Monday, June 22, 2015

And so it goes...Ironman Cairns 2015 & Kona Qualifying.

The Race- Ironman Cairns 2015
In April, I was talking to Thorsten Radde of about my plan for Kona qualifying and told him that I would race Ironman Cairns in hopes of getting the last few points that I need. He said, "that sounds good, but statistically, you're "due" for a bad race."  I thought this was a very German response! Wow, how blunt! How very Thorsten :). I quickly dismissed him and went about my business of training harder than ever for Ironman Cairns.

Turns out that (attempted) Ironman #14 for me was the race that wasn't. It all started off well...

We swam in Palm Cove in beautiful Cairns, Australia. The swim was choppy and windy. In all honesty I was terrified of the conditions based on a hectic pre-race swim where I was going nowhere except downcurrent the wrong way. Turns out, all my swim training should have given me a bit more confidence.  I ended up posting by best ever Ironman swim split (58 minutes), but most importantly, was just behind girls I consider to be "better" swimmers. Statistically, I am sure they are. But statistics don't matter, do they? Anyhow, the first half of the swim, I hung on the main pack while Gina Crawford and Liz Blatchford were somewhere off the front. During the second half, the chop increased and we swam upcurrent. I lost a little bit of time as my group disbanded, but not a lot.

Onto the bike I was in a strong position. I wasn't feeling great to be honest. Actually, I was feeling low after what felt like an uphill battle in the swim, but in Ironman, all you have to do is look at your Garmin and give yourself "X" amount of minutes to re-assess, eat, and *hopefully* come good. So, I went about it. I got a split saying that I was 5 minutes from the lead. 5 minutes?!?! That's good for me at this point of the race! Excellent motivation, I pedaled harder. I was a few miles from the turn around in Port Douglas when my rear tire went flat. I stayed calm, filled it with Pitstop, and continued on. All seemed good. For about 10 miles. Then it went flat again. Time to change it. No big deal. After I changed it, the fatal error was clear: The valve stem plus valve extender combo I had included in my flat kit looked long enough, but in fact, just wasn't. In the end, I came about 1 cm short of being able to continue my race. You see, the little end stuck out of the tire rim, but not far enough to attach an inflator and get air in the tire. Eventually, a motorcycle pulled over (not tech support) and radio'd for tech. This was good news! Bad news, after 20 minutes more waiting, no tech had arrived. I was given the option to take my wheel to the standing tech support back in Port Douglas to get some help, but the outside support would mean I had to hand in my chip and resign from the race. So, off I went. The tech couldn't get air in either so they lent me a wheel to pedal home as I was about 45 miles from the finish.
exhibit A

My race had ended, but I had seen Luke in the lead. It was my turn to cheer him on and dammit he better do well after my fiasco (Especially since he had put together my flat kit and taped it to my bike....but now, lesson learned, I need to and should be responsible for my own equipment). Back to town I pedaled just in time to see him get off the bike and start the marathon with a TWELVE minute lead. Needless to say, the next 2 hours and 57 minutes were very exciting and in the end, HE WON! And lucky me, got to greet my fiancé at the finish line with our daughter. (Oh yeah, FIANCÉ! That's a story for a different blog post. Can't mix joy and pain!) But one quick picture:

got engaged to my people on the beach at Green Island! 
So really, who am I to complain? And so it goes....
best moments

memories for a lifetime

The Road to Kona as a Woman 

Ok, I said I had no reason to complain. And I don't. Luke winning the race, having an incredible trip with our families, and getting engaged made it absolutely impossible to sulk after this DNF. But, I need to include a little discussion (okay, monologue) from my perspective after spending the year after giving birth racing Ironmans to get to the pinnacle of the sport, Kona, the Ironman World Championships. I have raced well. I had a "warm up" race at Ironman Malaysia 4 months after giving birth and came 5th, nothing world championship-worth calibur, but a good start. Two months later, in 9:04, I came 4th at Ironman Western Australia w/ a new run course record of 2:58. In the results, I was sandwiched between two Kona podium finishers, Liz Blatchford and Yvonne Van Vlerken. Three months after that, I finished 5th at the Ironman Asia Pacific Championships in 9:05, again with the fastest run and not far off (or ahead of) World Champions and podium finishers. (During this time, I also placed 2nd and 5th at 70.3s and scored some more points).

If I were a man, this would have been enough. End of story. After Ironman Melbourne, with my 4,515 points, I could have said, Ahhhhhh....time to rest, re-assess, and plan my build to Ironman Hawaii like a true professional. But alas, I am a woman. Women have 35 slots to the Ironman World Championships and men have 50. There are more men that compete as professionals, hence the arbitrary allocation of fewer slots. However, in the past 10 years, the depth of the women's field has increased dramatically and in my opintion, the top 100 women and top 100 men are completely comparable. Because of this parity, women compete more fiercely and frequently to get to Kona.

The result? Well, if you look at me and Luke (he doesn't mind, he sees what I am going through and is my biggest supporter), you can see. Luke has laid low this year, racing less than I because he had a well-deserved top 15 in Kona last year which gave him a start on his points. He earned that ability to race less. However, after his win in Ironman Cairns, I still have 25 more points than him from my racing, but our current situations are very different.

As a man, he can rest, plan, and get ready to make a damn good show in Kona.

As a woman, I need to spend more time, more money, and more physical energy getting myself to another Ironman start line this summer (and by the way, there are no more US Ironmans for pros in July/ cha-ching! ) . There is no room for bad luck or a bad race if you are racing as a woman.

What will be the result? Well, I hope to get to Kona! But if I do get there? Well, I plan on doing darn well, and I wouldn't continue trying if I didn't think I could. But, can we say that Luke and I will have had equal opportunities for preparation? After racing well in three Ironmans, is it in my best interest to do a 4th Ironman if I want to do well in Kona? Would it at least be fair to women to see if an equal playing field would change the dynamics of the Kona race? Can Andrew Messick, CEO of Ironman, really believe that women are making more money in the sport (As he said on Bob Babbit's podcast) when we must SPEND more money to get to all these races and in the end the sponsorship dollars still go to the men? Look at Bahrain 13. A very exciting triathlon team that financially supports 10 men and 3 women. Yes, I'm sure women must be making more money in the sport! Especially when some of must choose to take a minimum of a year off to start a family, then attempt to return to the unknown, often with fewer sponsors and definitely much less sleep ;). Yes, us chicks have it EASY!

Anyway, this is not my complaint. I CHOOSE to do this and I'm excited about continuing to chase my dream. I am not trying to rant, but I do want to build awareness about why I believe there should be 50 women at the Ironman World Championships. There are other ways that I could make some money in this sport, but my goal right now is to compete with the best in the world because I believe I can. And I hope sooner than later, we have 50 women on that start line who are just as fresh and ready to fight as those 50 men.

So what's next? Not quite sure yet, but I believe there will be another Ironman in the next 2 months. Yee Haw!

Thank you to all of my sponsors and supporters along this road. I am so very lucky.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The almost-breaking point aka When the f&%k is taper?!?

Here we are, two weeks out from Ironman Cairns 2015. Although I had a serious buildup to Ironman Melbourne in March, Ironman Cairns has been the big goal for both Luke & I for the first half of 2015. It's actually the first race we have trained for together since Ironman Cairns 2013 when we first started dating! It's been a "fun", intense, and at times daunting buildup. Luke (who coaches both himself and me), has a "leave no stone unturned" type of training philosophy.
post a  "no stone unturned" day of time trials on Fiesta Island w/ Scott DeFillipis and Carrie Lester
work work work
I'm pretty sure we will both reach the start line feeling as though we could have done no more in preparation. Because in reality, we both just reached the point where we literally could do no more. Not quite a "breaking point", but definitely "Is it taper time yet? When the f&^% does this taper start?"
Massive training creates massive laundry. Good thing Wynne folds it all! 

The past few weeks have been mostly a training blur with a few fun stops along the way. May gray (the struggle is real- an endless fog on the Southern California coast) was getting us down in San Diego, so we headed out to the Palm Desert for a few days of sunshine and open roads. Although escaping May gray was a bonus, the actual reason for our trip was to get some uninterrupted training on open roads perfect for time trialing. San Diego is awesome, but it's hard to lay down a good TT session without stops.
Plotting a big loop through Joshua tree national park
roads for days
Heading to the desert mid-week during the off-season is also super affordable, so you can get a nice little vacation only 2-hours drive from home. May has also been chock full of coaching. Most of my athletes who hibernated through the winter (or laid down big endurance bases) are now edging up on race season and are within that 12-week window of their "A" race. Nearly all of my athletes have an Ironman on the schedule this year (with two first-timers!) which makes coaching both exciting and intricate. With athletes who have full-time jobs and kids and travel, the training needs to be juuuuuuust right as to give them the fitness they need to execute their best race while still remaining sane and remembering that this is a hobby they do for joy. Anyway, I love this time of year because we are all so focused on that big race and putting the big training puzzle together towards Ironman Day is one of my favorite things to do. It also gives me an excuse to sit on the couch and  "work" while Luke plays daddy day care on occasion, which is a recovery bonus for me.

On Memorial Day, we also celebrated one year with our little person! Wynne's first birthday called for a fiesta, so we had a fun bunch of little and big people over for Mexican food, margaritas, and milk (for the wee ones). It has truly been an incredible year.
Wynne's first bike- a SCOTT, of course
Wynne has changed our lives (for the better) so much and it's been awesome to grow as a little family. Lots of people have said, "Wow! Time flies!" And I'm like, really? Times flies? This has been the longest year of my life! I feel like flying to Europe last summer with my 5-week old baby was decades ago. We've visited 11 countries and 5 continents with Wynne (including 2 trips to Australia with our 3rd coming up next week). I have trained for and finished 3 Ironmans and coming up on number 4. We became grown-ups: We started college savings accounts, beefed up retirement accounts, and as of today, we are homeowners! We fell in love with a house in an amazing location in Sunshine Beach, Australia and though we won't be living there full-time, it will be a great place to land when we are there and we think it is (hopefully) a good investment. It also has a separate self-contained apartment downstairs that we will be able to rent out which is exciting. So, it's been a long year, but a damn good one. I wouldn't change a thing (except possibly get a bit more sleep and invent a day care section of the plane on long-haul flights).
A 2-mile trail run from our new place in Sunshine Beach, Australia
That's all I got for now. Looking forward to hopping on the big bird to Australia in two days! Ironman Cairns, here we come!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

St. George 70.3 2015

It's been a big week! Two big things happened:

Luke & I raced the US 70.3 Pro Championships in St. George, Utah and we announced the Island House Invitational Triathlon.

Snow Canyon, St. George, UT. Photo: Ian Matteson | ENVE

First, the race! Initially, I wasn't going to add St. George 70.3 to my race calendar. Five weeks after Ironman Melbourne, I thought I may still be in a funk or just building back. Facing off against the world's best half ironman athletes within that time frame just wasn't something I was sure about. Let's be honest, half ironman racing has not historically been my strength. I need an entire marathon to catch people. I don't do my best by going fast, I do my best by not slowing down. So, the OG plan was that Luke was going to race and I was going to spectate with Wynne. Somewhere in our talks, however, Luke pointed out that since St. George was 6 weeks out from Ironman Cairns (our next big race), if I was not racing, I'd have to put in a really big training weekend in St. George. That would be logistically harder on us as a team, especially considering Wynne. So, I decided to go the race route and knew I would gain some valuable fitness from racing, without having to put in a monster weekend far from home. Once I committed, I fully committed and got excited! I love the challenging conditions and terrain in St. George and hoped I could improve upon my 24th place pro performance from 2013 (race report here). 3rd times a charm!

My dad, Jeff, decided to make the trip with us, which made this entire trip so much easier as he was the designated Wynne sherpa and super gramps. This left Luke & I to focus on the job at hand.
Wednesday prior to race day, we went out for a final spin in California and Luke unfortunately went down hard in a crash. I had to go home & get the car to come get him and things looked sub-optimal, but we proceeded with the trip and took things day-by-day. Dan from SRAM came big to the rescue and fixed Luke's bike which was not a small job.  On Thursday, Luke was worse (really sore wrist, adductor, & back) and I even told a couple of friends that there was "no way" he would be racing. We went on a spin together and he couldn't keep up with me riding 100 watts. Uh Oh. But, over the next two days, things improved remarkably and he actually made it to the start line. This made me super happy as we certainly didn't travel to St. George just for me to race. I must say, I was less than confident that he had returned to top condition, but in the end he proved me wrong and still came 8th place overall in a ridonculous field. #proudgirlfriend

Road Trip!
Bike Check-In with my wingman. Photo: Sue Hutter
They didn't check her athlete bracelet
Ok, on to my race.
Race morning.

The swim (1.2 miles)
In 2013, I swam 29:12. In 2015 I swam 30:33. So, about 22k of swimming average per week for 104 weeks will net me negative 45 seconds of a swim. No, honestly, my swim was similar to 2013. Similar to 2013, I swam with a pack of girls (6 or 7) and actually felt I had a solid swim. Swim courses and conditions are always different, so it is very hard to compare year-to-year.

The Bike (56 miles)
Onto the bike in 2013, I was promptly dropped by all 6 or 7 of those women and rode myself into the DFL region of the field. In 2015, the opposite happened. I rode with a few of the girls in the beginning miles, but then opened up a gap and began closing in on those in front of me. It took all the way until snow canyon (the bigass climb at mile 40-ish) to catch any other girls, but from that point on, I caught and passed three more women before hitting T2. Those of you who have known me for a while know that those last couple sentences I wrote would have never come out of my mouth prior to this year. My old "best case scenario" was not to be passed by "too many" girls on my bike and to minimize my losses. So, it's a darn good feeling to finally feel like I can ride a bike. I came into T2 with a bike split 8 minutes faster than in 2013 (the course is slightly different, but it was a relatively huge improvement).
Photo: Ian Matteson | ENVE

I know that I'm riding a lot better thanks to coach Luke, but I also have the utmost confidence that I am on the fastest equipment out there. My Endura skinsuit- what can I say- I can literally feel the wind gliding around me, I didn't know you could "feel" aero-ness, but you can. My Scott Plasma 5/ SRAM Red is the perfect bike for me and goes perfectly with the ENVE 4.5s I chose for this race (great climbing wheels and handle really well in windy conditions).

The Run (13.1 miles)
I was pretty sure I came into T2 somewhere around 10th or 11th place and thought just maaaaybe with a solid run I could squeak into the top 10, but I didn't really know what was going on up the road. I committed to running my best and just went out with a smile to do some work. I saw Linsey Corbin exit a couple of minutes ahead of me, but I typically don't put any time into Linsey on the run as she's one of the best in the sport. Ahead of her turned out to be Mirinda Carfrae, who well, IS the sport's best runner. No one else was even in striking distance. I also knew that behind me would be super runners like Lisa Roberts and Ruth Brennan Morrey so I had to charge strong all day.
St. George didn't bring the heat as it usually does and I was really comfortable in my skinsuit and felt I could run without wasting time/energy on heat management. The course is incredibly hilly, so I never look at my splits on the uphills. I never really looked at all during St. George because the up/down nature doesn't ever give you a full picture of what is going on if you just look at mile splits.
Wow, really? Running a 1:25 on a hilly course is supposed to look WAY prettier than this! Photo: Sue Hutter 
I ran strong but not all out on the uphills and then turned on the afterburners and charged down every hill like a crazy person. I am not a great uphill runner (though I look like I'd be alright), but I am serious about my downhills. I can get myself to go to that complete point where you nearly lose control in every step and I love it! Since I've been running in Hokas (I race in the Clifton), downhill running has been even more amazing as I really can't even feel the ground or any pounding below me. It turns out that Linsey was having a tough day and I was able to pass her around mile 7, but I didn't make any real inroads after that. I ended up in a no-mans land and just kept running to hold my position, which turned out to be 9th! I ran 4 minutes faster than in 2013 and crossed the finish, elated to be in the top 10 in this kind of field. I noticed at the finish line that every woman who had beaten me holds multiple 70.3 and Ironman titles and I really felt like the first mere mortal to finish in their company.

Looking back, I am annoyed at myself that I ever considered not racing St. George 70.3 because I didn't feel I was good enough in that type of field. No, I am not now the world's best 70.3 racer, but I need to give myself credit, just in actually deserving to be there and give it a shot, rather than always write it off as "I'm not good at this distance". Finishing 9th in the US Champs, 2nd in Phillipines 70.3 and 5th in Pucon 70.3 so far in 2015 tells me that maybe I should actually keep these halves in the rotation, because, well, they're about a million times more fun than racing Ironman, you can recover quickly, and I can actually make a little bit of money doing it!

Post-race Feed... Is Luke flossing with that fork or just suuuper into his Lumberjack Slam? 

Ack, I thought I'd get to the Island House Invitational, but this post is already long enough. I'll save that one for later this week. In the meantime, please check out the website:

Photo: Sue Hutter

Thank you again to my Dad for being an amazing and helpful grandpa and to all of my sponsors and supporters for letting me do what I do. This has me REALLY excited for Ironman Cairns- just 5 weeks to go!
Photo: Ian Matteson | ENVE

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Back on the "grind"

We flew home from Ironman Melbourne (race recap here) soon after the race, so I was forced to do the airport waddle a few times and hold up my flight companions as I shuffled slowly down the jetway. Back home in California, it took a few days to get back on schedule. Something about flying WEST is easy and flying back EAST is a total nightmare, yes?

Once we were back on track, we settled into the home life I love. Training in north county San Diego is a happy habit for me and I love knowing every nook and cranny of my training grounds. The first couple weeks home, all the old routes feel new again and I love catching up with my friends and just getting down to business.
Backyard BBQs at home are always a highlight
cruising the home turf
Two of my athletes came down from LA for the weekend for some riding with coach and some technique lessons in the Endless Pool. Lucky girls got Luke as a guest coach
Wheelbarrows at RU Sports Performance Center are good for shoulder & core strength. Wynne likes getting back to her strength routine.
After a couple weeks of solid work, we headed down to Nassau, Bahamas for the opening of The Island House , a new boutique hotel and one of our major sponsors. 
Our "job" for the week was to train with other Island House athletes and explore the new hotel and restaurants. Yes, really. For about two seconds it alllllllmmmmmoooooost felt like work when the travel got over 12 hours each way (delays, layovers, etc), but really.. wah wah wah, right?

A quick note on travel for all you new parents out there: TRAVEL BEFORE THEY ARE MOBILE! We went to a bazillion countries before Wynne was six months old. Although my new mommy stress levels were much higher back then, it was absolutely easier than it is flying with her now. Little tiny newborns sleep A LOT and they DON'T MOVE. These things are key to a long haul flight! On the other hand, a 10-month old who wants to crawl on every dirty disgusting surface, pull the hair of the travelers in the seats in front of her, and throw food everywhere within a 5-row vicinity is NOT so easy. Basically, now I just prepare myself for war before every flight and mentally get ready to meet every demand of the tiny terrorist for the next 6, 8, 10 hours in order to keep the peace on the plane.
prepared to answer this one on the flying machine
OK, back to "work" in the Bahamas. We were able to train with several of the Island House triathletes including Tim Don, Leon Griffin, and Barrett and Lauren Brandon. We put in some brutal heat sessions as well as some "this is training?" Ironman-length ocean swims in perfect turquoise water. All-in-all, it was a successful training and yes, relaxing, trip.
Killer track session. No man left standing at the end of that one!
Nassau Riding
Someone approves of the Island House tub. Mom approved of the rain shower that was directly behind it.
Now, we're back in California for the next 7 weeks with the exception of a 4-day drive to St. George, Utah for the U.S. 70.3 Pro Championships next weekend. Luke & I are both racing and both excited to return to this challenging course in majestic southern Utah- can't wait to see the red rocks of Snow Canyon. St. George was my first-ever Ironman in 2010 (blog post here..oh wow, I wrote 5 blog posts about that? sorry. This link is to the last one). Anyway, I always get that nostalgic first-time feeling going back. Can't wait! 
St. George 70.3 2013

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Ironman Melbourne 2015- Asia Pacific Championship

Before the down and dirty, I want to give a few personal Thank-you's that don't get lost at the end of a too-long race report :)

Thank you SO very much to the race organization and team- Ironman Melbourne is as top-notch and first class as they come. The event team is so very helpful and supportive of the pros and age-groupers alike, and to me, racing in Asia-Pacific feels like home because of this amazing team. Thank you always to Luke for... everything, and to Nanna Vicki for coming along for the ride and looking after Wynne the entire Melbourne trip.

Congratulations & Thank you to the deserving and inspiring four that beat me: Mel Hauschildt, Yvonne Van Vlerken, Caroline Steffen, and Äsa Lundstrom. Thank you to all the professional women that lined up and have influenced me daily in this sport with their passion, talent, and determination.

Ironman #13... check! 

OK... And.... we're off!

After a week of letting my thoughts on Ironman Melbourne marinate, here we go. The lead-up to this race was nothing short of perfect until 2 weeks out when (cue ominous music) I got Salmonella which I talked about in my last post.

Once race week arrived, I decided that I was in-fact going to race so I chased the negative thoughts out of my head and focused on the positives and can-dos. I knew I had already done nearly all of the work prior to getting sick and I just missed maybe a little topping off. Luke was quick to shut me up any time my confidence wavered (frequently) and tell me that I needed to change my mindset. He was right. We arrived in Melbourne on Thursday and by Friday I was able to do a few short (4, 3, 2, 1 minute) run efforts that re-convinced me I actually was capable of running faster than a 10-minute mile. I did everything I could to re-establish a healthy digestive system including taking probiotics & colostrum, drinking kombucha, and going completely dairy and gluten-free for race week to minimize inflammation. As the week went on, I began to feel great and like my old self. All systems go!

Logistically, Ironman Melbourne is rather difficult as it is a two transition race with a point-to-point marathon and most people get accommodations near the finish in St. Kilda. This means that you need to drive multiple trips to Frankston (T1) to drop your bike, attend pro meeting, etc and it takes about 1 hour to drive there (driving along the marathon course you realize it is a very long f$%^ing way to run!)  The logistics are handled extremely well by the Ironman race organization (The Asia-Pacific crew puts on a truly world-class premier event), but the logistics still take time. As an urban race, it often takes 15 minutes to drive just a few blocks, so plan accordingly.

Race day dawned and we were truly blessed (sorry, The Real Starky) by the weather gods. Melbourne is nothing short of a crapshoot for weather in late march (which is the end of Australian summer). You could get a blustery and rainy 50 degree day or a scorcher. Nobody knows. Race week had its ups-and-downs weather-wise (they say Melbourne is 4 seasons in a day and they are right), but race day was near perfect. Forecast was pretty much 75 and sunny although with a headwind for the entire point-to-point marathon. I was personally just thankful for calm seas and a warm morning and I thought the harder marathon conditions would benefit me as it wouldn't be easy peasy for anyone and might give me a few extra minutes to catch up if girls were running slower.

I had my standard GF pancakes with gobs of syrup for breakfast and chased it with a white chocolate blondie Harmony Bar in the car on the drive down to the race start. We arrived 90 minutes ahead which I think is perfect for Ironman. A bit excessive for some, but I like to leave time for any last minute emergencies and also my pre-race jog (about 15 minutes of my favorite songs on my Ipod, a few strides, and a lot of visualization). When all was racked and ready, I put on my brand new Blue Seventy Helix & Aquasphere Cayenne clear goggles and headed to the pro start.

The Swim - 2.4 miles - 1:00:22 (1:33/ 100 meters)
I've mentioned before that I get super nervous before swim start. The old, "Wait, why would anyone subject themselves to this?" feeling and bringing lambs to slaughter always enters my mind as we are corralled and waiting. However, I was near the ever-smiling Bree Wee who seemed super relaxed and was waving to cameras and things and that helped. I've been swimming really well (for me) lately and was hoping for a sub-1hr swim. The gun went off and we had to dolphin-dive about 10-15 times due to knee deep water extended for about 200m off the shore. I felt I had a pretty good start, but soon realized I had lost feet in front of me and was leading whatever group I was with. I didn't know who I was swimming with, so I couldn't make a judgment on if it was going well or not, I just focused on swimming strong out to the first turn buoys.
At Ironman Melbourne, the sight buoys and turn buoys are quite far apart. For age groupers, this is no big deal as there is a constant stream to follow. Also, for the lead pro men and women, no big deal as there is a lead paddleboarder to follow. However, 2nd packers in the pro field were definitely at a disadvantage here. After making the first two turns, my group turned into the sunlight to come back to shore and all the buoys in the distance seemed to line up oddly and we had NO idea which one to swim for. We ended up swimming back towards the wrong buoys until a jet ski finally came and corralled us to change direction. Unfortunately, we still couldn't see exactly where to go. After a lot of breaststroking and frustration, I just hopped on the feet of a girl who seemed to have more directional sense than me and trusted her feet. It turned out to be Äsa Lundstrum, and she helped navigate us back on course. Once we made the 3rd turn, sighting became easier and we worked to make up the time we had lost. Somewhere before that turn and slower group caught us when we got back on course and we became a pack of about 10 swimmers. So, I was bummed we made such an error, but relieved there was at least company and not all was lost in the race. We ended up exiting the swim in 1:00:22, just missing that hour cutoff. After the race, I was disappointed I missed my swim goal, but confident that if I hadn't made errors, the fitness to go under an hour was there. Also importantly, the wetsuit felt absolutely amazing and I couldn't be happier to be in the Helix. I think it is a game-changer for me as it is super flexible in all the right places and allows me to rotate well and keep my stroke. it almost feels like swimming without a wetsuit combined with all the benefits of swimming with a wetsuit. Ok. That makes no sense. Anyway, as this is already probably my longest swim report ever, I'll stop now.

T1: Wetsuit off. Helmet and glasses on. Roll out. 2:37 - pretty solid.

The Bike- 112 miles- 4:55:13 (WAHOO!) - 22.8 mph
The bike was a bit of a "choose your own adventure" for me (Remember those books?). I was constantly making decisions that could each impact my race and lead to different outcomes.
Photo: Adam Weathered
Problem-solving is key in Ironman and I tried to stay calm and make the best decisions throughout the day. I exited T1 about 30 seconds behind Mareen Hufe and Äsa Lundstrom, two strong girls known for their cycling prowess. I had made some totally amateur mistakes mounting my bike and then trying to get my feet in the shoes. The "old" me assumed that since they were 30 seconds up the road, they'd continue to pull away. I began to ride by my own watts and my perceived effort was quite comfortable. To my suprise, I was catching the girls. After about 5k, I was directly behind them and settled into a 12+ meter gap to ride with them. If felt quite easy (famous last words- that's the trap in the beginning of an Ironman!). After 15 minutes, I went to take a turn at the front thinking (who am I taking a turn with these girls? but I felt good and wanted to share the work). I continued to ride with Äsa and Mareen for the first 30 miles, but then they put little bits of time into me (especially on downhills, they just pulled away). I would catch back up on the uphills, but eventually, the space gap grew a bit. However, I still could see them, about 50 meters ahead.
Photo: First Off the Bike
At 35 miles, I had to make a big "choose your own adventure" decision. I dropped my key nutrition bottle which held 1200 valuable calories. I thought, " I can (A), leave the bottle and keep in contact with these girls, hopefully bridging back up, or (B) go get the bottle and lose sight of them. I actually chose (B) because I knew that the bottle would only take 20-30 seconds to retrieve, and I could lose much more time than that and possibly jeopardize my race by fiddling with getting enough on-course nutrition and wondering if it would settle well in my stomach. At the end of the day, I think I made the right call but you never know. Asa and Mareen put about 7 minutes into me by the end of the bike ride, so hopefully in the future I can learn how to stay with girls like this. After the dropped bottle episode I was really on my own. One legal-looking group of age group men passed me but I wasn't able to stay with them and pace off of them. For the last 70 miles, I just kept reminding myself to stay focused and aero. My personal goal was to break 5 hours (I have thought about this goal for MONTHS now) and lap one of the bike told me it was possible, coming in around 2:25. On lap two, the headwind out to the turnaround really picked up and I just stayed focused on trying to make it up to a couple girls ahead. I eventually caught Ashley Clifford, and then Mirinda Carfrae near the end of the bike, but it was all a struggle. My watts definitely dropped (by about 10-15) on the second lap and I just didn't feel super strong and like I had that Ironman endurance after being sick but I was happy with what I had done on the day. AND I BROKE 5 HOURS! I DID IT! Super thanks to coach Luke, Endura for the super fast skinsuit, and SRAM, ENVE, and Scott for the kickass & ridiculously fast bicycle.

I came off the bike in 9th place, ready to see what the run had in store for me.
Nutrition note: I ate 2000 calories on the bike. Yep, you read that right. 400 calories per hour, more than most giant men. This included: 
 1 Harmony Bar
12 Gu
1 pack Clif Bloks
2 big bottles of Gatorade. 
Most literature says you can only digest 250-350 calories per hour (which most people would think I'd be on the lower end of weighing 110 pounds). The funny thing is, I actually "ran out" of nutrition and wanted more. Especially another Harmony Bar. I think my secret to a good run is the amount of nutritional damage I can do on the bike and seemingly digest it all with no problems. I don't think I'm giving away my secret sauce though because I don't actually think most people are capable of ingesting like I can and if they tried it could ruin their race. See, scared you away, right? 

T2: Toss bike to lovely volunteer, Socks, Hoka Cliftons, fresh pair of Smith glasses, Garmin, Betty Trucker, and I'm out! 1:00 exactly.
exiting T2. Photo:
The Run- 26.2 miles- 3:05:56- 7:05 min/mile
The run was where I was most concerned my recent sickness would catch up with me as I hadn't done any substantial running in about 3 weeks except for the Subic Bay 70.3. But, as I clicked off the first 5k, my worries subsided. I was running really well, right on my goal pace, and it felt "easy". I passed a couple of girls and thought this could be my day to run a 2:55. That is, until about mile 5 when it got hard. All of a sudden, the easy pace felt like it required a lot of effort. I felt dehydrated, hungry, tired and slow. This all continued for about, oh, the next 21 miles.
Turning it over. Photo: Luke McKenzie
After mile 5, I never felt good. I just soldiered on, running what felt like a slow tempo pace, not the blazing marathon I was hoping for. It didn't help that Mirinda "Rinny" Carfrae ran about 100 meters behind me for a good 15 miles. Nobody likes the crazy fast running World Champ hot on their heels! Rinny never closed the gap (she's saving her fitness for the big day in October), but I also had difficutly closing the gap on any of the girls ahead of me after the first 10k. I was in 6th place for the vast majority of the run, making no moves forward or back. Luke was on his bike and would occasionally pop by to give encouragement or splits, but he didn't get the best version of me that day  :). I was grumpy and cranky and wanted to be done but he reminded me to never give up. At around 24 miles, Annabel Luxford had slowed dramatically as a day of racing off the front (in her first Ironman!) had caught up with her. I passed my friend and moved into 5th place.
The Giant party at mile 25 was definitely a highlight

I crossed the finish line and fell into Luke's arms (cheesy but true), so done with the day! I was very happy with 5th in this Championship race (there are just 5 Championship races per year and they have double the prize money and Kona points of most races, drawing exceptional fields). I also came close to my super secret goal of breaking 9 hours, with a 9:05. Guess that is more fuel for the fire!

Finally, thank you to my sponsors. I feel I have the very best team around me this year and I can't wait for more.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tour down under & over (& Subic Bay 70.3)

The past six weeks have been nothing short of crazy, awesome, and sometimes, honestly, just a total blur. Mid-February, we hopped the big bird back over to Australia to spend some time with Luke's family, get in a quality training block in Noosa, and check a few more of our 2015 races off the list.

Nearly as soon as we arrived in Australia, Luke hopped yet another big bird and flew 14hrs to Dubai to give a shot at the first jewel in the Triple Crown, Challenge Dubai. Challenge Dubai didn't pan out as Luke had hoped (too much travel maybe?), but while he was gone, I really learned to fend for myself (& Wynne) in Noosa which was a bonus. I finally bit the bullet and started driving on the left side of the road, and I studied maps and routes and ventured out to learn the lay of the land in the Noosa "hinterland" (a fancy Aussie way to say "inland").
Once Luke returned, we hit the training hard thanks to copious amounts of help from Grandma, Auntie Jacque and babysitter Danielle (Callum Millward's better half). Wynne was taken very good care of while mum & dad hit the daily grind and focused on doing the work. Aside from family, we also have a great support network of friends in Noosa that makes it feel like home. You seriously cannot go to one of the favorite coffee shops without bumping into a friendly face (and stopping to chat for an hour).
Wynne's in her happy place with Nanna & Pa

I had a very solid Ironman buildup in January & February in San Diego (some serious bike miles on the Coast Ride and lots of consistent training & run races following Pucon 70.3) that set me up for a final big block leading towards Ironman Melbourne. Training in Noosa was nothing short of  amazing and it's quite possibly rivaling Bend, OR as my favorite training locale in the world. In some ways Noosa beats Bend without question. For example, Noosa wins in the swimming department: Daily swims in a gorgeous 50 meter pool with an amazing swim squad and warm ocean waters with weekly group swims. But, although Noosa has one of the most beautiful runs in the world (Hells Gate in Noosa National Park), I vote Bend for running hands down over Noosa as Bend has endless trails, dirt roads, and several really good running tracks in town (Noosa has only a grass track that feels 'slow' to me). Riding is a toss-up between the two- both some of the best in the world with good variety (big climbs to long flat TT rides) from what I have seen.

Anyway, I completely fell in love with Noosa on this trip... Can't wait to get back already! It's definitely no surprise that so many professional triathletes call Noosa home (or 2nd home). While we were there, we got to train with so many incredible athletes (name drop alert) including Greg & Laura Bennett, Belinda & Justin Granger, Mirinda Carfrae & Tim O'Donnell, Canadian ITU star Kirsten Sweetland, Emma Snowsill (though retired she still calls herself a "rent-a-runner" to help us that need training buddies), Jan Frodeno, Jenny Fletcher, and Callum Millward. Siri Lindley was also basing her elite squad in Noosa and we got to hang with her short-course girls on some of the local group rides like the ever-ridiculously hard Tuesday World Champs. The day-to-day vibe in Noosa is "serious about training, and relaxed about life" Training is hard & life is easy in Noosa. Everyone is nice and cool, no pretenses, just hard work and loving life.
Sunday Noosa ritual: Group swim here followed by a sunset beer. 
Another daily Noosa ritual: Coffees post-ride at Costa Noosa or Little Cove. American coffee is definitely not on the Australian level (Luke pictured here with riding buddy Tim DeVries, best known for his Strava KOM for the Tuesday World Champs loop ;)  )
Starting rides here then heading to the hills does not suck! 

The quintessential Noosa run in the National Park - just wish it was longer than 10k! 
Inside the National Park Tanglewood loop
I guess I forgot to take pics of the amazing Noosa Aquatic Center 50 meter pool but if you check Siri Lindley's Instagram there are about 1000 if you're curious.

Amidst the training haze a couple weeks into our trip, we took an easy taper week and flew back over the equator to the Phillipines to try our hands at Subic Bay 70.3. We thought a 70.3 two weeks out from Ironman Melbourne would be a great final hit out for me, and I was excited to get back to race in Asia...The three Asian races I have been to (Ironman Malaysia, Challenge Phuket (just spectated), and now Subic Bay 70.3) have been amazing, especially in terms of community support and passion for triathlon. Subic Bay was on another level... the fans were amazing and they truly made the pros feel like rockstars! 
30th birthday boy Tim Reed doing a royal wave for the crowd. 

I swear Luke signed more autographs in two days than he does in an entire week in Kona and I even got to sign a few myself. I'm pretty sure the requesters had absolutely no idea who I am but they knew I was a pro that was enough for them to want a signature! Aside from the fans, the organization was top-notch and Sunrise events truly wowed me- thank you to Princess, Fred, and the team! They really involved the pros and we did lots of panels, Q&As, and got to help out at the ALASKA IronKids event.
Katy Duffied & Belinda Granger inspiring future triathlets at IronKids

Anyway, the Subic Bay half ironman race was a chance for me to test my progress and I came out super happy with where my swim and bike were in terms of progress. The course was hot, hard, and windy, but totally fun & do-able. I had a great battle out on the field with the strong pro women and came out 2nd in the end. I had a super solid swim for me: 27:45 non-wetsuit - thanks in great part to Belinda Granger teaching me how to harden up in the pool in Noosa.. On to the bike I was out in 3rd place behind super swimmer Emma Bilham & the legend Belinda Granger herself. Belinda and I stuck (legally) together throughout nearly the entire bike which was motivating for me as she is a rider I really look up to for her strength. I knew that if I was riding with her, I was going pretty well. We did get passed in the first half by the charging Parys Edwards (folks, she reminds me of Chrissie Wellington if only she could swim faster!)  There was a pretty strong headwind on the way out and I just concentrated on making myself aero, small, & strong.
Proof I was suffering
Climbing the long hill. Photo: Asia Tri
This was my 2nd race in my Endura skinsuit and it was amazing again. It just feels so fast compared to a standard tri kit and combined with my Scott Plasma 5 & Enve wheels, it's no surprise I'm riding faster this year for many reasons. Not taking anything away from myself- the good ole engine is definitely on the upswing thanks to the training Luke is giving me, but the best-of-the-best equipment is absolutely helping with the end result of the equation. I came off the bike in 2nd place after passing Emma around 50k, but heard the announcer call out Dimity-Lee Duke hot on my heels as I entered T2. I know Dimity is super strong in tough conditions as she beat me at the sweltering Ironman Malaysia and has been living & training at Thanyapura in Thailand. So, I made sure to get out of transition quickly to get outta sight outta mind.
Runnin' down a dream

I knew Parys was a few minutes up the road already and the heat and wind were really starting to turn up. I knew that Parys' strength was in her bike/run so I doubted I would catch her, but I was determined to try and also to hold on to 2nd place. The run was darn hard but overall uneventful. I stayed a few minutes behind Parys and Dimity stayed a few minutes behind me & rounded out the podium in 3rd
Smiles for 2nd (and a fist pump OF COURSE) 
Finish line hugs from the coach
After finishing a happy 2nd, I saw that I had finished in 4:24 which is actually a personal best for me and on a tough day to boot. I rode 2:26 (I think my first-ever sub 2:30 bike ride on not the easiest course). My run was just meh (a 1:26), nothing flashy but good enough to keep me in the game. Luke's race had highs and lows and he ended up with a 4th place finish. Proud of him as always as even when he's not in the lead, he stays solid and finishes what he started with strength.
Solid day for team McGerdes 

Coming home from the Phillipines, I was excited for the flight to watch movies and sleep in my EMPTY ROW of seats (Wynne had stayed with Grandma & Grandpa for the trip and a child-free plane flight is a total luxury!) but unfortunately I did very little sleeping and a very lot of trips to the bathroom every 30-minutes or so. Turns out I had earned more than just a little cash in the Phillipines.. I got myself 6 days of bedridden agony and several doctors visits later I found out that I had gotten Salmonella (still no idea what from, maybe a bite of chicken salad on the plane).
Luckily Wynne had her fan club (Luke, Jacque, Nanna, and great Grandpa Jack!) to look after her while mom was quite unable. 

So, what was to be my last week of Ironman prep in Noosa was spent in bed, far from being able to train, barely able to hobble to the bathroom. It was the most physically painful week of my life so far (felt like 6 days straight of intense childbirth contractions) but by Monday of Ironman Melbourne race week, I was 90% back to normal. I had done a super easy swim & ride over the weekend to get moving, but was really worried about my run because my stomach/guts were in so much physical pain. Just walking was painful. By monday, though, I managed a 45 minute jog at 9 or 10 min mile pace. Not what you hope for for your A race week when you want to run a sub-3 marathon, but those were the cards I was dealt. Other than that though, I was feeling back to normal and had my appetite back. I slammed priobiotics like it was going out of style and re-committed to the race I had mentally backed out on about a million times the week before. Special thanks to Luke & Belinda for really making me believe that I was going to be okay and could still pull off a good race, because at the point I had gotten to, retaining confidence is at least half the battle...

After full recovery, I was able to enjoy my last 3 days in Noosa before heading to Melbourne on Thursday prior to the race. We were all sad to leave, so of course we made some plans to come back very soon... We are going to be super platinum status with the airlines soon with all this travel, but its worth it for us to be in both of our "homes".

Thank you to all of my sponsors who make travel like this possible and for what has already been an awesome start to the race season! 2nd place is my best-ever 70.3 result (I have a 3rd from Hawaii 70.3 2012 and a few 4ths), and hope to take that up a place in the near future..

Thanks for making it this far... Ironman Melbourne race report to come this week!

SO, If you've made it this far, you deserve some super special bonus #momoftheyear content.. This is what happens when you look away from your 9 month old for a few minutes:

Look mom! I scooped a little something out of my diaper. Tastes delicious.