Monday, November 14, 2011

Training Lag...

I travel a lot for work.  Sometimes internationally, sometimes not.  Jet lag and I are not strangers to each other.  I also work for myself on a very non tradional schedule.  I never know what day of the week it is, what the date is, and sometimes what time it is.  I'm used to being disoriented is my point.  I go through life that way and when someone orients me with the time and the date its sometimes quite uncomfortable.  I like the sensation of floating through life.

There are exceptions to this...  enough time at home with my fiance and I quickly orient to her schedule and get used to the weekly routine of it.  I seem to often be surprised when its saturday and she doesn't have to go to work though.  This is of course made further complicated by her every other week 4 day work week schedule.  So you can imagine I just get used to not knowing whats going on.

The constant rhythm thats been in my life for the last year however has been my training plan.  It has always has to bend to the will of life and my schedule, but its fairly consistent.  It helps me know when Saturdays are coming because thats when I try to ride long with my friends when I can.  I don't always know when that is but I see it coming on the Tri-NE discussion boards.

And now its two weeks post Ironman.  I haven't trained in two weeks.  I have no idea what day it is.  The rhythm of my world has been disturbed.  Something in my right foot feels weird.  I wake up and I don't have to train, I don't have to think about training, I don't have to plan my day around training, and I'm disoriented.  I grounded myself in the process.  The countdown of the clock ticking towards the Ironman.  Suddently thats gone, and I have at least another week or two of rest before I cautiously start training again.  My right foot has something wonky going on, and my right leg is still feeling sore and stiff.  I'm not doing any biking or running on it until it feels 100% again.  Its been almost 18 months since its felt normal and injury free, and almost two years since I've rested it at all.  So its time.  So when you combine the resting, the lack of training, and the fact that my work schedule is lightening up I'm really confused.  I don't know what day it is.  I don't know what time it is.  I don't know what the date is.  I'm a bit lost.

On the plus side...   my computer says apparently its 9AM and I'm still in my pajamas.  Life could be worse.  I have only one more week of away time for work in 2011 and thats fantastic!  Even better than that is the fact I'm getting married in 2012!!!  In a way though that feels a lot like the Ironman did intially.  Something I'm incredibly excited about and looking forward to, but still very much in the distance.  I keep looking to the wedding as something to base my daily rhythms on...  but its still too soon and my body clock can't sync to it quite yet.

So for now I'll just continue on...   drifting...   waiting for it all to click and for me to figure out what day it is...  what time is...   or perhaps I'll just have to settle for being fairly certain its still November.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Beach to Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon Race Report!

Before I get into the race report I want to take a moment to recognize my team mates from Tri-Newengland.  When the club formed last year many of us began our journeys into triathlon from a variety of backgrounds.  This year 13 of us made the trip to North Carolina and for ten of us it would be our first iron distance race.  I've spent the last two years training with this fantastic group of people and I've learned a tremendous amount from the veterans and shared the ups and downs of iron distance training with all of them.  We've slogged through monster workouts, traded stories, encouragement, let downs, and lifted each other up when we needed it.  They may not know it, but they kept me moving and motivated to train through the year as the thought of letting them down just wasn't an option.  The experience of sharing the beach house with my team mates the week before the race was fantastic.  I had so much fun sharing the nerves and excitement before the race and getting in the short workouts with all of them.  The time spent watching the sun rise over morning coffee since none of us could sleep are some of my best memories of the week and of the race.  I feel so fortunate that I could share the race with all of them.  Seeing them all out on the course lifted me up every time I saw them and I only hope I was able to do the same for them.

Race Morning:

My alarm went off at 3:30AM.  I'm happy to say I actually slept a solid six hours despite the nerves.  I got up and turned the coffee on and then ate my pre race breakfast which consists of a Gatorade Prime 01 drink which contains a ton of carbs and 330 calories in a very small amount of fluid, and a package of pop tarts for a total of around 700 calories.  Wash all that down with a cup of coffee to get things moving and it was time to suit up for race day.  The weather forecast was for a cold breezy start to the day which would never really warm up.  So my plan was to wear a tri suit for the swim under my wetsuit which I'd remove and dry off before putting on my bike clothes.  So I put that on, added a layer of warm clothes after that and then sat down waiting for 4:45am to come so I could head to transition.  I passed the time chatting with my team mates as they got ready.  On my floor of the house were Norrine, Bob, Kevan, and Kate.  We had agreed the night before to head over together in the morning.  So at 4:45 we headed off to transition.


This race is a somewhat initially complex point to point to point race.  The logistics of it are hard to wrap your head around at first until you've stared at it a little and then they actually are pretty easy to manage.  It is worth studying them in detail.  In our case we drove to T1 and parked there.  Checked and filled the tires on the bike, added my bike nutrition and computer, and then grabbed my pre/post event bag and got on the shuttle to head to the swim start which was a couple of miles down the road.  I should mention its still pitch black out but transition was well lit with portable construction lamps so navigating it wasn't a problem.  I boarded the shuttle to the swim start with my team mates Luis and Matt.  The beautfy of there being 13 of us there is that you never had to look far to find someone else you knew to chat with.  It really kept the nerves down.  Luis, Matt and I didn't speak much on the bus once it was moving.  We were all lost in thought about what we were about to attempt.  We felt confident, but its a long day, and anything can go wrong.

Luis and I on the bus on the way to the swim start

Swim Start:

The Tri-Newengland group started to form in the parking area near the beach.  With each trolley dropping off swimmers our group grew until all 13 of us were there.  We put our wetsuits half on and sat down on the ground to conserve energy nervously chatting together.  Not much later my fiance and our friends John and Rhonda appeared!  Apparently I was so lost in thought I stared right through them.  I was so excited to see April and it felt so amazing to hug her and know she knew exactly what I was going through.  (her first Ironman was just over a year before mine).  John and Rhonda are also both triathletes who can appreciate the feelings of race morning so I was in great company.  I felt so lucky to have them there to support me during the race.  We chatted, took some photos, and the seconds slowly ticked away till it was time to get the wetsuit the rest of the way on and head towards the beach for the swim start.
Right after April found me at the swim start

Almost the entire Tri-NE group before the swim start.  Just missing Taryn

one last pic and then its go time!

The Swim:

Beach 2 Battleship is well known as the flat easy iron distance race with the fast swim aided by the current.  Well this year the tides were supposed to be at record high's and a very fast swim was anticipated.  I have to say I chose this race becuase of how it fit my calendar and because so many of my team mates were also planning to complete it.  It also wasn't as difficult to register for as some other races out there with very narrow windows to get into them.  During our practice swim we learned just how powerfull this current was so I knew the swim was going to be fast and easy.  My plan was just to take it easy and swim nice and easy and keep my heartrate as low as possible.  I also planned to poke my head up a few times and look around and take in the moment.  You only get one first Ironman.  I knew the swim would be the warmest part of the day with water temps at 69 degrees I was very comfortable in a full sleeved wetsuit, swim socks, and the race provided cap. 

A few of my team mates and I grouped together waiting for the start and after a neoprene group hug the gun went off and we slowly walked towards the water's edge.  The group I was with did not contain any super strong swimmers and none of us were in a rush to get into the fray of 800 people starting at the same time.  I walked to the left of the group into a nice open area and entered the water approximately 60 seconds after the gun went off.  When I started swimming I was still surrounded with people but not a terribly tightly packed group.  We clearly all had the same plan to have a nice enjoyable swim.  So I just got into my rhythm and started swimming.  I found a nice groove and the only real problem I had was sighting.  The sun was just barely up at this point and it was quite foggy so it was hard to see the landmarks I had learned to look for in the practice swim.  So I just followed the group.  I stayed to the left towards the center of the channel where I had heard the current was strongest and made sure there were always swimmers on my right every time I breathed to that direction.  I pretty much gave up on sighting and just made sure I was always with other swimmers.

I popped up as planned about a third of the way through the swim off to the side and looked around.  I took in the sights of the kayakers, paddle boarders, and the sounds of many people swimming.  Its quite the sight to behold.  I smiled, put my head down and started swimming again.  I thought to myself...  "holy crap!  I'm doing an Ironman!!!!"  That got the heart rate going so I put that thought aside and just kept swimming.  The buoy layout and navigation was odd for this race.  There was no clean indication what the buoys were for.  I didn't know if I HAD to round them, and on which side I should.  Every time I looked as we approached a buoy there were large groups of people on both sides of the buoys.  So I decided they were navigational aids but that they didn't have to be rounded.  So I just swam with the group and it wasn't long before I was swimming up the dock where the swim exit was. 

At the end of the swim you approach a long line of dock that has many ladders on it you have to use to climb out of the water.  There were quite a few of us there at the time trying to get out and I swam wide towards an open ladder. As I approached the ladder I accidentally took a stroke behind someone whose foot I gently touched with my outreached hand.  This person responded by kicking me HARD in the shoulder.  Really?  a pretty lame move that close to the swim exit.  I pushed it aside and swam to my ladder and got out of the water.  WOW ITS COLD OUT!!!! was my first thought.  I stripped the wetsuit down to my waist and layed down on the ground in front of the nearest wetsuit stripper who peeled it off and threw it back at me.  HOLY COW ITS COLD OUT!!!  I ran through the showers at the swim exit to get some salt water off me and then started the 400 yard jog towards the changing tents and T1.  Somewhere in the middle of all this I looked at my watch.  It was barely beyond an hour.  I'd done the swim in something like 1:01!!!  easily 15-20 minutes faster that what an unassisted swim split would have been for me.  This was too much like cheating...   I'll definitely have to do another Ironman so I don't have to put an asterisk next to the swim time!

Swim Time: (estimated 1:15-1:25) 1:02:26!

as we lined up in the dark waiting for the swim start

and we're off!

I'm in the middle running towards T1


My plan for T1 was to completely towel off and then change clothes.  So I ran across the street grabbed my T1 bag and headed into the tent.  The tent was packed and it was hard to find a place to put my stuff down and move.  The ground was wet and I didn't want to start with wet clothes so shuffling about to find some table space and start gearing up lost me a little time but I just wanted to stay relaxed and start off right without forgetting anything.  The forecast was for 50 degrees, steady winds of 15-20mph, a feels like of 44 degrees, and a chance of rain showers.  Not pretty...   so my clothing plan was to wear a tri suit over which I'd put a bike jersey and arm warmers, aero helmet with vents almost completely sealed, full length thin tights over my legs, socks, and toe covers on my bike shoes.  I put hand warmers between my shoes and toe warmers and also inside the gloves on my hands.  I squirted almost an entire tube of chamois butter in my shorts and it was time to head out!

I ran the long distance to the other side of transition to get my bike and then ran back half that distance to the bike exit.  I knew that April and John and Rhonda were just beyond the bike out so I ran with my bike an extra ten feet past the mount line.  This confused everyone and people were yelling for me to mount the bike until I ran over to April and kissed her, and then mounted the bike.  The crowd collectively went "Awwwww!" which was hysterical.  I knew that April would appreciate just how much she meant to me if I stopped to kiss her.  I know its silly, but giving up race time for a kiss is not my usual... but I was so happy she was there and I wanted her to know it.

T1:  (estimated 10:00) 12:12  considering the long run just to get there and the long run to fetch my bike I'm ok with 12 minutes

on my way out onto the bike course

after a quick stop to kiss April it was time to get going!

I thought this might give some people a laugh and dissuede some drafters, but its also true!

and we're off!  just a 112 mile ride and 26.2 mile run to go!

The Bike:

When people talk about completing an Ironman they talk about suffering.  They talk about the highs and lows and the problems you will encounter and that the race is all about how you react to these situations.  How do you counter the lows, and how do you react when things don't go to plan.  At B2B this year the bike course is where almost all of us would really have to face these demons head on.

The first ten miles or so of the course are spent weaving in and out of downtown Wilmington and heading out onto the highway to get out of town and get into the meat of the course.  During these miles I was cold.  Really Cold.  I started to worry that I was this cold already but figured I needed to just relax, keep an eye on my wattage, and settle into the ride.  The winds were howling and a cold wet mist was already in the air chilling you to the bone despite the gloves and extra layers I had on.  But I figured I just needed to warm up.

Usually I spend the first hour of a ride staring at my wattage and easing off.  Especially after a taper period.  I SHOULD be constantly slowing myself down.  But that wasn't happening.  I was REALLY COLD and I personally find it really hard to generate power when I'm cold.  So instead of having to back my power off to planned wattage goal of 135-145 watts I was trying to pick my wattage up from 125 where it seemed to be parked to something higher.  Every time I tried to pedal harder my heart rate would spike and my RPE (rate of percieved exertion or a measure of how hard the effort feels) would go way too high for this early in the race.  I was cold, and I couldn't generate power and after an hour of suffering I checked my average speed and saw a dissapointing 16.5 avg.  Ugh.  This was going to be a long ride.

At the beginning of hour two I began to feel utterly and completely miserable.  I wasn't having fun.  I wasn't enjoying my ironman.  No matter what I did to distract myself my brain just kept repeating "I'm cold, I'm cold, I'm cold, I'm cold".  I started staring at anyone in a bike jacket and dreaming of pushing them into a ditch and stealing their coat.  I was in a very dark place mentally.  I was suffering...   A LOT.  I decided I was spending so much energy trying to stay warm (I was shivering on the bike) that I didn't have the energy to muster much more than 125 watts.  Which mad me sad....   and then the wind would howl at me again and I wanted to cry.  I tried to rally myself with thoughts of how Ironman is all about problem solving and I had to find a way out of this hole.  And then a sharp crosswind would knock me out of my brain and I felt nothing but suffering again.  I'm not being dramatic here...  I was bordering on hypothermic, shivering, and miserable.  I started to daydream about giving up.  I thought if I could just see April on the side of the road I'd call it a day.  I'll give up and get in their warm car and go home.  And then the thoughts of my team mates looking down on me for quitting crept into my head and I'd muster the energy to pedal for two more minutes before repeating the cycle.

I kept looking for April.  I knew that she and John and Rhonda and my soon to be inlaws were out on the course somewhere.  I dreamed of their warm car.  When I wasn't being so depressed and thinking of giving up I got smart enough to think of begging them for another layer of clothing.  I know April would give me the clothing right off her back to see my Iron dream realized.  But they never seemed to appear on the horizon.

The winds were picking up even more now and I've confirmed that we were riding straight into 15-20 mph headwinds that were gusting all the way up to 25-30mph.  Then it started to rain/mist/sleet.  It covered my glasses with water droplets and it was dripping off the front of my aero helmet.  I was now chilled deep into my core.  I was stuck at 125 watts just suffering my way forwards.  I knew that the sun was predicted to come out eventually but not for several more hours.  I considered quitting again.  But what were my options?  stay on the side of the road shivering and wait for the sag wagon?  That would suck...   and so I just kept pedalling.  The people around me looked equally miserable.  Even the people in jackets looked cold.  We all did.  Some of the faster 1/2 iron distance athletes passed me wearing nothing but tri suits.  No gloves, no arm warmers.  It could be worse I thought.  At least I had several layers on.

I was passing people so I figured that was good.  But I still wanted to curl up in a ball on the side of the road and make the pain and suffering stop.  I always thought the suffering I'd encounter on the course would be from pedalling or running or pushing myself to the limits...   not from just being cold.  I do a lot of things well, but cold is my cryptonite.  It cripples me.  I don't handle it well and I HATE being cold.  And today I'd be faced with fighting it until I stood in a hot shower impossibly far into the future from now.

I hit mile 30 or so.  I knew that my friends may not appear on the bike course till mile 60 as that is what April had told me earlier.  I still had 30 miles to go and that could take me just under two hours at this rate.  I stopped to pee.  It was too cold to pee on the bike.  I wanted to stand there feeling sorry for myself but instead I got back on the bike and kept pedalling.  And that became my mantra...   just pedal.  There was nothing else to do but pedal.  Standing on the side of the road would solve nothing and so I pedalled.

There was a woman on an orange tri bike.  She was going at a nice pace and I locked myself onto an imaginary spot just outside the draft zone from her bike and follwed her for 20 miles.  I was in such a dark place that removing my brain from the equation and simply following someone was the only way I could keep going.  My wattage went up a little and I pressed on.  At one point we crossed this bridge with absolutely brutal crosswinds as the bridge was completely exposed.  I almost got blown into the jersey barriers on the side of the bridge multiple times.  It was the only time I regretted the rear disc wheel.  But I survived...

I followed the orange framed bicycle until she stopped at an aid station.  I was sad to see that bike go as it had gotten me through so many miles of suffering where the only thought in my brain was focused on staying out of the draft zone without losing her.  At this point it was around mile 45 or so.  I muddled through the next few miles and then Kevan pulled up along side me.  I was so happy to see a friendly face.  We chatted about how cold we both were, how he had a tough swim, how we were both so cold and that neither of us was having a strong bike and then he passed me.  I kept him in sight for a long time though and that kept me happy for a little bit.  Somewhere around here we took the right turn that turned that brutal headwind into more of a cross/headwind.  Which although still painfull wasn't as bad.  I saw Kevan pull into special needs.  I wished that I had something warm to put on in special needs but there was nothing but some spare tubes and co2 in my bag.  So I smiled in Kevans direction as I passed special needs and put my head down and kept pedalling.  Five miles to go to the halway point of the bike.  I was sad to be alone out there again but I just kept going.  At least I was feeling mildly warmer.  It wasn't much but it was something.

And then it happened...   the moment where I went from I don't know if I'm going to finish, to there just might be some hope yet!  THE SUN POKED OUT!  It was only for a minute, and just for a tiny bit it poked out from between the grey misty rainy clouds, but it was there.  I'd never been so happy to see it in my life.  And then four miles later I saw April, John, Rhonda, Peggy and Ron!  I recognized the rainbow striped sign they were holding and John's bright orange hat in the distance.  I was so happy I wanted to cry.  I had a HUGE smile on my face.  Or at least I was trying to smile but I was so cold I don't know if my face muscles worked anymore.  As I passed them I yelled "I'M SO COLD!"  I don't know why I yelled that... but it just came out.  I had also forgotten to stop and borrow some clothes.  Oh well...   thats against the rules anyway, and fair is fair.  Seeing them lifted my spirits to a new high and that combined with the lack of brutal headwind gave me some new strength to continue on.  I also knew that somewhere around mile 70 I'd take a turn that should give me a tailwind all the way home to T2.  So that became my new focus.  I just had to suffer to mile 70 or 80 wherever that damned turn was and then I'd be ok. 

I saw April and everyone drive past me to leapfrog me on the course and I smiled at the thought of seeing them again soon.  It kept me moving forwards knowing they were out there.  For the first time all day the rainy / misty / sleet had stopped and I was finally starting to almost warm up.  Or at least I had stopped shivering and was now just cold.  I saw John's hat up ahead and smiled huge!  I was finally starting to smile and I unclipped and coasted up to them and gave April a kiss before taking off again.  I knew that would carry me to the end of this miserable bike ride.

Not long after that I came across Dean out on the course and we rode side by side chatting for a bit.  Another friendly face and once again I felt my spirits being lifted.  I think we were all starting to feel like the worst of the bike ride was over.  We all felt hope, and we all knew we were past the halfway point.  I left Dean and pedalled onwards and then I came across Norrine.  She was blue and looked very very cold.  We chatted for a bit and I left feeling very worried about her.  I wanted her to make it but she looked so very cold.  I was so happy later in the day when I saw her on the run course and I knew she'd made it through the cold.

A little while later the course turns right.  At first I thought this was the big turn I'd been waiting for where I'd get a tailwind but it turned out it was just a little out and back meant to give the course the correct length.  So once again I turned back into the headwinds and struggled onwards.  At least I got to see Dean and Norrine again though as I rode back towards them so that was nice.

And then it finally happened....   WE GOT A TAILWIND!  I was so happy.  As soon as the wind in my face let up I instantly felt so much warmer.  The sun also started to come out a little bit and temps felt like they went up by five degrees.  I looked at my speed...  I was effotlessly riding 25mph.  So I did my best to take advantage of feeling better and warmer and I hammered my way through the last 40 or so miles into town.

The rest of the ride was happily pretty uneventfull.  I knew I wouldn't see April again as they had headed back to town to see me on the run but I'm so thankfull they were out there.  I honestly don't know if I would have made it through that bike course without the warmth that seeing them provided me.  They were lifesavers out there. 

As I got closer to town it became more desolate and empty on the bike course.  At one point I wondered if I had taken a wrong turn as there was nobody in front or behind me that I could see.  I took the opportunity to pee and started to get my cadence up to get my legs ready to run.  Then it hit me...   I was so miserable on the bike I hadn't really been thinking about the fact that I still had to run a marathon!  this was going to be interesting.  Oh well the sooner I get it done the sooner I can take a hot shower and warm up.  The thought of getting off this bike finally was also very very appealing!

I rode the last few miles into town, dismounted, grabbed my T2 bag and headed into the tent.  Handing my bike off to a volunteer to rack for me was pretty sweet.  I was happy to see Cannon go!

April and Ron out on the bike course

Me as I yelled "I'M SO COLD!!!!!"

and then I was on my way again...

My friends were amazing out on the course and they kept leapfrogging me to cheer me on.  I'm so glad and lucky that they were out there!  They saved the race for me, I couldn't have done it without them.

Best support crew ever!  Missing is Rhonda who took all these amazing photos!  thank you so much Rhonda!!!!

stopping for a quick kiss from my fiance at mile 70

gotta go!  I've got a race to ride baby!

Bike Split:  (estimated 6:00:00) 6:09:29.  Given how flat this course was I definitely could have ridden sub six if I hadn't been so damned cold.  The wind was tough but my average power for the ride was only 125 watts.  I should have easily been able to manage 135-145 watts (based on my training) which would have netted me something much faster than a 6:09:00.  conversely though...  I should be very happy with that time considering how damned cold I was and how I persevered and didn't give up!


T2 was quick and easy.  I got off the bike and headed into the changing tent.  As soon as I got in there I saw Luis and we chatted a little as he finished up and I got started changing.  I did another complete strip down.  This time into tri shorts and a tshirt, fuel belt, calf sleeves, socks and sneakers and a hat.  I should have kept the arm warmers on...  but more on that later.  I thought with the sun out that I'd actually be hot and warm...   I finished up, added some chamois butter and I was off and running.  Just 26.2 miles to go!

T2:  (estimated 10:00) 8:01

The Run!:

I headed out of T2 feeling pretty good.  I was so happy to be running and off the bike.  I was really hoping that I'd finally get my core temp up now and start to feel warm.  I'd been so cold for so long that I was looking forward to feeling warm....

and then I turned the corner to run up the first bridge...

and the 20mph headwind hit me.

and I was cold again.

my heart sank.

and I put my head down and told myself to suck it up and get this done.  Its go time and there are only 26 one mile repeats between here and the finish line.

I broke the race up into multiple pieces.  I thought of it as 26 1 mile repeats.  I also looked at the race with an overall plan.  I planned to RUN the entire first loop of 13.1 miles.  I knew from T2 that Luis was just up ahead and I was pretty sure his plan was to run somewhere around 9s so I made it my goal to catch him by the turnaround.  As odd as my legs felt the first few splits for me were in the 8:30-8:45/mile range.  I let my legs run free and just aimed towards the turnaround as I took in the course to see what I was in for.  The course starts by going over two large bridges back to back.  The first of them is quite steep and the second, although flatter has this nasty metal grating crap on them where you can easily roll an ankle if you are not carefull.  I got over those, realized the headwinds were going to be a constant cold part of my day and followed the course into downtown.  I was glad to be around people once again.  The bike course was feeling pretty barren and here there were lots of other runners and spectators.  Slower folks from the half iron were still on the course and all the athletes from the full were there too.  I also had no idea where I was in relation to my team mates so the first lap would let me know that too as the course is an out and back loop so I'd see all of them soon.

At 4 miles in or so I caught up to Jill.  We chatted for a bit and I was so happy to see another friendly face.  I ran onwards towards the turnaround knowing Luis was still up ahead somewhere and then Sean went flying past me (in the other direction) telling me I'd almost caught Luis.  Sean was at least 3-4 miles in front of me at this point and looking very strong.  I was psyched he was having such a strong day.  I made it almost all the way to the turnaround before I saw Luis.  He really was just barely ahead of me.  I caught him right after the turnaround and then slowed down to join him.  At this point I'd been so miserable earlier in the day that I just wanted similarly paced company.  I was tired of being miserable and I wanted to enjoy the race.  So Luis and I chatted and caught up and shared the experiences of our day and ran the whole back half of lap 1 together.  We followed his plan and took a brief walk break that felt great and then started running again.  I felt pretty good at this point and had settled into a rhythm of sorts.  I was starting to wonder what lap 2 was going to be like though.  My stomach was getting wobbly and I wondered how long my legs would hold up.

The bridges on the way back in were not a lot of fun with the winds and the incline but we did ok.  The steep one was especially rough as into the extreme winds you are barely running above walking pace.  I made a mental note to consider walking the steep parts on lap 2 to conserve energy.

As Luis and I headed in at the end of our lap 1 we saw most of the rest of the team out on the run course.  I was glad to see that everyone had made it and everybody looked very strong!  I knew then that we would all finish and that made me very happy.  Luis and I chatted about running lap 2 toghether and talked about what we had to do in special needs.  I was under the impression we were going to wait for each other but I think my race brain got confused and got that bit wrong.  I had a quick visit to the port of john, grabbed a long sleeve shirt from special needs, ditched the fuel belt and just grabbed two fuel belt bottles to carry in my hands instead.  I wanted the weight off my hips.  I waited outside the port of johns for Luis but then figured maybe I had misunderstood him and that he must have left already.  I lost a couple of minutes here, but no worries...

I headed out on the course again, this time alone to start lap 2.  I purposely power walked the first steep hill on the bridge.  It felt much easier than running it and the walk recharged me.  I saw some more team mates and that always made me happy!  It was so great to have so many of us out there together.  It was so much fun to cheer for each other and shout other silliness across the course at each other.

I setlled into a groove on the way out and I knew that I'd see my people cheering on the course soon so that became my goal.  Just to make it to them.  I saw them in the distance and April popped up at my side and ran along side me.  She told me that I was going to do this and that they had to make their way to the finish line at the battleship and that this was the last time they would see me until then.  I was so happy that they had been there all day in the cold and wind.  I was so happy to see her run by my side.  That moment is one of the highlights of the race for me.  I love the pictures Rhonda got of that moment.  Just looking at them makes me tear up and smile.

Seeing everyone energized and kept me moving.  I approached the short steep hill around mile 17 and walked up it and then started running again.  My stomach took a horrible turn for the worse at this point and I focused on making it ot the port o john as quickly as possible.  I sat down in the port o john and I remember feeling really dizzy.  The little box started spinning.  I was feeling light headed and woozy.  I took care of business and knew I had to get out of that port o john before I either passed out or fell asleep in there.  I started running again and everything felt wrong.  I had 1.5 miles to go before the turnaround and I told myself I wasn't going to hit the coke until after that.  So I just tried to problem solve in those moments as I ran towards the turnaround.  I knew from seeing April that Luis was just up ahead so catching him again became the goal I focused on to get me through the rough patch.  I felt awful.   My stomach turned and I envisioned spending the final miles in a port o john tour stopping at all of them along the way.  I sucked it up and kept run/walking to the turn around.  I walked when a violent cramp would hit me and ran when I could.  I hit the turnaround in somewhere just beyond 3 hours.  I knew I wasn't going to run a 4 hour marathon but it wasn't going to be that far off.  Considering how much I had walked already I was really happy with the split at this point.(3:09:xx)  I knew Luis was just up ahead but I felt so awful I couldn't catch him.  My stomach was getting really angry and the stomach cramps were debilitating.

The thought of any more gatorade turned my stomach so I dumped out the fuel belt bottle I'd been carrying and decided to fill it with coke at the aid station.  I also grabbed two pretzel sticks.  I walked a little, ate the pretzels and sipped some coke and then started running.  I knew if I didn't run as much as possible I wasn't going to go sub 12 and I really wanted to be sub 12.

Withint 200 feet the pretzels and coke kicked in and I could run again.  I don't know whether it was the salt, or calories, or the sugar in the coke but something was working.  I RAN to the next aid station and then grabbed a HUGE handfull of pretzels.  As in so large I sort of pulled my shirt up and put the handfull of prezels into the fabric pocket I'd just made and started eating.  I filled my stomach with pretzels and suddenly I felt so much better and I really started RUNNING again.  I felt great!

Right around this same time I saw Kate on the course.  She looked at me and yelled "Triathlon is Stupid and We're All Going to Die!!!!!"  I laughed hysterically for at least 5 miles.  It was perfect.  Thanks for that Kate!

I hit a downhill section of the course at the same time and I was hauling.  ("hauling" is subjective... what felt fast to me was probably actually only a 9:30/minute mile!) I saw Luis up ahead and he was walking a bit at the time and I ran past him feeling strong.  I ran through the rest of that lap feeling really good.  I figured I still had time to walk the steep hill on the bridge and still go sub 12.  With 5K to go I ran into Bob on the course.  He looked good but was probably in the same place mentally as I was.  We chatted and agreed we both needed to get this thing DONE!

So together we ran the last of the course.  We hit the steep uphill on the bridge and walked it.  There was no point in "running" 15 minute miles when you can walk them at the same pace.  The Ironman hill climbing shuffle was in full effect!  On the way down the hill it hit us that it was only a mile or so to the finish.  It was close now and we knew we'd go sub 12.  Both of us kept subconciously increasing the pace.  We were going at a nice clip as we approached the T2/finish area.  People were cheering and saying looking strong!  Even the volunteers figured we were on lap 1 and we had to tell them "NO!!!!  Lap 2!!!!  We're DONE!!!".  We picked up the pace again and smiled at each other.  Lets do this!  We agreed to cross the timing matt together and we hauled ass on the way in.  I heard the announcer say "It looks like we've got a sprint finish folks!" and we booked it across the finish line!!!!!!  (I checked my garmin later...   We ran a 7:30 pace for the last few minutes of the run and we crossed the line running 6:30/mile!)

I crossed the finish line!  I'd done it!  I was in a daze...  confused as they handed me my medal and a fininsher's tshirt.  I stumbled through to the end of the chute and before I knew it April was there with her arms around me.  If you would like to tell me that the hug April gave me at the end of the race was not the best hug ever given in a finish chute I will fight you.  It was amazing.  I've never been so exhausted, and happy, and thrilled, and elated and cold, and full of emotion all at the same time.  I'd done it!  Two years in the making from the first strokes in the pool, that first ten mile ride, and that first sprint triathlon.  I was an IRONMAN!!!!

The rest of that night is a blur...   I remember being freezing cold and shivering not long after finishing.  I felt so much better after changing into warm clothes and then rallied with the rest of my team mates to cheer everyone in.  None of us left to shower until everyone had crossed the line.  Thats just how we roll.  All 13 of us finished in under 14 hours.  The fastest of us went 10:50 or so, and we all had strong days.  I'm so proud to be a part of such a group and so proud to consider them my friends.  We all had an amazing day!

mile 8 of lap 1 feeling happy to be off the bike!  Luis is behind me by a little as I sprinted ahead here to give April another kiss.

April running alongside me on lap 2 with John cheering in the middle of us

I was so happy to run with April!  highlight of the race for me

best support crew ever and the only picture of Rhonda who took all these great photos for me!  Note the "Team Wisdom" tshirts!  I'm so lucky to have such great people come and support me!
Bob and I sprinting down the chute together right after sunset

just a tiny bit more to go!

best finish line hug EVER!

Bob and I post sprint looking TIRED but HAPPY!

Ron and Peggy come over to say Congrats!

Kiss the bling!

OH!!  You meant kiss APRIL!  Ooops!

John Palmer...  you're the best!  Thanks for handing me a well earned beer!

Kevan and I at the finish after changing into warm clothes!

Yes!  I will!

Luis and I at the finish

The largest group shot we could muster at the finish.  Everyone kept dissapearing to get changed or get warm.  Left to Right are Jill, Me, Kate, Kevan, Jon, Sean, and Jenn

Thank you to everyone that helped me along the way, listened to me endlessly prattle on about training, read my facebook updates about long rides and big workouts, and for all of you for helping me reach my goals and never doubting me!  I am very blessed to have such amazing people in my life!!!

Nick Wisdom...    IRONMAN!!!!

To anyone who may be reading this thinking you could never do this... less than five years ago I was 75lbs heavier, a smoker, couldn't swim, couldn't run a quarter mile, and hadn't ridden a bike since I was 13. Put your mind to it, and you can do ANYTHING.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Race Week!

Its race week!!!  Its actually hard to beleive its finally here.  Its been a long year since deciding to race the Beach to Battleship iron distance triathlon.  Some highs and lows, some injuries (some healed, some not so much) and an amazing journey along the way.  Eventually it all has to come to an end though, and its finally race week.  Here's how I spent the week...

On Sunday I left Rhode Island and started the drive to North Carolina.  Myself and some Tri-New England friends decided we would break the drive up into two days to go easier on our bodies and so we made it just south of DC on day 1 and then drove the rest of the way on day 2 and got into town around lunchtime.  Since we couldn't get into the house we are renting here till 4pm we stopped by the battleship USS Carolina where T2 and the finish line will be located.

After some time exploring downtown and a quick lunch we were off to the grocery store for supplies and then got setup at the fantastic beach house we are staying at.  Here's a shot of the front of it.  The top railing is from the rooftop deck which has a fantastic view of the ocean.  Its the perfect place to relax and get ready to race!

In total there are 10 tri newengland team mates staying here at the house and 13 of us in total racing on Saturday.  So after unpacking the cars and quickly settling into the house we threw on some run clothes and headed out the door to shake our legs out.  Three of us went for a nice five mile run through the Wrightsville Beach area along the shoreline where the swim course is located.  I actually felt really really good on the run and before I knew it I was enjoying cruising along at much faster than my planned pace for the run.  I didn't fight it and just let it all out and then slowed it down for the last mile back to the house.  After a nice dinner at the house it was time for some much needed sleep.  Speaking of dinners though... it was so nice to be able to grocery shop and cook the food we would be eating all week.  Its always hard to travel and race, and being able to control our diets that easily was great.


On tuesday morning myself and my house mates were all up extremely early.  Apparently none of us could sleep.  Between the unfamiliar beds and our pre race nerves we just weren't feeling it.  So instead we headed up to the rooftop deck to watch the sunrise over the ocean.

After that we went about putting a plan together for the day.  We decided that we would go for a very quick swim to get a feel for the water temps and then try and get a short ride in later in the day.  By the time we got suited up for the swim the ocean was looking pretty angry with some serious six foot waves.  We were also really afraid the water was going to be really cold based on what we had heard about B2B last year.  So we just figured we would swim for ten to fifteen minutes and see just how cold the swim was going to be.  But first...  a little shenanigans....

After attempting to deny the swim by covering my eyes I gave in and we walked the short distance from the house to the ocean.  Here's where the good bit happened.  We started to walk into the ocean and it wasn't long before we all realized it was WARM!!!  I mean really warm!  As in super comfortable we can stop worrying about it warm!  We were all so excited and it was such a huge stress relief as many of us (me included) can be pretty sensitive to cold and were pretty worried about how long it would take us to warm up after such a long cold swim.  So now we were in the ocean and its warm, but theres crazy chop and six foot waves.  So what did we do?  we bodysurfed!  We had so much fun we were in the ocean for close to 90 minutes swimming out and then body surfing back in.  We would dive through the front of the waves and swim out and then do our best to bodysurf back into shore.  After having a blast bodysurfing we headed back to the house with huge smiles on our face and then had some lunch and got ready to ride.

Our bikes loaded up and ready to ride

We had planned to ride around 90 minutes at a reasonable easy pace.  The first thing we noticed about the ride was just how flat it was out here.  Even the flattest rides in New England have quite a few rolling hills in them.  Here in NC it was dead flat.  I think I shifted gears maybe three times in a 90 minute ride.  Its that flat here.  We originally planned on riding for about 25-30 miles max, but since we didn't know the roads around here we ended up having to double back to avoid a highway we thought we could ride on so in the end we rode for closer to 40 miles and just under two hours.  Not ideal for race week, but we all took turns pulling and drafted a lot to not use so much energy.  I felt so strong on the bike and the taper was really working.  I did a nice ten minute pull at half iron pace as I just felt really good and wanted to go!  A team mate reeled me in and settled me down though and I behaved myself for the rest of the ride.


Wednesday was the practice swim day.  A former Tri-New England member Taryn had moved down to North Carolina after last summer and was planning to do B2B as well.  She has been doing workouts in the area quite a bit and was very familiar with the swim course and very graciously offered to give us the guided tour of the swim.  So the 7 of us that were in town already and Taryn set out to swim a large portion of the course.  We skipped the first mile or so of the course and got in somewhere around the 1.5 mile mark from the finish.  The B2B swim has quite a current that works in your favor and we had timed out swim to the tides so we would have a similar current to practice in.  Our plan was to get in the water and have a nice easy swim along the course stopping frequently to regroup (there is a lot of boat traffic in the channel so staying together was important for safety) and we wanted to talk through what to sight for with Taryn.  So we all get in and almost immediately start giggling.  We weren't even swimming and we were already drifting along the course at quite a good clip!  It was hysterical.  Attempting to swim into the current was like swimming on a treadmill.  This was going to be an easy swim!  So we enjoyed a great workout and Taryn did a great job of explaining to us what to sight for and what to look for and where the current would be the strongest / weakest etc.

After the swim we all went out for a great breakfast in town.  After all we had burned a wopping 100 calories if we were lucky and needed to replace them!  Moments like these though were some of the best parts of the week and spending time with the team was fantastic!

With breakfast out of the way we all headed back to the house to relax, check the weather forecast every ten minutes and eventually we decided we should go for a group run towards the end of the day.  We put the word out and waited for a few more team mates to make it into town and then we met up at the beach house to head out for a nice easy 5K run.  We had a lot of fun on the run goofing off and generally being silly.  I spent most of that run laughing.  Again though...    hanging with the team in these moments was such a great stress relief.  We all kept each other laughing and happy and this was a huge part of the success of the week.


Thursday morning I cleaned my bike and then went for a quick check ride with Kate just to make sure the bike was in good order and then we pretty much just sat around waiting for it to be late enough so that we could go to the expo and pickup our race packets!

At the expo we picked up our packets, bought some last minute odds and ends like hand warmers, I bought a B2B hoodie and a hat, and we nervously milled around before heading back to the house to start the process of checking the weather again and again and then I spent that evening mulling over what to wear during all the various parts of the race.  The forecast was for high steady winds, a chance of rain, and cool temps in the high 40s, low 50s.  It was going to be a very cold day!  But I spent that evening packing all my bags up and then eating a giant pasta dinner.  Here's a few pics of the day...

Luis and I at the expo
carb loading extremes!


Friday morning we all woke up and checked the weather again.  I swear every time we checked the weather it got colder!  So we all paniced about what we had decided to wear and then looked at the current forecast.  It was 56 degrees out.  About 6 degrees warmer than race day but it would have to do.  So we all threw on our planned raceday clothes and went for a ten minute ride to check them out.  I was actually quite pleased as it felt like my choices would be just right.  I had planned to wear a tri suit, with a bike jersey, arm warmes, and full length tights on over the top of the tri suit.  I figured this would keep my core warm and my legs with the thin tights on them would be just right, but not too hot.  I would just have to hope I was right or I would have 112 miles to enjoy how wrong I was. 

After the quick check ride we all split up and did our own thing.  I went to the first athlete meeting which many people decided to skip and although I didn't learn much, I was glad I went.  From there I went to drop off my T1, T2, and run and bike special needs bags and then racked my bike and called it a day.  It was time to stop worrying, go back to the house and do my best to relax, fuel up, and eat some dinner.  I said goonight to Cannon and hoped that tomorrow would be an amazing day....