Saturday, July 30, 2016

Finally...Part 4 (and IM Canada info)

"If you work for it... you can do it!"

Wes and I in Cabo
Sometimes it can be the simplest words of advice which mean the most.  One day driving in the car with Wes talking about my goal of qualifying at Ironman Canada for the World Championships he simply says…If you work for it, Mom, you can do it.  Well I decided right in the car that day…we would be going back to Kona.

Yep, that’s right… I’m still a triathlete.  I’m pretty sure it's in my DNA or something because each time I say I’m walking away and I completely plan on walking away (selling my bike and all my gear) I find myself at another starting line.  We were having pizza (of course) as a family and one of my boys says, "Remember when Mom was done racing”.  We all laughed.  Yes, I know….I’m a broken record.
Part 4....

Part 4 of my blog after Ironman Wisconsin 2015 never came because I wasn't ever really sure about what my "next big thing" was going to be. In reality I want each day to be treated like "my next big thing". I’m working towards being present in the moment and not planning my life away. It sounds so simple but it's easier said than done for me. I know me...I like a full plate, having goals, moving, loving, living....
At times I feel if I stand still life is going to pass me by.  I just want to experience as much as I can with the people I love as often as I can. 

It was May 17th when I decided to race Ironman Canada…about 9 weeks out.  I am so fascinated by the human body and mind. We are capable of so much more than we realize.  We have to dream big and believe in ourselves and then willing to work hard.  I think one of the things I love most about triathlon, especially Ironman racing, is the dedication it takes and the mental part of race day.  No matter what…it’s going to hurt; you’re going to want to quit at some point, and you’re going to question why the hell you are doing this right now at this moment. 
A racer needs to be able to answer that question on race day because there is no doubt you will question yourself more than once. 

I was given a great opportunity from Triple Threat Triathlon and Argon 18 bikes this last year. When it was time for the team (Triple Threat Triathlon) to place their bike orders I declined since I was obviously not racing... I had sold my TT bike.
Then winter turned to spring and I would find myself falling asleep at night thinking about climbing the mountains in BC, Canada. I would find myself imagining what it would be like running through the marathon course in Whistler while I was out running on the trails at home. First it started with me wanting to go watch the race, then it went to “I might as well do the 70.3 to learn the course for next year” and lastly it turned into... “Hell... Why not just do the whole thing and try to get back to Kona...that would be a fun challenge!”

All of these thoughts and coming to the conclusion of actually doing the race happened with no training since September and no bike.  Anyone who knows me knows that it was just a matter of time with my brain going from watching the race to earning a world championships slot for Kona.

They always make me smile!
One of the many things I’ve learned getting ready for an Ironman is…Don't force it... If it's a constant struggle then let it go or put it on the back burner until the fire comes back. Life is too short to be struggling through training sessions and/or not doing what you love.  After big IM races where I've poured my heart and soul into the race; where I've raced like it’s the last one I'm going to do…I need to walk away for a while. After Kona it was almost a year before I did another triathlon. This year there were zero thoughts of triathlon or IM until March and then it was just thoughts until months later in mid-May when I signed up.

This time around my training was different to say the least.  I showed up in Whistler the most laid back I have ever been leading into an Ironman.  My training was pretty much fueled on cookies and pizza.  I promised my family I wasn’t going to be rigid with my training and sometimes I think they wondered if I was taking the race serious enough.

Family dinners are the best!
Old Blue
I have to love her. She was my very first bike I ever bought back in 2003.  I sold her a few years ago to only buy her back last year. She is the one I spent the majority of my time preparing for IM Canada with. A fancy new TT bike is for sure nice and I now have one, but there is something to be said for keeping it real and working on the engine.

Old Blue
I’ve never had a coach and still choose to write my own training. For me, my ever changing plan is a constant work of art…trying to get in my sessions around Lee and the boys and making sure I’m working on my weaknesses.  There are a few simple principles I apply to my training.  One is… when things are easy and comfortable there is no challenge. No growth. It's all about choices and choosing to work harder and smarter.  As I’ve aged in the sport I’ve learned harder isn’t always the best method.  Being smart and efficient is key to being successful.  Second, I remind myself being purposeful and mindful of my consistent actions will pay off. Third, getting to the winning/qualifying/succeeding part isn't always fun. There are days when it's hard ass work. It takes doing things that other aren't willing to do. It takes making sacrifices others won’t. That's what it takes. It just doesn't happen.  I don’t consider myself a gifted athlete by any means.  I never played a day of any college sport or even played a sport my senior year of high school.  One thing I do have is passion and one thing I am really good at is being a hard worker.

Race Goals:
#1 goal (same goal for my races) is – Don’t give up on myself.  No Regrets.  I have 100% control over this and remind myself of it many times throughout the day.  “Just keep moving forward”
#2 a Kona slot (winning my AG).  There isn’t as much control here because I have no idea who will show up or what may happen to me with my bike and other issues which are out of my control.
#3 win (overall).  There were no pro women racing at Canada this year and there needs to be an overall winner.  Why can’t it be me?

The swim venue is gorgeous.  I came down on Thursday morning before the race to swim and was in awe of the view.  British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.   The water was clean, calm, and chilly (63 degrees), but not as cold as I had anticipated. I loved my goggles.  I’ve been wearing the same style of googles for years (Aquasphere Kaiman).  They never disappoint me so why change.  No fogging at all the whole race!
I wore a long sleeve wetsuit – Maverick Pro from Roka (AMAZING).  I have never liked long sleeve wetsuits, but seriously this one is so comfortable and the shoulder mobility is great.  I highly recommend it if you are looking for a long sleeve wetsuit.
New this year at IM Canada was a rolling start vs. a mass start.  I thought it was super nice in terms of the chaotic starts of all my previous Ironmans.  The problem is you really don’t know how far someone else is in front of you or behind you as the day goes on.  When you’re racing for a world championships slot it’s important to know where you are within your age group.

I really don’t know what to say about my swim…it was pretty uneventful and I felt I would be coming out of the water around the 1:25 mark, but then again I always feel like that…I just don’t work hard when I’m swimming.  It’s just a steady swim the whole way.  I have been working on finding feet during the swim instead of avoiding them.  So I was happy to see my swim time was 1:11.  Not bad for me!

Everything was in kilometers.  I think I spent a large portion of my time on the bike and run doing math conversions to figure out what mile I was at or how many miles to go.  I don’t race with a GPS watch…just a standard watch – no bells or whistles.  I don’t race with power and I set my Garmin screen to only tell me my time, mph, and average mph.  The less data I know the more I listen to my body. 
I am so proud of myself and this bike ride.  Not because of my time, but because I didn’t CRASH.  For real… I had only rode this bike a handful of times and only one time outside before getting to Canada and that was before I met with Chris Balser to make adjustments to my fit.  On Friday morning before the race I got on it and rode for about 30 minutes.  I couldn’t get aero going down some of the rollers around Whistler and I seriously thought…how the heck I am going to get aero going down a mountain!? On Saturday I took it out gain and felt a little better.   

The course is so beautiful!!  I did make sure I took in the views and reminded myself how fortunate I was to be able to be in BC riding this bike on this course.  I liked the climbing.  No, I really loved the climbing!  Going down was fun too, but being in my easiest gear and grinding up some of those climbs was epic.  There was a flat section close to the end of the ride which was a nice change.  I was averaging 21.4 mph with only about 20-30kilomters back to T2 and was thinking…WOW I’m having a great bike ride.  Then the final climb back to Whistler came and it was hard to get over 12mph. The road would “look” like it was downhill, but obviously we would be climbing. 

My bike time was 5:36…slower than I wanted, but I think it was one of the fastest women’s bike splits of the day.

I was a hurting unit when I got off my bike.  My glutes didn’t want to run 26.2 miles.  It was so awkward I remember laughing and almost tripping on my feet because I couldn’t lift them off the ground.  The feeling went away by mile 2 and I had a few people tell me I was the #2 girl.  Sweet!!

There is nothing like Ironman Wisconsin and the crowd support on that run course.  Canada was stunning, beautiful, challenging and I don’t want to take anything away from the course…but IM Wisconsin really knows how to put a race on!
The run had changing terrain from woodchips, gravel, asphalt, to running across a wooden bridge.  There were several times I said to myself, “I’m never doing another one of these!”  They are HARD and it really takes a positive mental head to keep moving forward and get to the finish line. 
My run was my slowest IM marathon to date at 3:48, but that’s ok.  When I knew I was secure with my overall AG win I knew there was no reason to dig myself into a whole out on the run.  My real goal is going as fast as I can in Kona. 

Breakfast: 2am I had some sourdough bread with nut butter and strawberry jam and another with nut butter, honey, ½ banana all washed down with some Blue Monkey coconut water. (back to bed)

4:30am: Woke up and had coffee on my way to shuttle to swim start

Pre-race 6:30am: Vespa and 10 grams master amino pattern (MAP)

Out of T1 heading to my bike a Gu Peanut butter

On my bike: I had 2 bottles of EFS liquid shot and some Bonk Breaker chews.  I only had my aero bottle for water and used the aid stations to fill up.  On the top of each hour (approximately) I would take in about 5 grams of MAP (master amino pattern).  That was it – very simple.

Out of T2: Vespa and put more MAP in my back pocket.

The run: I had coke and water at each aid station and then MAP around the 1 hour and 2 hour mark

My nutrition has become very simple and I find less is more for me.  No gut issues or bathroom stops.  The best part is I’m able to eat at the end of the race.  Years ago I use to be sick for days and would take a few days for my appetite to come back to normal.  I no longer have those issues.  I think a large part of it has to do with my choices of calories during the race.

Bags: My T1 and T2 bags are very simple and I don’t use the special needs bags anymore.  Less is more for me and less I need to deal with.

Post-race plans:
Take it easy here for a bit and ease back into swimming then biking and lastly running. We have a fun August planned with camping at our favorite remote campsite and a trip on a houseboat. So training will be strategic with my big focus coming September.   I really need to work on my swim and have already had a session this week with a great swim coach...David Cameron.  My bike fit needs tweaking and I have a new seat ordered.  I plan to work on my bike speed a bit and spend time with some focused run sessions.  I’m excited what I can do in 9 weeks! 

Race Sherpas.... They say it takes a village to raise a child. I'm pretty sure it takes a village to get a triathlete to the finish line of an Ironman triathlon. There are so many people who have helped me along the way from Chris Balser with my bike fit, Patrick at Trailblazers doing a quick last minute bike build, Seth my amazing chiropractor who keeps me healthy, Joleen for kicking my ass each week at yoga sculpt…gosh I love ya girl, Matt who finds an open space to squeeze in a massage for me, friends who check-in with me and my training and always know when to send that text of motivation... Sarah Simpson, Jan Handlos, Steph Ettermen, Sara Carlson, Amy Lewica, Eric Carder, Mike Mckonkey, Sean Kaneski, Travis Miller, and Josh Duda to name a few. Thanks friends!!

Family... I love my family. How lucky did I get to be the youngest of 12 kids?  My siblings are some of the craziest hardest working people I know. I’m so happy to call all of them my family.

Donna, Mom, and race sherpas
My mom and two of my sisters (Melonee and Donna) made the trip with me to Canada.  They were so supportive and helpful leading up to the race.  Thank you! Thank you!

My person….My most important person. The one when I see a beautiful sunrise and taste the most amazing cookie or hear the craziest story...the first person I can’t wait to share the moment with is Lee. He is my person. We have been an amazing team for over 20 years raising our 5 boys and we keep dreaming big dreams together. So even though I'm always trying to climb another mountain and find that next big challenge I'm never doing it alone and I always make sure Lee is onboard. Heck, he loves travel as much as I.

Love what you do. Live what you love friends.

Team Andres is Kona Bound!! Watch out Big Island I have 5 boys looking to rent some mopeds.
Team Andres from Kona 2013...look how they have grown!

Handsome Mitch on his way to prom

Gavin and I :)

Gavin, Wyatt, and Riley
Gavin fishing

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Part three: The Race

Thanksgiving 2015
I believe we all have time for what we want to have time for.  With that being said….it’s been a long time between part two and now part three.  The race feels so long ago and maybe part of the reason it feels so long ago is how tight my jeans are.  Race shape leaves quickly when eating too much pizza with 5 teenage boys and baking cookies.  I thought I better post the rest of my blog dealing with Ironman Wisconsin since my head has already moved on to ideas of a new blog post and adventures for Team Andres.  I’m getting the blog post done Thanksgiving afternoon while everyone is napping or hunting. 

Part three… The RACE
If I would have listened to my bike numbers or run paces at IM Wisconsin I’m pretty sure I would not have been the first female to cross the finishing tape. I did what I could in the swim with my fitness and swim ability.  However, on the bike I rode harder than I probably should have – given my fitness level.  The run…it was just one step in front of the other the whole way.  I was talking myself out of walking at the 5 minute mark and started doing a countdown in my head….just 3 more hours, and then just 2:45, and ….so many times I wanted to walk. At times, I thought there was no way I could run one more mile much less a block.  BUT, I didn’t walk. I didn’t give up on myself.  I found a new limit each time I told myself…just keep going. 

Ironman Wisconsin 2015 wasn’t my fastest Ironman and I didn’t go faster than my course record time from 2012.  However, IM Wisconsin 2015 is the race I am most proud of to date.  In 9 weeks I transformed my body and my mind and on race day I was able to execute a race I am extremely proud of which got me to the finish line as the first female. 

It had been over a year since I did a triathlon. My last triathlon was the Lakes Country sprint in August of 2014. An entire year had passed since I felt all the nerves associated with racing.  I had some running races, but I don’t put pressure on myself in a run race like I do for a triathlon.  The feeling was definitely one I didn’t have a problem remembering.  I did have other thoughts entering my mind on race morning…like…why am I doing this??  I remember on my way to the swim start I passed a small group of people finding a spot to watch the race drinking coffee and I was very envious of them.  I was thinking…that looks so much more enjoyable right now. 

I headed for Madison on Wednesday before the race all by myself.  The boys all needed to be in school through Friday.  Lee and 4 of the boys came Friday night and Mitch made the 5+ hour drive alone after his hockey games on Saturday.  I know I am fortunate to have amazing “people” in my life.  These 6 guys are definitely my “people” and have my back no matter what.  They mean the world to me. 

In a race when I know I want to put it all on the line I need to be in my own space leading up to the race.  Lee knows this and gets this about me.  He made sure the boys had plenty of trips to Ian’s pizza and I was able to do what I do pre-race…which is…a lot of  nothing…eyes shut, feet up the wall…race prep.

I check in as early as possible.
I organize all my gear and lay everything out.
I create a race morning to do list and literally go through each item and cross it off my list.
I have a race week plan which covers everything every day from the time I go to bed to the time I get up along with what I eat. 

My taper for this race was short since I had very little fatigue in my legs.  For Kona it was almost a month long taper.  This time it was a week or so.  I always like to keep my frequency and maybe even swim more often.  Everything is fast (faster than race pace) and short with lots of rest.  I like to keep the frequency, increase the intensity, and drop the volume. 

Race morning:
I’m like a robot.  I have my list and cross everything off step by step and once done I find a spot I can put my music on and close my eyes.  By this time I’m not nervous anymore.  I work to let it go and focus on the task at hand.  The day is very long and I feel it’s all about making decisions and the more correct decisions I make the faster I get to the finish line.

My cheat sheet I made for Lee...funny how accurate the times were.
I wake up about 2:30am and eat a big breakfast and then go back to sleep.  My favorite and what works for me is 2 sandwiches with potato bread.  One sandwich has nut butter and jam.  The other sandwich is nut butter, banana, and honey.  When I wake up at 4:30 I have black coffee and roll on my roller while listening to music.  Lee always gets up and walks down to transition with me so I can use my own bike pump and then he will take the pump back and drop my special needs bags off for me.  However, this year I didn’t use any special needs bags for the bike or the run. 

My motto for the day…. Be Brave
I think it takes bravery to put yourself out there.  To push so hard that either something great will happen or you will crash and burn.  On Sunday, September 13th I chose to push harder than I ever have and as soon as I thought the tank was empty I somehow from somewhere found a little more.  I came so close to crashing and burning. 

One goal for the day ... Control the controllable.
When the canon fires there are too many things I have zero control over.  So instead of letting them consume me I focus on what I can control and my controllables are my reactions and my attitude.  It’s a long ass day that is for sure.  For a little over ten hours I was racing…constantly in motion trying to cover 140.6 miles as fast as I can.  

I was in the water early and was chilled waiting for the race to start.  The swim is my least favorite part of the race.  Yes, it’s the shortest, but for me I feel like I’m swimming for hours.  There was no exception on this day.  I knew if I had an epic day – a great swim I would be at a 1:10.  A really bad swim would be a 1:25.  My goal was 1:12.  While I was swimming I thought FOR SURE the clock was going to read 1:25.  I felt so slow…I felt I was being passed constantly. I felt I was swimming in the wrong direction all the time.  I was preparing myself to see the clock saying 1:25 when I excited.  I glanced at my watch when I excited the water and was extremely happy and surprised with seeing 1:12.  Sweet!!

I’m not big into tracking my data.  I just like to listen to my body and race.  The only thing I use is my regular watch…no GPS type watch…just a standard watch.  I hit start at the beginning of the race and usually try to hit the lap before the bike and the run. 

Transition was super smooth and I sprinted to my bike carrying my shoes.  Grabbed my bike off the rack and carried my shoes almost to the mount line before putting them on and taking off.


I knew the fastest bike split I could do on that course was a 5:20 and a bad day would be a 5:45.  My goal was a 5:30.  My actual race time was a little over 5:20. 

I rented race wheels and went with two Zipp 808s.  Thankfully it was not a windy day or I may not have been able to handle those wheels.
As I started biking I realized my Garmin on my bike wasn’t picking up anything.  At first I tried to hit a few buttons, but then just said…oh…well.  I know the course and have mile markers and knew my total bike time from my watch.  I don’t race with power, but being able to see mph and running times is always nice.  Not this time.  Looking back at the situation…not having the Garmin was probably a blessing in disguise.  In 2012 I was in way better bike shape and my bike time this year was almost identical to my bike split in 2012.  I’m thinking I would have told myself I was going too fast and should slow down if I could have seen my bike speeds.   I love the Madison course.  The course requires you to be focused the whole bike ride.  I feel I’m changing gears constantly and knowing the course is a bonus.  Being able to ride the tangents, push hard in certain sections knowing there will be time to recover in a bit.


Casey and I getting it done.
I knew my best run would be a 3:20 and a bad day would be a 3:45.  My goal was a 3:20.  I was closer to my “best” day type of run and am still shocked that I pulled that off.
I love to run.  Really.  It makes my heart smile.
However, this run was the most painful run I have ever completed.  It was painful from the first step off the bike.  I see pictures of other athletes racing that day and so many are smiling, high fiving, waving to family and friends.  There was no way I could have done that.  I felt like I was using every ounce of my being to just keep moving forward.  I was quiet. I didn’t smile. I could hear everyone around me, but I seriously I just focused on the bike tire of the cyclist who was escorting me. 
There was period of time I was able to run with a fellow tri friend, Casey Miller.  He asked if it was ok to run together and I said sure, but I won’t talk.  Those were some of the hardest miles for me…physically.  I wanted to stop so many times, but just thought…stay with Casey.  I’m very appreciative of those shared miles on the course that day. 

I had no idea how fast my miles were.  I looked at my first couple of mile splits and they were pretty fast for me.  Then once I moved into the first place position I stopped looking at my watch and just raced.  My shorts were riding up, I was doing a farmer blow, spitting... I really didn’t care.  I could tell my form was falling apart.  I was in pain and all I wanted to do was get to the finish line without falling apart.
It wasn’t until I made the final corner on the course to the finish line and my bike escort yelled to me…”it’s all yours…go get it” that I actually felt I could smile, high five, wave.  I wish I would have slowed down and took more time in the finishing shoot.  It all felt so surreal.  The crowd was amazing.  All the friends and family made the race truly special.

My amazing mom whom I owe my biking ability and my very supportive sister.
At the finish line I was being interviewed and glanced over to Lee and the boys and there next to them was one of my sisters and my mom.  They had made the drive all the way to Madison late Saturday night and slept a few hours in their vehicle before the race started.  I had no idea they were out there all day cheering.  I was so happy to be able to share the finish line experience with all of them.  Definitely a memory I will not forget. 

My nutrition
I consume a lot less calories while racing than years ago and it has been such a blessing.  I have no GI issues while racing and post-race I can actually eat.  My stomach use to be upset for days from all the sugar and it would be hard to get an appetite back.  Now, I’m actually hungry after the race for real food. 

My main source of calories on the bike is EFS liquid shots washed down with water.  I take 5 MAP (master amino pattern) every hour on the bike and the run.  For the run I do coke and water along with the 5 MAP each hour.

Very basic stuff.  I have back up calories on my bike.  I like the Bonk Energy chews and a gel in case I feel I need something or I lose some nutrition. 

Lee and the boys – they were amazing race day.  They were all over the run course on their rollerblades giving me splits on where I was and what my lead was.  A few even stayed back to see me about mile 24 and then had to hightail it to the finish to see me finish.  I feel I tell the boys all the time…anything is possible…dream big dreams…work hard…believe.
However, I think actions speak louder than words and on this day I was able to put all the things I say into action. 

My favorites!!
The boys' all made predictions about my race finish time.  None of them had predicted I would take the win.  I don’t think many people did, but I like it that way.  I like being the underdog… off the radar girl.
They didn’t tell me this until after the race.  How nice of them!  They did have good reason to think that way.  It was exactly 2 weeks out from race day and we were all at a hotel for hockey.  We ordered room service and I had a giant cheeseburger, fries, and cheesecake.  They were like…No mom! You have a race!!  The next morning I woke up and tracked every morsel of food that went in my body and made sure it was a super clean diet.  It all paid off.  I eat pretty healthy the majority of the time.  A cheeseburger never hurt anyone.  It’s a cheeseburger every day that hurts us. 

Lessons learned from IM:

1.       I was not in best physical shape but pulled it off. It's not just the swim, bike, and run sessions in training. In an IM there is so much that goes into the race than the actual training sessions.  I think this is why the Ironman distance has such a special place in my heart. 

2.      You have to be optimistic. Don't waste your time crying over something you weren't or aren't willing to fight for.  Stay positive and work hard until it’s over.

3.      You gotta earn it and when you do its 100x more worthwhile that something being handed to you.

4.      Learn from mistakes. Learn from being a quitter. In the 2014 Chicago marathon I quit.  I regret that decision and used that to fuel me in the marathon to get to the finish line with no regrets.

5.      I learned that dreams and goals change. After Kona my goal was an Olympic marathon qualifying time and stepping back from IM.  Life shifts and goals change.

6.      Be true to yourself cause at the end of the day it's just you inside your own head and if you're not happy... No one around you will be happy.

7.      Race weight/shape and healthy are not the same thing.  

Lastly, we are on our way to see Creed so my next blog may be about me becoming a boxer.  Seriously.  The last movie we saw as a family was Everest and Gavin and I left there planning his graduation trip which is the two of us climbing….to base camp.  Yes, we know our limit and climbing abilities and base camp is our goal.   

Friends and supporters...thank you for all the cheers.