Tuesday, June 4, 2013


It was truly an amazing experience…like nothing I have done before.  Back in March I attended a total immersion swim camp in Kona.   The week of swimming was fun and a great opportunity for me to get comfortable in the ocean water.  This week was a bit different.  Epic Camp was the hardest week of training I have ever done.  I have logged more hours in a week, but never with this kind of intensity or weather conditions.  There are no words to explain the heat and wind on the IM World Championships course.  The TV coverage doesn’t do it justice.  You really need to swim, ride, and run the course to understand what it’s all about.  

Being around like minded people who have similar goals and a shared passion really helps to strengthen my dedication to my training and being as strong mentally and physically as October approaches.  These 10 days being away from home was the longest I’ve been away from Lee and the boys and the hardest for me.  Thankfully there wasn’t much down time and I was so tired I was either training, sleeping, or eating to ever get too homesick. 

Breakdown of daily training…

Friday – arrived late afternoon, picked up my bike from Bike Works, and did some work on my computer before dinner.

Saturday – early morning swim at the Pier followed by breakfast at Lava Java.  I love that place.  I started organizing my gear and bike for the official start of camp.  Did a 40 mile ride out of the Queen K to make sure everything was good and then stopped back at Bike Works to do a little shopping and made a stop at Island Naturals.  It’s an organic/natural market/deli and another one of my favorites of Kona.

Each morning I would wake up in the morning starting at 3am since I’m still on MN time.  This lasted until about the 4th day.  Either I was finally on Hawaii time or I was just so darn tired I slept longer.

Sunday – IM bike course ride, it was raining when we headed out and all I was thinking about was getting a flat.  The only time I’ve flatted has been when I’m riding in the rain.  Sure enough a few minutes into the ride and I have a flat.  The last time I changed a clincher was 2005.  Thankfully I had a great group riding with me who all stopped and helped me out in changing the tire.  Really…I didn’t do much of anything, but probably made things worse by busting the stem of the new tube while trying to air it up.  

I can’t count the number of times during the week I heard, “You really need to learn to change a tire.”  My deal is I ride my trainer probably 90% of the time.  I race on tubulars and when it counts I will get my tubular changed.  I can change my own tire…it just takes me a bit.  

The IM bike course seems to get shorter each time I get to ride it.  The course is like nothing I have ever experienced.  The wind has never been the same each time I’m out there.  You can’t count on having a tailwind at any certain point and most times you have a head wind on your way out to the turn around and then you get the same head wind on the way back in.  Crazy how it works and I use to think people were exaggerating about the wind and heat, but now I know it’s all real.  I rode solo most of the day and it was a great chance for me to really push myself and maintain aero as long as possible.  My goal of this camp was to go hard each day and see what I had left in the tank come Saturday for the race.

After everyone returned from the ride we did a run down to the pier and an easy swim. 

Monday – We ran to the pier and swam the IM swim course and then ran back.  Once we were back we did a 50K bike ride.  The distance of this ride wasn’t far, but this ride was the hardest bike ride I have ever done in my life.  Seriously….17-20+% grade for 12 miles.  This ride was truly EPIC.  The higher we climbed the cooler and foggier it got.  By the top it was pouring rain.  The decent back down was so crazy it was borderline stupid.  There were several times I thought…yep I’m going to crash…yep this will be the death of me.  But the whole group made it to the top and made it back down.  

Tuesday – John Newson, camp director, gave us the option of choosing which group we wanted to ride with on our long ride today.  On the first day when we rode the IM course I rode off the front alone for most of the ride.  So I decided I would ride with the big boys in group three.  I knew if it got too hard I could hang on their wheel or we would catch group number 2 and I could ride with them.  Plus, I knew there was a bit of climbing which I love.  It turned out to be a fabulous ride maybe even my favorite of the week.  I never lead off the front and there were several times when we were moving at a pretty good clip and I just had to focus on the wheel in front of me and gut it out.  I would tell myself, a hill will come and you will get to rest a bit.  Most people see a hill and think of the work ahead, but for me on this ride the hill climbing was my chance to recover before we hit a flat.  I can hang with them on the hills, but it’s the flats I have to work my tail off to keep up.  I made it to the volcano with the boys and we ran off the bike on a beautiful trail down into a crater, across the bottom, and back up.  It was amazing – an absolute beautiful run!!

Wednesday – Ran on the IM run course – LOVED it!  After the run we packed up our gear and biked to our new location which was about 35 miles north of Kona out on the Queen K.  In the afternoon we headed to the beach where the 70.3 Hawaii race will take place and practiced swim starts and did a longer swim.

Thursday – Early morning ocean swim with Pete Jacobs.  He is a great guy with lots of great swimming advice for us.  Another highlight for me!

My only regret from today was choosing to ride solo out and back on the Queen K a few times instead of riding with the group on a different loop.  I wasn’t ready to go when the group left since I had a few meetings with my students and then I wanted to get my race wheels on and ride them before Saturday.  I haven’t raced since IM Wisconsin in September.  Changing to my race wheels and adjusting the breaks on the Speed Concepts is no easy task.  I consider my bike intelligence at about …. Well… I don’t consider myself as having much bike intelligence.  I can do the basic stuff, but that’s about it! So thanks to John Ellis our bike mechanic for helping me out.  

Each day I’m here and I’m missing my boys and second guessing myself I remind myself of the first time I saw the Ironman World Championships on TV and said that will be me one day.  I was still in high school, living with my sister Donna, and had never done a triathlon and was terrified of the water.  I have come so far and overcame so many of my own personal limitations.  Each day this week I thought I was at my limit and couldn’t do anymore or go any harder, but I would push a little more and find I just pushed that limit line back a little more.  

So, considering my goals for October, riding alone out on the Queen K was probably what I needed rather than a beautiful group ride with some wonderful new friends I have made.  It’s easy to sit on someone’s wheel and get pulled along on the Queen K…I didn’t need or want that.  What I needed was to be alone in my head and feel the wind blowing me across the road.  I needed to get the feeling of the heat rising from the highway and look out ahead and only see lava fields.  I needed these mental images engrained in my head so when I’m back home sitting on my trainer I can close my eyes and be right back there on the Queen K.    

 Friday – Finally a day to sleep in and I’m up by 5:30AM.  I sleep with the air off and my patio doors wide open.  I love hearing the wind blow and smell the ocean air, but these birds are so noisy in the morning!  

A few us went for a technique swim at the resort pool and Jordan Rapp was there swimming.  He is another very nice pro athlete.

Saturday – RACE DAY (report below)

Sunday – slept in till 6AM and that was me forcing myself to sleep in.  I feel great – no soreness from the race at all.  Is that normal?  Must be all those veggies I eat and the Extreme Endurance.  I biked into town with Dave, from camp, to get my bike to Bike Works for shipping back home and then had lunch at Lava Java one last time until I get to come back in October.  Once back to the hotel I packed and started grading papers and finishing my end of the year grading.  9pm came and I was off to the airport.
I missed my boys like crazy!  Have I said that yet?  They are the most amazing 5 boys I know and being away this long has been so hard.  I have second guessed my decisions so many times on this trip.  Triathlon can be a very selfish sport and I feel there is a fine line with being obsessive and not seeing the big picture of life.  For me, this next week will be all about spending time recovery and family activities before IM training kicks in and the boys start summer hockey camp.  

I am very appreciative to all the Epic camp crew.  John Newson does an amazing job of taking care of all the athletes and everyone was so friendly and nice.  To all my New Zealand friends I will be in touch when I sign up for the Coast to Coast.  It’s a race on my bucket list.  I’m sure you have room to accommodate a family of seven – right?  Just kiddin!

The 70.3 Race Report:
The swim – what the hell happened Michelle?!  I’m a faster swimmer than my time shows.  I really should have a GPS on to show the route I decided to take which wasn’t correct and I had to swim back and then around the first buoy.  I could have cheated like several others I saw, but that’s not who I am.  Looking at everyone’s times for the day it seemed most were slower than normal.  One thing I will add to my training this summer is group swims working on sighting and drafting and working together. Last summer I did long lake swims, but I would swim alone while Lee kayaked beside me.  They were very enjoyable, but I need to practice using the draft while swimming. 
I never felt out of breathe….a sign I wasn’t working too hard.  I even remember thinking to myself…this is really quite beautiful and I don’t mind this salt water at all. 
The females started 7 minutes after the guys and it was a complete traffic jam not long into the swim.  I have to say the back of the pack men are much nicer than the front of pack guys.  I usually get a punch to the face or a good hard kick, but I even had a guy say sorry to me.

I was bummed when I saw the clock when I got out of the water, but in long distance races so much can change the only thing you can do is keep moving forward. 
T1 – couldn’t find my bike – helmet was blown off and glasses…took me a bit to get my gear together.  I think I need new cleats I couldn’t get clipped in until I was turning out on the Queen K. 

Bike – I love my bike and I love riding my bike.  I was hoping for it to be as windy as hell and as hot as hell.  In my mind I was thinking - the tougher the better.  When the wind is blowing in my face or I’m climbing a hill I’m in heaven and seem to get stronger in tougher conditions.  Another reason I wanted the conditions to be tough was so when Kona rolls around it will seem easy peasy.  It was quite windy, but it wasn’t hot.  I had a few close calls with my bike and the wind.  

T2 – Couldn’t find my stuff again.  T2 was 6 miles away from T1.  I felt really good after the bike.  I think I could have ridden that pace all the way back to Kona.  I never felt I pushed out of my comfort zone and tried to stay close to my IM goal paces.
Run – It took me back to my cross country running days in HS.  We were running across a golf course and some on the road.  It was a beautiful run with a lot of sharp short uphills and turns.   I wanted to run about my IM run pace and had no problem.  I didn’t start my watch and swum, biked, and ran all on how I felt.  I was surprised when I saw my splits because I didn’t feel I was running a 7 minute pace.  For a section in the middle my pace dropped to 6:43/mile pace.  

As I started moving through the field of women and passed a few pros I started looking to see how many women were in front of me.  A few volunteers on the course told me I was the first amateur female.  When I was counting the girls in front of me I only counted 4 and I assumed they were all pro by either what they were wearing or their number.  I was wrong.  The first amateur had a Great Britain Tri suit on with her name and I assumed she was pro.  

Nutrition:  I have eaten a ton this week with all my training.  Even the night before the race I was eating desert which I would normally never do.  I have about 10 pounds to drop to get to my racing weight before Kona.  So my eating habits will dramatically improve come next week when the game face comes on for 4 months.  In my training I haven’t let myself go to “that” place in my head for IM training.  Previously, I’ve had a season where I was burnt out before my A race arrived.  For me, I don’t tell myself I’m training for Kona until now so I can really focus on my key session, recovery, and nutrition.  

Race nutrition - I front loaded on the bike with my calories.  I knew the climb up to Hawi would be easier to take in calories than flying back down. I like the Cytromax gel bites, EFS liguid shots, and GU peanut butter gel.

I had two Gu rocatane I took out of T2 and used them at miles 3 and 6.  Then at every aid station I did water, coke, and ice down my shorts and in my bra top.  I never felt over heated.  The ice down the pants really keeps you cool…almost a bit too cool.  I did receive a few looks from the volunteers when I grab two glasses of ice and dump one down my shorts and one in my bra

I’m a bit bummed by my times.  Slower than I anticipated, but when I look at the overall results…being 5th out of the pro & amateur field isn’t too bad especially after a week of some solid training.  This was never my A race.  My A race is Kona.  My goal today was to hold IM paces…I think I was close.  Weighing ten pounds less in October will help my run and having 15 weeks of working on my bike and swim will definitely help.
My goals/plans for the race were – to go as hard as I can and to never give up on myself mentally and to keep moving forward.  I truly believe physical training is just crap unless you have your mental game up to par – for IM racing anyway.  I know when I get to the marathon in October I will need to be strong mentally and not let anything break me.  Going into this race I was physically TIRED!  I was thinking this is my chance to work on my mental strength and dig deep.  What I found out was I still had more in the tank and never had to dig real deep.  Our bodies are amazing and are capable of so much more than we think.  When we think we are at our end and there is nothing left we have only tapped into what we are capable of accomplishing.  

I ended up winning my age group and receiving a slot for the 70.3 World Championships in September.  It was a hard decision for me to take the slot.  Not so much the timing with Kona because the timing is perfect (5 weeks), the terrain is great practice (hot and hilly), working through logistics with my bike and gear set up is all great practice and timing for the race I really care about – KONA.  The tough part of the decision is Lee and I have our 16th wedding anniversary on the 6th of September.  For the last several years we have been at IM Wisconsin either volunteering or there so I can race.  Originally, I knew it was a possibility I would win my AG and get a slot and I didn’t anticipate taking it because not only is it our anniversary, but it’s the first week of school for the boys and me.  

Long story short…I ended up taking the slot because on my bike in big letters I have – NO REGRETS.  This is my year to lay it all out there on the line.  To really push myself and see what Michelle Andres from little old Minnesota can do when up against the best in the world not only at the IM distance, but the 70.3 distance.  Many people train their whole life for the opportunity to race in the world championships and now I have raced a great race and earned a spot on the starting line of both races in the same year.  Can I podium in both races in the same year?  HELL YES!  This is my chance to see what I can accomplish in this sport.  I know myself and know if I didn’t take the slot I would always think…I would always wonder what if… and I would regret my decision for taking the slot.

A highlight of the awards was having Greg Welch say, “and our champion for the 35-39 age group hailing from East Gull lake, MN is Michelle Andres”  Very cool hearing the legend Greg Welch say my name!

I’ll take this week to spend as much time with my boys and let my all my training settle in before I start my IM training and they start their summer at hockey camp.  We have lots of fun planned.  

A few notes about misc. things…
Arcadia Brute – I love riding the hills of Wisconsin.  It was a great ride leading up to Epic camp.  If you enjoy bike riding think about the Triple Crown in Wisconsin.  The rides are very well organized and have never been a disappointment. 

My secret – vegetables…seriously!  The power of vegetables is one of the key elements of my training along with naps.  The power of food!

Rumble Roller – I try to roll every day.  My newest roller is the rumble roller, but this thing is painful.  I haven’t been showing much love to the new rumble roller in comparison to old black one.  

Training leading up to EPIC Camp – do what I can when I can and make it count.  The way life worked out I had a big/good week then a recovery week for 8 weeks.  It seemed to work for me.  This was never my plan, but life happens and kids get sick, I got sick, I have a job…I have a life.  In reality it was probably more like a 9 day build and then a 5 day recovery.  This is what worked for me during this time of the year, but it won’t be the case when IM training starts (6/10).

Closing thought…

Passion – you have to want it (whatever that is) deep inside of you.  No one can want it for you – it just won’t work.  I think of parents who so badly want their child to be the next pro athlete or doctor or lawyer or musician, but the kid could take it or leave it.  That kid will never be that pro athlete, that doctor, that lawyer, or that musician unless it is something they truly want.   But there isn’t anything wrong with that…happiness (in my opinion) is finding your passion.  As a mom I want my boys to be happy, to find their own passion.  Right now my passion is Ironman Triathlon.
The reason I get up at 4:30 in the morning is because I have a dream.  I took that dream and created a goal and then created a path to follow and reach that goal.  Have I ended up on a few detours and uphill climbs I wasn’t anticipating? Yes, for sure!  It’s those detours and uphill climbs when we really learn who we are and how much we are capable of accomplishing. 

Happy Training!