Coach Paul to keep me in check with a smart race plan, full of process (or pr-O-cess, as the Canadians say) goals. Rather than focusing on times, places, or Hawaii slots–the outcomes by which we all usually judge races, my objectives were based around things that I could totally control. Things like finding a good draft on the swim (big guys that don’t kick), not letting myself go above certain HR zones on the climbs, maintaining good run technique (elbows in, shoulders forward–no more flauntin’ the goods), and staying on top of nutrition and hydration. My mantra for the race was: “conservative, smart, and strong”.
Conservative–Because, in terms of timing, this was maybe a little early. . .I knew I was not the fittest I’ve ever been. Yet. I was looking for a solid day, one which I could learn from, gain fitness and confidence for races later in the season. This meant that I needed to stay in control, rather than going for an earth shattering performance. Big Picture.
Smart–Because it’s important to control what you can control & eliminating mistakes–proper pacing, nutrition, equipment.
Strong–Because a good day depends on staying tough out there from start to finish. And, anything can happen in Ironman!
I went in with the attitude that if I followed the plan, checked off all of the objective goals we’d identified, then the day would play out how it was supposed to. So, on race morning, I headed to the water nervous, but with a huge smile–just a big day of training.
The swim start was rough–this year there were 1,000 more competitors then when I raced two years ago. While I was glad to have so many friends out there (I consider anyone helping me get to that swim finish a buddy; ), it made for rough going, especially for the first 1,000 yards. I got dunked, kicked, and at one point, someone even grabbed my hand like they were giving a handshake before pulling me under. Brutal. I just zenned out as best I could, reminding myself that we were all just trying to get to that swim exit!
I got out just in front of Laurent Jalabert, the former Tour d’ France rider. . .trust me, it didn’t take him long to fly by me like I was standing still. Even the motorcade seemed to be having difficulty keeping up! Luckily, I was cruising along myself, mostly passing lots of people, occassionally being passed, but keeping things totally under control. After the first flat and fast 10k, the climbing began. I knew we had 21 km of almost constant climbing, some parts steeper than others, but always up. I watched some of the guys take off, I love climbing, love working, and multiple times had to resist the urge to push it. I was checking my HR constantly, keeping it right where it was supposed to be, not taking any chances.
Although I have many IM races left to do, I can’t imagine a more spectacular bike course. We climbed through beautiful historic villages, getting amazing crowd support the entire way. At mile 70, we reached the highest point on the course, and I was feeling good, but pleased about the fact that we had some serious downhill coming. For a triathlon course, this one is quite technical. If you’re planning on racing this one, 2 words of advice: Road Bike! My Orbea Diva handled the screaming downhills & hairpin turns no problem, and before I knew it I was back to sea level, cruising back to town along the Promenade d’ Anglais with views of the Mediterranean.
I came off the bike feeling solid, but definitely not fresh. It was quite hot, and even though I’d been conservative on the ride, as my friend Dean put it, “there’s no way to do that ride easy”. I set off on a very controlled pace, with a four loop out and back course there were plenty of spectators and opportunities to see other athletes. I finished the first two loops feeling great energy -wise, but the quads were definitely starting to go. At the start of the third loop, the legs were no longer starting to go, they’d went. . . By the last 5k, I was running with a gait not unlike what I imagine P am Reed looks like in the last few miles of Badwater: )
After last year’s struggles with chronic fatigue, crossing the finish line of this race will always remain one of my happiest moments. While I know there is a lot of work still to be done, this race was a great stepping stone for me. I owe many thanks to Andy, my family, friends, and sponsors–K-Swiss, Aquasphere, Vida Tea, LifeSport, Orbea, TechnoSweat, B&L, Clif Bar–thank you all for your love & support.