Saturday, October 19, 2013

Final thoughts...

The best experiences in life are rarely easy…Mark Allen

I’ve completed 4 Ironmans.  The first 3 were IM Wisconsin in 2006, 2008, and 2012.  The first one I completed when my boys were 8, 6, 6, 6, and 5 and I was getting my degree for teaching while working part time and training for an IM.  My finishing time this first time through was 12:25 (with a flat and rain the entire day); the next time in 2008 the clock read 11:03 (4th in my AG and just missed a Kona slot).  In 2012, with my third time finishing I broke the course record and finished in 10:05.  My 4th IM finish was a week ago on the biggest stage the triathlon world has to offer.  I was able to get into the 9 hour mark with a 9:50.  I went from the 12s to 11s to 10s to the 9 hour mark.  I did this with no coach, working full time and still being a mom and a wife.  I did this because I never stopped believing that it was possible.

The Taper…I took a long taper for this race and kept cutting back each week waiting for the fatigue to leave.  I had done a lot of volume over the summer and was completely surprised how long it took to get the fatigue out of my body and get the sharpness back.  I trained differently this time for Kona than I did for Wisconsin and my taper needed to be different too.  The taper is the hardest part for me.  It really takes believing in what you have done and doing less is really doing more.  I was feeling very tired and was worried I was gaining weight, but I stuck to a clean gluten free diet and it all worked out.  I use to show up to races – triathlon and running races - and look around and see people who looked really fit and think, they are going to be fast!  But just because someone looks a certain way on the outside doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to be fast or slow.  What goes on between the ears is more important than what a person’s body looks like on the outside.  

Every taper needs to be adjusted for how the body feels.  I had intentions of doing more volume and even more intensity work leading up to race day, but I could tell my body didn’t need either so I scrapped those plans and readjusted.  This is one thing with being my own coach, I have learned to train through feel and can tell what my body needs and doesn’t need.  I have made adjustments to my plans so many times because training is going really good or not going really good.  My training plans are a constant working project.  I’m constantly researching and reading the latest studies and articles. I love trying new sessions and seeing how I feel and/or how my body adapts or doesn’t adapt to those sessions.   

Other hard parts…
I missed out on some of our family’s annual traditions.  I made a choice to put some of my training session before other activities. On duck opener I choose extra sleep and a yoga class along with a swim over hunting.  During the summer Lee and the boys were heading out for some walleye fishing and I choose to go to bed since I was getting up early.  Life is about choices. There will be times when we have to choose one or the other and really if it’s important to you then you’ll find a way to get it done.  If it’s not important to you then you’ll find an excuse.   I didn’t want to leave anything out there to give me an excuse as to why I wasn’t 100% prepared for the biggest race of my life to date. Now, the hunting trips and fishing trips and raining afternoon cookie baking will come before a training session.  
The boys after a morning duck hunt.  next year I'll be there!
When I was reaching the critical part of my training most other triathletes in the area were already getting ready for their off season and planning next year.  It was hard to stay focused and stay the course of my training.  Having my Kona room to bike and run in the heat when the temperatures outside were quickly dropping was very nice.  But, I was in my Kona room even during the summer when it was quite warm outside.  I do the majority of my bike training on the trainer and save my relaxing (easy) rides for outside.  

Another hard part was committing to gluten free and no junk food for the final 5 weeks leading up to Kona.  Thanks to Jolene Platte for doing the challenge with me.  I’ve said this so many times, but I’m still amazed at the power of nutrition – good high quality real clean food.  I have no gluten intolerance, but I love the way I feel when I don’t eat gluten.  It’s been a week of eating anything I want and I’m waking up with a headache, breaking out, feeling bloated, and tired.  I’ve decided I REALLY enjoy the taste of good high quality real clean food and more importantly I like the way I feel when I eat good food.  For me, junk food is over rated.  The 5 weeks came and went, but I’m going to stay with eating good food - this time not for a race, but for my health and my overall wellbeing.  

Motivation …there were times when I felt unmotivated to train and then something or someone would inspire me and remind me of how much I’ve wanted this challenge and then I would refocus and get back to work.  It’s important to have friends and families around you who support you and will remind you about all the hard work you have done.  For me, Lee and the boys were always right there to remind me.  I had post it notes around our house – on the fridge, on my bathroom mirror, below the TV I watched when I was running and biking.  I even made a vision board with all my goals and saying that meant something to me.  It was hung on the wall in my Kona room. 
My board...big goals:)

Going Pro…I’ve been asked if I’m going to go Pro.  The answer is no for several reasons.  The major one is the fact that triathlon isn’t my life.  Triathlon is/was a stop on the journey through my life.  There are so many more mountains I plan to climb.  I LOVE being a mom and want to enjoy these years with my boys before they are gone.  Another thing is the sun damage…has anyone seen an ex-pro triathlete with nice looking skin?  I don’t want to look 60 when I’m 40 so the sun damage alone is enough for me to say no thanks. After hearing the pros talk throughout the week I know I’m not cut out for the professional level of racing. This journey has been about me accomplishing something I set out for a long time ago and pushing myself to my limits – physically and mentally.  It was never about me being faster than the girl running next to me and wanting to beat them.  I have always signed up for the non-elite waves when I have the opportunity to do so.  I like to race my race and be in my own world.    I don’t like the pressure of competing against the other athletes.  I like the pressure of me pushing myself to my limits.  

Blessings in disguise…
My 70.3 race in Vegas didn’t go according to plan.  I felt terrible and didn’t want to have the same experience in Kona.  Having a bad race there made me realize how much I wanted to have a good race in Kona and didn’t want to allow myself any excuses for having a bad day.  I decided on the plane ride home from Vegas it was 100% game on with my nutrition and focus.  Who knows if I would have had a great race there I may have went into Kona over confident. Instead I came home with a renewed focus.  I put my training, sleep, recovery, and quality nutrition first and let many of the household things go.   
Biking in the rain at Vegas 70.3

Another blessing may have been the bike penalty.  I was on my way to getting behind on my nutrition and hydration.  Those 4 minutes gave me a chance to regroup and refocus.  

Highlights of Kona…
Island Naturals…I love this market and hot deli.  They have the most amazing good clean real food.  I would ride my bike there and stock up.  Almost all of my food during the trip in Kona was from there.

Strawberry Patch, Lotus CafĂ©, Lava Java…If I wasn’t eating at Island naturals these places were amazing.  If you are in Kona check out these restaurants – DELICIOUS!

Massage…At the airport when I arrived in Kona, while waiting for my bike, a guy came up and gave me his card.  He was in town for the IM and was a massage therapist.  I had planned on getting a few massages in before the race so I ended up scheduling a few sessions with him.  I arrived for the first massage and out walks Crowie as I’m going in.  Then during the massage there was a knock on the door and it was, Rebeka Keat, wanting to schedule an appointment.  Come to find out, Byron is the massage therapist for team Siri Lindley who coaches Rinny, Leanda Cave, Amanada Stevens, and a few other girls.  Byron was amazing and knew the triathletes body and how certain muscles need extra attention.  It was a real treat!

The pros…Being there you get to see the pro athletes everywhere.  I had a great conversation in the lobby of the hotel with Caroline Stephens.  I felt like the nerdy kid in school and the popular girl was taking to me.  During registration Farris was in line in front of me.  He was very nice too.  I got a kick out of one of the volunteers who had no idea who he was and started talking to him and asking him things like…have you ever raced here…and then giving him tips on the bike course.  Farris was so nice and never said anything about him being a pro. He just listened and smiled. 

Surprises after the race…
The body part that hurt the most was the chaffing on my neck from my speed suit.  A week later and my neck is still raw in places.  Another surprise was the swelling in my legs and ankles/feet the 24 hours after the race.  I never experienced this after my Ironman Wisconsin races, but I had some cankles going on for sure!   

What I’m looking forward to…
Hunting with my boys and husband and not worrying about getting a training session in.
Getting better with my shot gun and getting a bow to bow hunt next fall.
Cross Country skiing this winter.
Swimming, biking, and running for the pure love of it and not having a set training session.
Having extra time next summer to have my own garden and growing my own vegetables.
Getting my master’s degree in physical education and working with youth on creating healthy habits which will affect them for a lifetime.
Family dinners
The favorite’s dinner…for my boys’ birthdays I always make all their favorites.  Four of the five boys’ birthdays are in September so the favorites’ dinners didn’t happen.  I promised after Kona I would make all their favorites.  So they have their lists ready.
Gavin, Riley, and Wyatt 13th birthday trips…when the boys turn 13 we plan a trip just the two of us.  The triplets all turned 13 in September so we will be taking their 13th bday trips.  Gavin picked New York, Wyatt picked San Diego, and Riley picked Florida (roller coaster riding).  Now it will be planning them around hockey and hunting. 
Gavin, Riley, and Wyatt turning 13!  Fun trips ahead.

Thank you…
Ironman training can be very solitary at times.  To a point where I felt very selfish for the long hours I would spend training.  I was able to balance everything over the summer, but the final 5 weeks leading up to Kona was extremely hard and Lee pulled more than his share for our family.  Triathlon is an individual sport, but being a triathlete and having a family means everyone needs to buy into the sport of triathlon as a team.  I’m so thankful for TEAM ANDRES and everyone out there who supported me with their shirts.  So many people who helped me on this journey and I couldn’t have made it to the start line without all of them. 

Lee…he is my best friend and knows me better than anyone.  He can look in my eyes and know how I’m feeling.  None of this would have been possible without his support.
I never get tired of this one!

My boys…I know I’m their mom, but I think they are the funniest kindest 5 boys I know.  There isn’t a day that goes by that they don’t make me laugh.  They pull their weight and more around the house; they are respectful to me and are usually very kind to each other.  Watching them grow from little boys to young men is happening a little too fast for me.  Our family dinners can last over an hour and I soak it all in, because before I know it they will be grown up and gone.
My 6 favorite guys!

My family…from my Mom, my sister, Donna, and her husband, Joel, along with my niece, Kristina, and her fiancĂ©, Josh, to the rest of my family - I Thank you for being there for me and cheering all day in the heat and sun.  Kristina was completely sun burned from race day.  Being a spectator makes for a long day.

LAMS…Lakes Area Multisport group.  What an amazing group of people!!  Everyone has always been so kind and supportive since I started training for this race.  All your support on race day back in MN cheering surely made its way all the way to me on the Big Island. 

Kris Peterson and the YMCA… thank you for organizing the shirts and Kona challenge along with the Extreme workouts.  You never seem to run out of energy and you are always so positive!  I love it!!

Peter… thank you for coming to my house to box up my bike and put it together so many times over the summer.  You are the only one I trust with Black Beauty in the Brainerd Lakes area and appreciate all your bike knowledge.  This is one area I really need to improve on – bike knowledge.  I have to say my boys were impressed when Lee couldn’t get a chain on one of their bikes in Kona and I walked over and had it on two seconds.    

Matt Rohr… My muscles thank you!  I spent a lot of hours over the summer on your table.  There were many moments I really didn’t care for you and the only thing I could do was focus on breathing and relaxing.  We had some great conversations about gardening, rabbits, and just living life.  You are full of wisdom and I’m sure I’ll be asking you some gardening tips for next spring.

Jolene Platte…5 weeks and the power of nutrition.  You are an amazing friend and I know your hot yoga sculpt class got me through those last miles on the bike and the run.  I would visualize those sections of the race in your class when the heater was blowing in my face and I didn’t think I could keep going with Sexy back…and sure enough I did and sure enough on race day I did.  You helped keep me accountable and remind me of how much I wanted to be in the best shape of my life for this race.  Thank you!  Thank you!  Now…on to our next challenge. 

MHC (Minnesota Hockey Camp)…My boys love being there.  They lived there for the majority of the summer.  I was able to know they were well taken care of and living their dream and I was able to do the same.  Thank you so much for having a place for kids to not only learn about hockey and become better hockey players but to learn valuable life lessons about hard work, discipline, and being a leader.  
The boys working out at MHC
Margie Schaeffer…Thank you for kayaking every Wednesday night for our swim group.  You kept us safe and we never had to worry about boat traffic.  You have always had kind words of encouragement for me no matter what and I greatly appreciate you.
Chris Balser…The Bike Guru!  There is no way I could have rode in the aero position for 112 miles without your help.  I owe a portion of my fast bike split to you and your knowledge of bike fitting.  By no means is my fit the standard aero design and many would say it’s crazy, but it works for me and I love riding my bike.  THANK YOU! 

David Cameron… Total Immersion…I have been trying to become a better swimmer for years.  After two sessions with you swimming instantly become more relaxing and I became faster.  One year ago I swam in the ocean when Lee and I were there watching the IM race.  I remember thinking to myself…I have no idea how I will complete the swim.  Fast forward a year later and 1 week open water swim camp in Kona and I did it!  Completing the 2.4 mile ocean swim was a huge accomplishment for me.  

Sean Kaneski – Thank you Sean for driving all the way to the YMCA early that Sunday morning to do 40X100 on the 1:40 with me.  That workout with you was one I thought about in the days leading up to the race when my mind started asking the question…did I do enough??  I owe a huge thank you to you for asking me to help you get the tri group started.  It was getting the group started and training with others that inspired me to give it another shot sooner rather than later.  

Wellness One and Derek Johnson…My chiropractor.  Derek has been my chiropractor for several years and even though my back isn’t constantly bothering me I still check in weekly with him to get an adjustment. 

Products I use..
I addition to my race day nutrition I talked about in my race report here are a few things I’ve added to my diet and my training.
Magnesium oil/lotion
Epsom Salt
Compression gear
Extreme Endurance
Maca Root powder
Fish oil with Vit D
Matcha Green tea
Amazing Grass Chocolate Super Greens
Capra Flex
One of my biggest things I like for recovery is simply putting my feet up the wall.
Inversions – I Love doing yoga inversion!

Lessons learned and final thoughts…
There are several paths to take to get to the same finish line.  There is no one right path to take.  There is only a right way for each of us.  The cookie cutter training plan will only get you so far.  Learning how to listen to your body and know the kind of training you enjoy and works for your body is one of the keys I believe to being a successful triathlete.  A successful triathlete doesn’t necessary have to mean fast.  Success in my book means enjoying what you are doing, learning, and staying injury free. 

Even big girls want to make their moms proud.  Growing up, the youngest of 12 kids, my parents weren’t able to attend very many of my track and cross country meets.  The first time my mom saw me complete a triathlon was IM Wisconsin in 2012.  For her to come all the way to Hawaii to see the race was a very big deal.  One of the things I wanted to do was make her proud.  The first thing she said to me after the race while hugging me was, “Shell, you are my champion and you have always been my champion.”  

Triathletes have a higher pain tolerance…it has been proven.  Obviously, my husband and boys aren’t triathletes.  After we made our way back to our hotel room about an hour after the race Lee says to me, “Man, my butt is so sore!”  I looked at him must be kidding…you didn’t just say that to me.  He had ridden a max of 10 miles on a bike that day.  A few of the boys were saying the same thing.  I can quote one of them on our way to dinner that night with this…”I think I’m getting sore from all that biking today”.  He was serious too!!  They can skate for 8 hours a day and have no issues, but put them on a bike for an hour and you would think they had been doing some hard core manual labor in the heat and sun all day. 

If you’re a triathlete and love watching the World championship race then you need to start planning a trip to Kona during race week to take in the festivities.  The 2 hour NBC broadcast doesn’t do the race and race week justice.  From everything from the Underpants run, to swimming out to the coffee boat, to eating at Lava Java, and cheering on the athletes running down Ali drive.  The atmosphere is electric and amazing!  I kept it very low key race week.  Last year Lee and I took in all of those festivities so this year I was able to get all my last minute training done when others weren’t around and spent my time relaxing and avoided the expo and Ali Drive race week.

I’m not searching anymore…I’ve hit my mountain top.  I’ve had a great climb.  This journey is over for me and now it’s time to find the next mountain to climb.  I’ve learned through this climb I really can do anything.  WE all can!  We have to believe way down deep we are capable, we are worthy, and we are willing to put in the work. Life is way too short to keep hitting the repeat button each year.  

Moms are always in the role of taking care of everyone and everything.  I want to tell all the moms out there that it’s ok to put yourself first once in a while.  When we do this we are teaching our kids valuable lessons about taking care of others when they need to be taken care of.  Life doesn’t revolve around them and sometimes the giving of ourselves can be more important than receiving.  

Anyone can have their “IM”…it just requires believing in yourself no matter what.  No matter what your dream is – learning to play an instrument, climb a mountain, or run your first 5K- you need to start with a goal and then keep working hard to get there.  

Dream big dreams, set goals, and be a hard worker!

I had really big goals leading into this race.  My belief is you shoot for the highest star in the sky and if you miss you are still in outer space and that is still really quite amazing.  I believe we all need to take risks, put ourselves out there and share our passion with others. 

The Power of the mind…

Ghandi says…”Your beliefs becomes your thoughts.  Your thoughts become your words.  Your words become your habits. Your habits become your values.  Your values become your destiny”
What’s next…
I love being physically active and my favorite activity is running. I’m thinking I’ll do another ultra-marathon this spring/summer.  I want to heal my hamstring 100% over these next weeks or months.  Then I’ll start working toward running a qualifying time for the 2016 marathon Olympic trials.  I see they have lowered the time qualification by a few minutes from the 2012 Olympic trials, but I’m up for the challenge.
My new bike!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

IM World Championship Race Report

Post race...still smiling

The race…

So much to say about the days, weeks, and months leading up to this one day, but this blog entry will be about the race day.  I’ll have a blog entry for the before and the after…still to come later.
The boys and I in front of the IM sign with all the participants name.

Friday (day before the race):  I had planned to get a short swim, bike, and run in that morning, but ended up deciding I would completely rest instead.  Anything I did today would be more for my head than my body and I was all set with the metal game.  Actually, the mental game was the one thing I was looking forward to the most about the race.  I’m truly fascinated with the mind/body connection.  There is so much more to racing than swimming, biking, and running.  Huge gains can be made through mental training and learning more about the power of nutrition.
All my gear and bags organized and ready to go
After the race wheels were put on Wednesday I took it out for a short spin to make sure Black Beauty was all set.  There had been no running since Monday.  Running has been very minimal since I had the MRI done on my hip/hamstring after the 70.3 race in Vegas.  There isn’t anything major wrong I just have inflammation I need to take care of which is on the To Do list after Kona.

On my way to rack my bike Friday afternoon.  I waited until the last minute when it would be quieter.
I had a nice big breakfast with Lee and the boys about 9am – 2 eggs, 2 Gluten free pancakes with coconut syrup, and 2 slices of sourdough bread with fresh jam.  I snacked on a PR bar, banana and coconut water around lunch time.  Dinner was early around 5.  I picked up food from Island Naturals’ hot deli which was a chicken breast and mashed potatoes.  I was in bed by 7, but really didn’t sleep too much at all.

My favorite place to get food in Kona.  Here and Lava Java.

Nutrition: I changed my nutrition plan somewhat from IMoo.  One thing I needed to do was stay on top of my hydration and taking in calories – especially on the bike or I would more than likely be walking the marathon. For the first time ever I sucked down a GU peanut butter from T1 to my bike.  On my bike I had water in my aero bottle which I planned to refill at the aid stations on the course.  On my down tube I had Extreme Hydro-X. It’s a new product I started using this summer and I REALLY like it.  I highly recommend it to others.  In my bento box I had Cytromax energy drops (orange) which I love too.  Also, in my bento box I had MAP (master amino pattern) and Hammer Electrolyte tabs.  Taped to my top tube were 5 GUs…an assortment of flavors.  Also, I shoved an EFS liquid shot in my top out of T1 and had one velcro in behind my aero bottle.  Each of those had 400 calories.  In total I had about 1900 calories on my bike.  I had a little more than I would probably take in just in case I was out there longer than anticipated.  I did put a few things in my special needs bags, but I never stopped to get anything from either one of my bags on the bike or run.  I would try to take in calories every 15 minutes and around the top of each hour do 3 MAP and a few electrolyte tabs.  There is new research out which says we really don’t need the electrolyte tabs, but whether it’s in my head (a placebo affect) or not I like the reassurance.  Especially racing in Hawaii.  
Race day nutrition

I ended the bike with all of my MAP, electrolytes, EFS liquid shots, and Cytromax drops gone.  I’m not a huge fan of GU so I only managed two of them.  The bike penalty was probably a blessing in disguise because I took full advantage of the 4 minutes off my bike by grabbing a bottle of coke and two waters on my way to the tent.  In there I was able take in additional nutrition and hydration, apply more sunscreen, do some stretching, and even pee on the side of the road.  I didn’t even care the tent was full of other races and there was no privacy…just the lava fields.  For those interested…that was the only time I went to the bathroom the whole race.

Race Morning:  I like to get up about 2:30 am and have a bigger breakfast and then go back to sleep.  I had two sandwiches at 2:30am…sourdough bread with sunflower butter and jam was one and the other was sourdough bread with sunflower butter, sliced banana, and honey.  I was able to go back to sleep for a little longer and then my alarm went off for the second time at 3:55.  I had coffee and a PR and slowly and methodically went through my list. I remember Lee asking me if I was nervous and I remember thinking I wasn’t at all.  I felt very calm and I felt was on auto pilot in a way.  I had created a list with times and everything I had to do.  Sometimes I believe people get nervous because they aren’t prepared or they are uncertain about what is to come.  I was prepared and I was prepared for a variety of different obstacles which may come my way – both good and bad.   

I left the room by 4:35.  We were lucky to be staying at the King Kam hotel which is the headquarters for the IM and the same location for the start/finish, T1, and T2.  It was so convenient for me all week and for Lee and the boys the day of the race.  

I made my way through body marking, getting weighed, and all the way to my bike.  Everything went very smoothly.  I was 7 pounds lighter than a year ago at IM Wisconsin.  One of the areas I really worked on the last 5 weeks leading up to this race was my nutrition.  I didn’t eat any gluten or any type of junk food.  It is absolutely amazing to me the power of food.  I know I’ve said this before in my blog, but nutrition really is the 4th disciple.  Being as lean as possible on this course can really pay off.  
Hanging out with Scott Poteet at the swim entry before the race.

I knew the swim was going to be brutal.  There were over 2,000 people who started the swim.  I was one of the first people to get in the water.  I wanted to be toward the front and the middle.  I told myself…3 minutes…You can handle 3 minutes of pure physical swimming.  My thinking was – go as fast as you can for 3 minutes and then it will settle down. For someone where water isn’t second nature the swim can be terrifying.I would have put me in this group until about 6 months ago when I attended the Total Immersion swim camp in Kona.  I learned more about swimming in the ocean and how to relax in the water in a week than I have learned in 10 years.  I’m so glad Jennifer Imsande invited me to take lessons from David Cameron in Minneapolis over the winter and did the swim camp with me.  Those skills I learned not only helped me for this race, but have changed how I view swimming and how much I enjoy swimming in the open water.

While treading water out there I hear a guy ask…”Can I hold on here too”…there were huge orange buoys were the starting line was which I was holding on with one hand.  I said sure and looked over to see the guy was Hines Ward.  Very cool:)

I started getting cold in the water waiting for the race to start.  Since I was one of the first to get in the water it was probably about 20 minutes of treading water before the race started.  The canon fired and we were off.  I took one stroke and my goggles were full of water.  Someone’s hand had hit my strap and they filled with water.  I kept swimming debating what to do.  My eyes started to burn from the salt water so for a quick second I stopped to dump the water out and got back to work.  Not a good time to stop at all – even if it’s for one second.  There was a point in the swim where I thought…I have a bloody nose and there was another point I thought…yep, I’m gonna have a black eye…and another point I thought…oh my goodness I’m going to vomit from the kick to the gut.  It was crazy, brutal, and something I never want to do again or at least until I’m in the 70+ age category and I’m in the back just taking my time.

I was thrilled to get out of the water and see the clock say 1:09.  The swim was hard for me, not the actual swimming part…I didn’t get tired or feel I was out of breath.  The hard part for me was staying calm and not letting all the commotion of all the bodies and arms and legs get the best of me.  I did very little sighting.  I kept my head down.  The view from under the water seemed calmer than the view from above.  When I would look up to sight it just looked like pure ciaos to me, so I tried to keep my head down and stay relaxed as much as possible.  Finding feet, staying relaxed and just keep swimming were a few of my swim goals.  I had to remind myself a few times when I was drafting to just stay in the draft zone.  It is so much easier swimming in someone else s draft that I would think…I can swim faster than this and I would slide out to pass only to realize they are going as fast as I would go so I would slip back in behind them and save my energy for the bike and the run.  

T1 went great…very smooth.  I had gone through the whole race in my head so many times that when the day finally came I really didn’t have to think I just flowed.  I knew the course almost as good as I knew the Wisconsin course.  There were no surprises.  I knew the landmarks and picked them off one by one on the way out and did the same on the way back….airport, cemetery, donkey crossing, scenic overlook, ….

I had prepared for the mental toll the wind can have on a racer.  Race day was the best conditions I have ever biked in on the Queen K.  On the climb up to Hawi I was able to take in nutrition and hydration which usually is almost impossible with the wind blowing from several different directions.  The crazy thing about the Kona bike course is you can get a headwind in both directions.  So the earlier you can get out on the course and get back the less wind you will have to deal with since the mornings are calmer than the afternoons.  I pushed the bike hard on the way out of town because I knew what we would be facing on the way back and sure enough the last 25 miles into town was tough.  I tried to relax and stay aero and just keep pedaling.  Slowly each of the landmarks would come into view and finally over the horizon I could see the airport.  From the airport to T2 is less than 10 miles.
What I love about this pic is the angle of my head.  This was on the climb uphill with the wind just blowing.  I love riding bike!

Gadgets…I don’t race with power.  I have a power meter and will use it in training.  Not every single training ride, but for many rides I do.  For me, I enjoy training on perceived rate of exertion.  In my opinion, too many athletes are holding themselves back with all the gadgets they use for tracking and don’t listen to their body.  These gadgets are great tools, but they are just that – tools.  The mental training is more powerful than any power file will ever tell you.  When it comes to IM racing and it gets dark out there and lonely – which it will – you are the only one who can pull yourself out of the darkness and forge ahead.  You have to have strategies to be able to dig deep and believe in yourself no matter what.  

For races…I race against myself and try to push the envelope each time.  The challenge I was looking for was with me and seeing how far I could push myself and would I have what it takes to keep moving forward.  Viewing the race as a completion with myself rather than a competition with the other racers was very calming and relaxing to me.  I’ve learned through training I can push the bike hard and still run good off the bike. On the run I have a watch and I keep track to some extent my pace per mile, but once again I’m running on feel.  

The drafting penalty…not much to say about this…I disagree with the call, but it is what it is.  There were so many packs of guys that flew by me.  The call came right after I had missed a water bottle at the aid station and was out of water for about 30-40 minutes so maybe it was meant to be.  I was able to get water and have a break off my bike before getting back on and pushing the last 25 miles into the wind.

As soon as I got off my bike and made my trip around the pier to T2 I thought…there is no way I’m going to be able to run a marathon.  As soon as that thought entered my head I quickly replaced it with….race your race and be patience…You’ll find your legs.  

In T2 I put compression sleeves on, my socks, and shoes.  While I was doing this I had BioFreeze in my bag and one of the volunteers was smearing this all over my quads and hamstrings.  They also wrap an ice cold towel around your neck.  I have to say the volunteers are absolutely amazing!  So organized and nice.  

I saw Lee and the boys right out of T2 and the look on a few of their faces was…mom…you are really far back. I think they were used to seeing me race at IM Wisconsin  were I got off the bike and there was only a handful of women in front of me and they were all pros.  This race is different…everyone is fit and everyone is fast.  Qualifying and racing here is an honor in itself.  Anything and everything on top of that is like the cherry on a sundae – not needed but it does make it look pretty. 

Riley took this picture and I just love it!  Its about mile 7-8 of the marathon and only the second time I seen the boys on the course.  I still had a big smile at this point.
I’ve ran several marathons and I know it’s a long way to run and so many things can happen and change in 26.2 miles.  I kept saying to myself…race your race, be patient, just keep on keeping on.  I felt I kept getting stronger the longer the race went on.  I was able to overcome a few bad patches and focused on getting from one aid station to the next.  We were very lucky for the most part of the marathon the sun had disappeared and been replaced with overcast skies.

My original goal was to run a lot faster than a 3:20, so part of me is disappointed with my time.  But, on this day, with these conditions, and where my body (hamstring) was at this was the best marathon time I could put together.  I never walked, I never gave up on myself, and I never let negativity win on the course.  My nutrition was spot on so I really have no reason to be disappointed. 
Ali drive...what a thrill!

The finish line was so much fun!  I was high fiving random people and loving every second.  Turning onto Ali Drive and seeing the big bunion tree brought tears to my eyes.  I have dreamt of this one day this one race for so many years and now here I was running down the street with so many people clapping and cheering.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  We all have dreams and no matter how big or how small or how silly or crazy they may seem to others they are our dreams and we all can make them a reality through hard work, disciple, and sacrifices.  Just because we grow up and become moms and dads doesn’t mean our dreams are no longer important.  If anything I want to be an example to my boys to keep on living life and inspiring others to do the same no matter what your age.  

Keep dreaming, keep setting goals, and keep working hard.  Life is WAY too short to just keep going through the motions.  This race has been a long journey and I have learned more about myself than I ever would have thought.  I have no plans for future triathlons until I’m a great Grandma going for the age group win in the 70+ category.  
Being on stage with these other amazing women was a real treat.  They were all so nice!

I’ll do another blog about my training, tapering, plans for after the race very soon, and all the wonderful people who made the day go as wonderful as it did.
TEAM ANDRES post race in Kona.