Friday, August 26, 2016

IRONMAN 70.3 Timberman

Can I say something?


I mean, seriously.  That was awesome.  I want to recap my experience at IRONMAN 70.3 Timberman in Gilford, NH and I probably shouldn't do it all in one post, but..... 

Thursday before the race was crazy, busy, and hectic.  Thankfully, I had been packing and preparing all the things for three days straight.  I got to bed at an almost decent time and woke around 5am Friday morning with a goal of departing at 6am.  We left at 7am.  There was a lot I wanted to do on Friday and Saturday before the race, so I was already anxious about being able to get it all done.  Maggie was sick (strep throat) and threw up her medicine in the truck plus we ran into quite a bit of traffic, meaning we spent more time on the road than I had anticipated.  Helpful Hint #1- if you're traveling a distance to get to a big race, leave as early as you are able!!!  It would have been so nice to get to Gilford on Thursday evening.  But anyway, we got there on Friday evening with about an hour left of athlete check-in.  So Coach Dennis and I jumped back in the car to take care of that.  We meandered through the IRONMAN Village very briefly before we headed back to our house. Helpful Hint #2- The Village was practically empty at that time.  We literally walked right up to the table and immediately got checked in.  No line.  No waiting.  I don't know if it's always that way at that time, but it sure was nice!  We had rented an AirBNB house that was near both the Village and the race start/finish.  It was really ideal.  We ordered pizza for dinner that night and planned out what we'd do the next day. 
Getting ready.

Saturday had a full itinerary- preview bike course, preview swim course, check in bikes, mandatory athlete briefing, and IRONKIDS run.  Oh yeah, and getting ready for the race on Sunday morning. The day did not go as planned at all.  We did get out on the bike course pretty early.  We drove the first part, parked the car, and then biked the middle portion.  We planned to attend the 11:30 briefing but when we arrived at the race site for it, we learned that the briefing was actually at the Village. Oops.

Helpful Hint #3- Carefully read and reread the provided athlete guide.  Even though Dennis and I had both done this, we completely missed the location of the briefing.  So we had to reformat our itinerary for the day.  We decided to make a quick trip to the store to get some groceries.  By the time we were checking out it was 12:20 and the IRONKIDS race started at 1pm.  We raced home and Dennis unloaded the groceries so Aaron, the kids, and myself could jump in the truck to head to the Village.  We got to the start of the race in time to see all the little kids take off.  Ack!  We stuck their bibs on their shirts super quick and Aaron manned the camera while I ran with the kids.  We elected to do the quarter mile race which was downhill for the first half and then back up the hill for the second half.  Cullen wasn't having it.  He managed to do the whole thing, but not without quite a bit of protest.  Maggie also needed some coaxing.  But once she saw the finish chute she really took off!  It was kind of a proud moment for me.  And she really loved getting her shiny medal.  Helpful Hint #4- If there is a kids race (and you got a kid or two!) put them in it!  It was really short and sweet and for just $15 they both got an IRONKIDS cinch bag, t-shirt, stickers, and medal.

Mandatory athlete briefing was next.  Aaron took the kids back to the house (it was really hot and there was a bazillion people everywhere) and Dennis and I had a beer at the beer garden waiting for the briefing to begin.  We quickly decided that the briefing was a waste of our time when the speaker stated he didn't know the course.  Although the speaker did tell us to try to avoid parking at Ellacoya State Park (the race site) because you will likely get trapped there until the end of the day.  Helpful Hint #5- Read as many race recaps as you can about the race for which you are preparing.  Having read at least a dozen on Timberman, and not seeing a single complaint about getting out of Ellacoya, I had my doubts about the speaker's comment.  So we left the Village to go get our bikes checked in and test out the water.  Bike check-in was a breeze.  Since you are assigned a spot all you have to do is find it. Then we figured out where we would be entering and exiting for transition and that was that.  Time to test the water!
Beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee

The water is clear and cool and beautiful.  Dennis and I walked out to the first buoy and still were only knee deep in the water.  We wondered how they would start us the next day.  (Answer- we walked out to the first buoy and waited to start.  But don't worry, there was still 1.2 miles of swimming.)  Now, having completed the bike course preview, IRONKIDS run, athlete briefing, bike check-in, and swim preview, all there was left to do was get ready for the next day.
Helpful Hint #6- Lay out EVERYTHING you need the night before.  

Dennis got himself squared away then turned his attention to me.  We got all my gear, hydration, and nutrition prepped then sat down at the table to "relax."  The house was quiet, so quiet that the clock on the wall counting the seconds was kind of driving me crazy.  Honestly, I can't even remember what we talked about.  In retrospect, I think I had already slipped into "go through the motions" mode.  So off to bed relatively early in preparation for a 3am wake up call.

Now for a side story- Dennis told me to find my One Thing rebuttal for when I want to slow down. He says success isn't in going fast, its in not slowing down.  So have your One Thing ready.  Why did I want to compete in a 70.3?

I contemplated this for days before the race.  Then I realized I really need to do it to shut up the voice that tells me I can't.  Because I've had a string of bad marathons and I hate the way that DNF and that almost DNF made me feel.

But that really isn't enough.  I mean, finding confidence in yourself again is great, but for some reason, it isn't super motivating to me.

Then like a ton of bricks I realized I need to find the voice of truth, the one that says I can do all things, for Maggie.  I need to show that little girl that there is NOTHING she cannot do if she sets her mind to do it, just like her mama.

Then tucking her in the night before the race I finally tell her that I'm racing for her in the morning. And she tells me in her sweet, sleepy voice, "Okay. Just don't slow down." (Really!!!)

So I promised I wouldn't.
My Sweet One Thing

My alarm woke me up and I felt like I had been gut checked.  I was definitely in "go through the motions" mode at this point.  Dennis and I left earlier than planned since we were ready early. Sometime between 4-4:15am we headed out.  Ellacoya was less than five minutes from our house, which was a good thing.  By the time we got there, there was already a good number of cars parked and lines of cars waiting to get in.  Helpful Hint #7- go even earlier than you think necessary!  We did get parked, no problem.  A helpful volunteer advised that when we got a moment we should turn our car so that it faced the road to make leaving easier.  We did and he was right about that!  (And by the way, leaving at the end of the race was not an issue!)  We got body marked and set up our transitions.  Helpful Hint #8- If you are setting up transition prior to sunrise, bring your headlamp!  In the darkness, we did manage to set up our transitions and put some air in our tires.  Then I nervously tried to eat my breakfast, a banana and a Clif bar.  
Pre and Post Sunrise

I was so grateful that we did everything as early as possible.  There were still people racing to get body marked and set up their transition with only 15 minutes left before close of transition!  I don't need that kind of anxiety and stress right before a race.  Before I knew it we were being herded to the swim start.  I immediately got in line for the portajohn and Dennis wandered off.  Pros started at 6:30, Dennis's wave started at 7, and my wave was 7:16.  The line was not moving.  People ahead of me were giving up and leaving.  I knew Dennis would need to be getting in the water when he appeared for a hug and a "stay in your box" and was gone.  Eventually the line did move and I was able to get down to the water and put on my wetsuit.  I was searching the crowd for Aaron and the kids and I just couldn't find them anywhere.  It made me really sad and I just had to push that aside. Next thing I know I'm standing in the water, close to the buoy, and I'm crying!  A woman close to me notices and asks if I'm okay.  I tell her yes, I'm just emotional and so excited that this moment is finally here.  Another woman nearby hears and says, "I'm right there with you."  There is nothing like that feeling of anticipation, anxiety, excitement, fear, pride, curiosity, and hope.  I knew I had done the work.  I knew I was ready.  And finally, I was going to be put to the test.  

THE SWIM- chip time 39:30/ Garmin time 39:21 (1:52/100yds)
There were at least 100 swimmers in my wave and we were the 13th wave, so there were a lot of people in the lake.  I very quickly realized that finding clear water was not going to happen so my focus shifted to protecting my face and getting to the next buoy.  Only took two hard elbows- one to the skull and one to the ribs.  I was caught by the first guy in the 14th wave at the first turn buoy.  He was like a bull shark plowing through the water.  Once you turned you were heading into the sun, but sighting wasn't that bad.  You turned at the red buoys and they had a random orange one that almost tricked me.  Once I turned to head back to the shore I tried to pick up my pace and imagined what I'd do once my feet hit the sand.  I swam until I could touch the bottom with my hands, stood up, and started to run while unzipping my wetsuit.  
Swim Finish
T1- Swim to Bike- chip time 2:57/ Garmin time 3:17
You run out of the water, up a couple of steps, and along the bank to the wetsuit strippers.  I had never done that before but knew they'd help me save a solid minute in transition so I decided to go for it.  Already had the suit at my waist when I stopped in front of two girls.  I looked at them.  They looked at me.  They didn't tell me what to do and I wasn't exactly sure so I just laid down, they grabbed my suit and yanked, I popped back up, they handed me my suit and that was that.  Found my bike without difficulty.  Shoes, glasses, helmet, chamois butter, go!  

THE BIKE- chip time 3:12:04/ Garmin time 3:11:50 (17.49/mph)
Biked out of transition (in easy gear!- that's Helpful Hint #9!!!) right onto a hill.  Dennis warned me that people would be mashing up the hills and that I should let them go.  I have a tendency to do that too so I had to really "reel it in" because there is a whole lot of race left.  Overall, Timberman is a challenging bike course.  I remember the hill right out of transition, a long hill around mile 5 and then the Marsh Hill Monster at mile 10.  Then all those guys on the way back too.  I felt really good overall on the bike with the exception of the flat portion in the middle.  So uncomfortable!  My watch was in a position where I couldn't easily see my pace, so unfortunately I didn't check in on that.  That also means that I wasn't keeping a close eye on timing for my nutrition.  Helpful Hint #10- if you have a watch that enables you to set alarm reminders, use that feature!  But despite that, I felt like I was eating and drinking at good, regular intervals.  I planned on eating my Lara Bar at the midway point and I really didn't want it at that time.  It took several miles, but I'm glad I got it down because I definitely needed something more substantial than chews.  I took water at all the aid stations, chugging as much as I could in the allowable space before chucking the bottle.  Additionally, I almost finished the two bottles of Perform I had on the bike as well as probably two packs of PowerBar cola chews.
5 mile laps
1- 16.8mph
2- 16.9mph
3- 15.8mph
4- 18.4mph
5- 19.5mph
6- 17.8mph
7- 18.3mph
8- 19.2mph
9- 14.3mph (WTF?!)
10- 16.3mph
11- 17.8mph
That averages out to 17.49mph.  Could I have biked faster?  Yeah, sure.  But don't forget, you gotta run 13.1 miles when you get off that bike.  There's a whole lotta race left.

T2- Bike to Run- chip time 4:06/ Garmin time 3:55
Yeah, that was slow.  I dismounted in kind of a large group.  There had to be at least five other people at the dismount line with me.  I didn't even try to run at first, was just testing out my legs.  Once I got up the tiny ramp into the grass I ran to my spot.  There were two bikes kinda kissing in my space on the rack so I asked another athlete to move one while I moved the other.  Racked my bike, helmet off, shoe off, sock and shoe on, other shoe off, other sock and shoe on, grabbed belt and visor.  Go! Except I really needed to pee.  So I stopped at the portajohn in transition.  Helpful Hint #11- Don't. Just don't even try to use the portajohns in transition.  Trust me on that one.

THE RUN- chip time 2:13:04/ Garmin time 2:13:28 (10:09/pace)
Ran out of transition and stopped at the next portapotty and it was nearly as bad as the first.  So to expand on Helpful Hint #11, if it is a convenient portajohn, don't waste your time, keep moving along.  I knew almost immediately that I'd be walking every aid station.  Even though it wasn't that hot, I know I'm prone to letting the heat get to me.  So at every single aid station I was dumping ice and water on myself.  Helpful Hint #12- dump ice down your shorts and in your top.  If you've got a sports bra you've now got a portable cooler of ice.  My nutrition plan was to eat one Clif shot block every other mile.  So at mile 2 I popped one in my mouth and began to suck on it.  By mile 3 it was still in there.  I couldn't do it.  I just couldn't stomach any more manufactured sweetness.  So I spit that out and nibbled on something at every aid station, like a pretzel or an orange slice or a sip of Coke. Toward the end of the double lap out and back run my sips of water turned to gulps and the allowed walking distance (length of the aid station) grew longer and longer.  There was a young girl along the course, maybe ten years old, cheering everyone on.  Her "You can do it!" was so heartfelt and sincere. It was nice to see her each time I passed because she made me think of my One Thing.  I wish I would have told her that her being there made a difference to me.  
Mile Splits
1- 8:58
2- 10:32
3- 8:58
4- 9:28
5- 9:47
6- 10:13
7- 9:38
8- 10:28
9- 10:14
10- 11:17 (exactly where Coach predicted the slow down would come!)
11- 11:20
12- 10:53
13- 8:59 (time to really remember my One Thing)
I sprinted down the finish chute.  I actually sprinted at the end of a 70.3 mile race, half laughing and half crying I crossed the line.  The feeling is amazing.  I'm still geeking out about it a week later. Everyone should do something that makes them feel the way this experience has made me feel.

Thank you to my husband and kids who sacrificed a lot of time with mom and missed out on fun things because I needed to train.  I hope I made them proud.  And I hope my sweet little One Thing was watching closely.

Thank you to Coach Dennis who invested so much of himself to ensure I'd succeed.  I'm not sure how I would have done it without him.  I hope he feels he got a good return on investment.  Helpful Hint #13- Get yourself a Dennis.  But not mine.  He's taken!!!

And thank you to all my friends and family who have followed this journey and encouraged me the whole way.  I cannot wait to do it again!
What a feeling!
IRONMAN 70.3 Timberman- chip time 6:11:41/ Garmin time 6:11:53
1212 Overall
62 Division F35-39
And one of the best feelings in the world!

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