Sunday, May 15, 2016

Ironman Australia 2016 - race report

My world exploded a bit when I tried to fit Ironman Port Macquarie, a trip to Vietnam, and our wedding all in a period of less than 2 weeks (12 days to be exact.) Hence, this tardy blog post. (Oh, and more on the wedding soon!). Often, my race reports are filled with drama about the lead-up and the actual race... For once, though, s$%t actually went according to plan. So please excuse me while I bore you. 

Normally, my race builds are less-than-perfect. I can’t really say that about Ironman Australia. For the first time, everything fell into place training-wise in the 10 weeks before the race. Luke completed nearly all of my tough bike and run sessions with me or as a carrot in front of me, giving me the confidence that I was doing the sessions day-in and day-out that would matter in the end.  I didn’t get sick or injured. I not only completed all of my swim, bike, and run sessions, but I fueled them all properly (thx Gatorade Endurance!), got weekly massage, focused on my functional strength training sessions each week and put getting 8+ hours of sleep high on the priority list. My 2-year old daughter goes to sleep every night by 8pm and so do I. I did all of the big things, and the little things. I'm going to do a follow-up post with the training nitty gritty that went into this race. 

Ironman Australia played out nearly exactly how I envisioned it could if I had my best day and the day I had prepared for. Here's how it went down:

Obviously, I am not going to swim with the leaders. But to come out of the water in :56-something solidly under 1 hour set me up less than 5 minutes from Gina Crawford who led the race out of the water (it is quite a fast swim due to salt water, good conditions, & wetsuits, but still a legit one length-wise).

And we're off



 Gear Note: Swim 
I'm quite certain it was no coincidence that I had my fastest-ever Ironman swim in my new ROKA Maverick X. It seriously feels like you are not even wearing a wetsuit but you know you must be as you glide along effortlessly (ok, for me wriggling around there is always some effort, but much less in this suit!) Also, I chose ROKA light amber F2 goggles- they have worked perfectly for all my races so far which start in low light and they have a great field of sight. 

Testing out my new Maverick X the day before the race

“But you were almost 13 minutes down after the bike? How is that your best day?” Look, in my world, that can be the reality. My job is to come prepared for it and run my brains out. Although Michelle Bremer rode faster than me, I had a fantastic ride that went about as well as a solo 180km can go and it replicated what I knew I could and should execute from my training sessions. 
Saying hi to Luke on Matthew Flinder's hill 
Werk (photo: Witsup) 

I nailed my target power, I nailed my target nutrition (thank you, Gatorade Endurance and Gatorade Sports Science Institute!), and in the end, I rode 2 minutes faster than my “I think I can ride a 5:15 on this course” prediction. I had the second fastest female bike split which is huge for me. I didn’t really hit a low spot and I kept my power consistent on the 2nd lap and finished strong. Most of all, I finished fresh and ready to run my ass off. (p.s. – it was rainy, blustery, and chilly but whatever). I did waste a minute or so with a Special Needs kerfuffle.. The Special Needs tent on the bike was placed at the crest of a hill. I couldn't exactly fly down the hill with my bag of Gatorade Endurance bottles, so I had to stop, unclip, regroup, etc. I typically don't stop for Special Needs, but I wanted to make sure I had my own G Endurance instead of trying something new on course. (If you're in North America, you're lucky as Gatorade Endurance is the on-course fluid). 
International symbol for, "GIMME WATER!!!!!!!" Photo: Witsup
photo: Witsup

Gear Note: Bike
The setup I went with for this race was exactly what I would choose if I did it again: SCOTT Plasma 5, Enve 7.8 carbon clincher wheel set with 25mm Continental GP 4000 tires, SRAM red eTap components, Quarq powermeter, Endura QDC aero tri suit, ISM PN. 1.1 saddle, Speedplay pedals, SCOTT aero helmet & SCOTT Tri pro shoes & Ceramic Speed Ultrafast Optimised chain. 

I would say that this is a course where having SRAM eTap electronic gearing made a significant difference. Due to the nature of the terrain (lots of short, swoopy rollercoaster-type hills), being able to shift seamlessly on the base bar as well as in the aero bars made a significant difference. ETap has been a game-changer for me. 

A HUGE Thank you to Trilogy Cycles for taking care of me in Australia. Trilogy, like Nytro back in Cali, is a SCOTT dealer and Keith and his crew are incredibly helpful. I always love it when the owner is a triathlete himself- you know he "gets it!" 


All the race recaps from IMOZ say it was “all about the run” as both Tim and I ran down significant deficits, but for me, it was all about the swim and bike. All day I stayed patient, strong, and within myself in order to set myself up for that run. I rode from 5th place into 2nd place during that ride  which is a big win for me. The swim miles and the bike miles that I put in in training are what I really feel deserve the credit for that 2:56:10 marathon, not any secret run sessions or crazy run intensity or mileage. I got off the bike, heard the time gap, and got to work. My legs felt amazing, it was ridiculous. The weather was cool, my heart rate was low and my cadence was high. I got in the zone and clicked away. 
Photo: Witsup
It was wet. My "not amused" face. Photo: Witsup

I knew I needed to take at least 3.5 minutes per lap out of Michelle in order to have a chance, but I didn’t want to rush it. I also knew that Michelle was in excellent run form, having recently posted a personal best run in IM New Zealand (3:14). I knew that with the deficit I had, only a 3:00 marathon would have a chance. Michelle had truly smashed the course, and in the end, she finished 25 minutes faster than her winning time from 2015 (running 3:11!) . So, to say she made me work for it is an understatement. She truly is a fantastic Ironman athlete who should not be underestimated. Cheers also to Dimity Lee Duke who rounded out the podium in 3rd.  I love racing with Dimity- she races hard and fair and is an awesome competitor. 


Champagne shower with Bremer, Photo: Witsup


Gear note: Run
I debated in the days before the race to wear the new HOKA Clayton or stick with my HOKA Clifton 2s. I wore the Clayton in Putrajaya 70.3 and loved them, but chose to stick with Clifton 2 for the full Ironman. Some say that Cliftons have too much cushion to run "fast". I disagree. And how fast are we going in Ironman anyway? I personally think they saved my legs and allowed me not to fade in the last 10k of that run- I nearly negative split and finished with a 2:56:10 . I also ran with the Garmin 620 w/ HRM... interestingly enough, my avg HR on that run was 5 beats lower than my avg HR on the bike. 

Clifton 2s FTW!  Photo: Witsup
For me, I just had one of those days you dream about where going hard feels good. Not to be that annoying chick, but I really never had a low spot and my legs responded with ease (for once! I feel I am too-often on team “come on, legs!”). I ran by heart rate and was mostly trying to "keep it up" so I just kept pushing as I know what heart rate I can sustain for an IM marathon. All day long I kept thinking to myself, "DAMN, I nailed this taper!" I felt like Freddy McFresherson compared to my usual lagging self. 

In the end, after 9 hours and 10 minutes, I broke the tape. 


photo: Delly Carr
Photo: Witsup
 A huge thank you to my supporters, my sponsors, and of course, my #1 and #2 fans Luke & Wynne... Couldn't do it without you.

Best cheer squad
Of course, Wynne wanted nothing to do with me at the finish line.. it was a little overwhelming for her with so many people and so much noise.I also need to teach Dad how to dress her and do her hair to be "camera ready" for these finish line opps.. Geez! 


If you've been following along, I fished my wish! I was given the honor to give burn victim turned all-around badass, Turia Pitt, her medal in her first-ever Ironman just 5 years after being trapped in a bush fire during an ultramarathon in Western Australia. Seriously, people, ANYTHING is possible. Thanks to Turia for showing that to us all.




Thank you again to everyone for your support, most particularly, my amazing sponsors.



Friday, April 29, 2016

In this moment


(What is is about the day before Ironman which evokes all the deep thoughts? Anyway, here are a couple of mine and I promise to return to a round-the-world adventures recap soon after the race tomorrow) 



I look through my Instagram pictures and Facebook posts and I see a life I never imagined living. Elephants and monkeys, absurd amounts of tropical islands, cycling with Kangaroos, a chiseled-looking Australian man (seriously, how did I score him?) and a perfect little girl. Sure, it’s the “best foot forward” tiny little glimpse of my life that showcases the highs and minimizes the lows, but the truth is that those moments are still lived by me and my little family. Never did I imagine in a million years that at 36 years old I would be traveling the world as a professional athlete with my daughter and my Australian triathlete soon-to-be-husband. 
early days

Koala crossing in Queensland
Candy the elephant in Phuket, Thailand


Lava fields in the Oregon high desert
It's more fun in the Philippines
In some ways, I’m living out my wildest dreams, but to be completely honest, in some ways I’m scared s$%tless. I was brought up in a family where hard work, education, and helping others were the primary family values. My dad is a doctor, my sister is a nurse, my stepmom is a child psychologist, and my mom is a college professor. Until three years ago, I followed their footsteps and was happy and secure in the future I had created for myself. As a school psychologist, I loved my career, I loved my school community and the families I was able to connect with. I spent 8 years in college & graduate school school to obtain complicated-sounding degrees and solidify my career. I knew that my retirement fund would grow every year and I’d be ok when I was old and gray. And then, I quit. What started as a leave of absence turned into a resignation as it became clear that if I returned to my psychologist position, Wynne & I would stay home in California, she’d be in full-time day care, and Luke would travel around solo to bring home the bacon. 

getting engaged on the Great Barrier Reef


sunrise in Melbourne, Australia

Cycling the canyons in Utah

wins



exploring the woods in New Hampshire

posting in Paris
paddling with Dad

Instead, I chose to live a little traveling circus with my partner and our perfect little girl, pursuing my little slice of the triathlon dream and watching Luke live out his big slice first-hand instead of via Skype. Wynne has been to 5 continents & 14 countries (many with multiple visits) before her second birthday. 
where to?

ticket to ride

Life now is exhilarating and incredibly fun and adventurous, but even more so, it completely scares me to death. I cannot board a 12-hour plane flight, ride my bike through a monkey forest, or run through a remote village without wondering what life will be like in 10 years and “what the heck am I thinking?!?”. In my upbringing, you plan for your future. You make sacrifices today that will ensure payoff tomorrow and way down the line. Nowhere in the Gerdes family guidebook was it written that you choose a “career” that most certainly will end by your early 40s, or a partner who is along that same career path. 
bubbles at the Tour de France



on island time in the Bahamas



twinning in Hawaii
For me, living in the moment is harder than planning for the future. I wake up (wherever I am) every day completely amazed by the world around me (which in the past 18 months has included Australia, Chile, Panama, The Philippines, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Malaysia, Thailand, The Bahamas, Cape Cod, New Hampshire, Hawaii, California, Chicago and probably some spots I’m forgetting). But before I even pinch myself, I freak out that I should be at a desk somewhere writing a psychoanalytical report or back in the sleep-deprived state of train-work-train purely because I felt deep down I was the hardest working person out there and that gave me some sort of sense of accomplishment that I was doing the "right" thing. I constantly look at what I’m doing now and wonder if my parents are proud of me or if they just think I’m running around the world being silly. At the end of the day, though, even if I never win another Ironman or accomplish my biggest goals in sport, I know my parents are proud of me. They see me happy and in love with Luke, spending valuable time with Wynne, and doing my best to follow my dreams and work hard at "right now". I think they enjoy seeing me live my life in this moment and I hope that they’re confident that when this is over, I’ll find a way to be okay (we are saving, mom & dad, I promise!!!) . We may never be millionaires, but we certainly won’t live life with any regrets over paths not taken. 

Tomorrow, I’m racing Ironman Australia, my 7th Ironman start line since I had Wynne nearly 2 years ago. Tomorrow, I’ll try my guts out to go as fast as I can, but I’ll also be celebrating this opportunity, this dream, these people, and give thanks every mile that I get to live this life in this moment. 

Thank you to everyone who makes it possible to get to the start lines around the world including my friends, family, and 2016 sponsors. First Ironman of the year, here’s to making it count! 


added note: Since the Ironman welcome dinner last night and meeting Turia Pitt at the pro panel, I cannot stop thinking about one thing. And for this race, that's my "WHY". Why are you doing this? When the going gets tough tomorrow, Turia has given me my "why".... Because I want to be the one that gets to give Turia her finisher medal at that finish line... A job reserved for the race winners. That would mean the world to me. If you want to be inspired, read a bit about Turia's incredible journey here and tune into ironman.com tomorrow to support her! 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

bits and pieces - April 2016

reflecting / on Putrajaya 70.3 in Malaysia.
course recon- Putrajaya, Malaysia
 In my 2nd 70.3 of the season, I was actually prepared for a better race than I had. By no means taking away from the 3 women who deservedly beat me, I just didn't show up on the day with my best performance. I did have a solid (read: average) day across the board for me but I was left wondering why I didn't have a little more. 4 days after the race, I went on a 4-hour ride with some local friends. It was hard, but not crazy hard. I came home and saw my normalized power was actually higher than it was IN THE RACE. WITHOUT TRYING. I think I underestimate sometimes how much a true "freshening up" can benefit me before a race, and I didn't give that race the respect it deserved in that capacity, only backing off the volume/intensity in the final 3 days before the race. 5 days after the race, I had my best-ever running hill repeat times up the local (12 min) hill. My conclusion is that the small amount of rest heading into the race, PLUS, the two solid recovery days post-race had finally added up to enough "rest" for me to express my fitness. This isn't really news to me, but we never learn, do we? I'm promising to take this lesson into Ironman Australia in 2 weeks..which means taper starts pretty much... now!


i'm the one in the background... missing the podium by thiiiiiiiiiiissss much


planning / a wedding! Luke and I have decided to get married this year. We are having a really small beach wedding with family and a couple local friends... Hoping to have a bigger par-tay when we return to the U.S. this summer!

listening / my new jam for a hard run off the bike is "I took a pill in Ibiza"(Mike Posner).. Ok, it's definitely about drugs (which are not my jam), but it keeps me going. 8x 1-mile efforts off a race simulation bike this past weekend- that song got me through!


traveling / last weekend we went to Australia's Gold Coast in Queensland (about a 3 hour drive from our home in Noosa) for a few reasons: We wanted a training getaway where we could put in some big miles in a new locale (freshness is always good for motivation!). This coincided with spectating the World Triathlon Series Gold Coast race, an Olympic qualifier, where many of our favorite Olympic distance athletes were competing, many for coveted Olympic slots. Lastly, Luke was nominated for "Male Performance of the Year" by Triathlon Australia and we had a lovely dinner to attend for that.
We packed so much into those 3 days that we left completely satisfied and completely exhausted.

Spectating..... Waiting for the leaders to come through on the run
super long run on the Gold Coast- Surfer's Paradise in the background

I loved bringing Wynne to the WTS race. She already is growing up in the triathlon lifestyle and being exposed to fitness and challenge. Here she is giving US 2016 Olympian (and quite possibly favorite for the Gold Medal) Gwen Jorgensen, some feedback on her race.




preparing / for Ironman Australia just 2 weeks away. This weekend I completed my final race simulation brick workout and last long run..... Taper. Is. Here.


recovering / We just got the Normatec Pulse full-body recovery system. I'm sitting in the boots right now and it has become a daily routine. Training 30+ hours per week, my one weekly massage was just not cutting it in the recovery department. It boggles my mind how tight the compression gets- haven't even had the guts to turn it up to 10 yet!

snapping / always something fun going on over on snapchat.. follow me, username: bethgerdes .








That's all for now. Off to top off the afternoon with some bike hill reps..





Saturday, April 2, 2016

Q1 in review

Another week, another blog post. I'm totally on a roll.

Since I just updated my USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) athlete "whereabouts" for Q2 (a one-hour window where I must provide my daily location to be available for drug-testing), I thought it would be apropos (always love a good reason to use that word!) to review the Q1 happenings from 2016.

January
I began the year with a training block in Noosa, Australia, mostly focusing on speed, strength, & power (i.e. everything except big volume) to prep for the 70.3 Pan American Pro Championships in Panama City, Panama on January 31st.

"On our way" from Australia to Panama, we "stopped by" Chicago to visit the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) for some testing on sweat, fat utilization, and other (super secret d'uh) things. Chicago visits are always welcome because we get to spend time with my sister's family and Wynne gets some great cousin time.

 Being a part of the Gatorade family has been unreal so far- we are doing some cool next-level stuff that should help get that extra 1%. 
In the lab at GSSI

Once we finished up at GSSI, we took the bird south to Panama (the country not the spring break locale in Florida). Race day for Panama 70.3 dawned and although I wasn't "fully cooked" on the training front, I still managed 8th place in a Championship 70.3, one step up from 9th at the North American Pro Championships in 2015. So...progress.

Panama 70.3 run photos by Nate Kortuem
by Nate Kortuem



February
After Panama, we went straight to Costa Rica to guest-coach a triathlon training camp hosted by Race Quest Travel. The experience was unreal and the best part was sharing it with the group of campers we lucked out with ... Each day was filled with sun, ocean swim time, bike rides through the countryside, runs that finished with fresh coconuts, and sunset yoga. For Luke and I, it was a welcome break from our typical training "grind" and gave us a nice re-set prior to embarking on our Ironman training blocks back in Australia.

The Costa Rica crew (Costa Rica photos by Christopher Jarc aka Jarc the Shark) 

afternoon core session led by moi

Run drills and technique afternoon

Zip line at Diamante Eco Adventure park.. Get a load of this....

holy s$%t 

Paddling around some of our open water swimmers. 


After Costa Rica, we squeezed in 10 days in San Diego (hello, burritos!), & one more quick trip to Chicago before heading back over the big Pacific to Sunshine Beach, Australia.
We literally hit the ground running and dove into training... I had just 10 WEEKS to prepare for Ironman Australia, my first big race of the year.

March
Training has gone really well for both Luke and I. We both seem to be picking up fitness really consistently, though we can't seem to coordinate the days we feel amazing and the days we feel like crap. Our bodies definitely respond differently to different types of sessions.

weekly hill reps with Luke ( & usually Radka Vodickova)

last weekend's 205km ride with a view of the Glass House Mountains from Maleny, Queensland
After 5 weeks of massive training, I am quite pleased to say that we've reach a stepping stone.. Race week!

This weekend (actually tomorrow now that I am actually finishing this post I began earlier this week), we will open Q2 in Putrajaya, Malaysia for Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya. It will be a good (and very hot) test of fitness. The start list is quite dense with strong favorites like Liz Blatchford, Radka Vodickova, and last week's 70.3 Tawian winner Sarah Crowley, so I'm looking forward to putting down my best on the day and to see where I'm at!
Fresh Endura QDC aero tri kits have landed! Now these are available to consumers via endurasport.com 

Shake it Off - should be everyone's T-Swift mantra for an easy run after a long plane ride. Love to #runtheworld and see new things
The race hotel pool is 88 degrees fareinheight (31 c) - same temp as the lake we are going to swim in for the race (insert fire emojis). Needless to say, tomorrow will be #HAF (thanks, Clint, for the perfect hashtag)

See you at the finish line! Talk to you next week with more "Bits and Pieces", April edition. (I know, you are TOTALLY on the edge of your seats!)