Saturday, October 24, 2015

Ironman World Championships 2015

At the risk of writing "just another race report",  I'm about to write "just another race report" on the Ironman World Championships 2015. I feel like these things are easier to write when something goes terribly wrong, or conversely, amazingly right. I didn't really have either of those experiences in Kona last week, but it's still something I want to remember and, most of all, learn from.

Sometimes on my blog I write, "this is for me", but in some ways, it's for "you" too. It's for the women whose blogs I have read for 7 years and continue to read to this day. It's for the few folks who I actually do know spend the time to read my blog and enjoy it for what it is. It's not always sparkly or mind-blowing. Blogs aren't even cool anymore! They are sooooo 2008. It's for those who think "its just another race report" when writing their own, but may not realize that people like me, actually care and read them. This one's for those who have been there and watched me through good days and bad. Well-written, funny race reports and boring ones alike. I just saw that "california training" has reached over one million page views. Who knows if there is anyone still here from the beginning, but if so, this is for you (Kerrie? Rachel? GZ? I don't think GZ is here anymore, but he is one of my original faves.)


The lead up.
This is the stuff you try to keep off twitter because you want to limit the number of excuses you put out into the universe, but it's stuff that still counts. We flew to Kona from Australia just over 2 weeks before race day on what is going down (for now) in history as "Wynne's worst flight yet". None of us slept. At all. Overnight. About 20 hours with connecting flights, layovers, etc. Once we arrived in Hawaii properly strung out, Wynne proceeded to simultaneously get a full body rash, a fever, cold and hacking cough. Awesome. The rash subsided after a few days (heat rash maybe?) but poor thing was sick (& hence not sleeping). None of us slept. After about a week, we had to call in the reserves and shipped her off to Grandma & Grandpas condo so we could get a good nights sleep. We are athletes after all?! Or were we? It was rough and both Luke and I got milder versions of the baby croupe. I pounded Emergen-C and Zinc for 5 days and came out ok about 3 days before the race.
So, it was all far from ideal, but as usual, I remind myself that most other competitors out there have their own version of "unideal" before a race and you just deal and move on.
Our condo was in a great location, but with no A/C  in one of the hottest Kona seasons ever, we had yet one more reason to complain. Oh the joys in our house those first 10 days! It was good times. Real good times. The actual bonus there, though, was that it was too hot to cook inside, so we got to eat out almost every night which saved me lots of trips to the grocery store and sweaty prep and cooking time.
Why tell this part? Honestly, all this crappiness had nothing to do with how I actually performed on race day. But while it's happening you think, "oh my gosh this will ruin my race, blah blah blah I can't believe my baby chose to get sick NOW, oh my gosh." But you know what? In the end it was fine. Ideal? No. But do I think my race would have been any different if we were all happy and healthy the 2 weeks before the race? Nope. In those pre-race moments when I worry it's all gone to s$%t because of some flu etc, I call up in my mind other people's "just another race report" and remember that it's actually par for the course.

Training on course with Luke. Photo: Aimee Johnson

The week of... 
The week of the race was busy and we overcommitted ourselves a bit, but Kona is the one time each year that you get to see most of your sponsors and be involved in some really cool media stuff like interviews, videos and lots of photo shoots. Triathletes like to complain about not being treated like they're important and then they like to complain that it's "all too much" when people act like they're important. I love it all. I just have to make sure to stay focused on the race at hand and schedule in down time. We write our schedule for Kona week about a month out. We stick to it as much as possible. It's not rocket science. I'm not Beyoncé.

I also had an "extra" something-something going on as my new sponsor, Gatorade Endurance, was featuring me in a soon-to-be-released short Win from Within documentary. I felt super important having a Los Angeles based film crew (think 5 people!)  follow me for four days, but I was admittedly a little tired at the end of it all too. I am not naturally "on" all the time, so I needed to decompress a bit after it was over. Overall though, it was an incredible experience, probably once-in-a-lifetime and I can't wait until the finished product airs.

 G Endurance was awesome and scheduled the bulk of filming to be completed 4 days before the race. So, once the-day-before-race-day hit, we had properly relaxed and tapered and I was nothing but ready for the race. I had done the training. I had ridden the course in all possible conditions. Ready for 140.6 miles to call on both my mental and physical strongest version of myself.
Training on course

The swim...2.4 miles, 1:05
Moments with Luke just before the start. Photo: Triathlete magazine
I swam a 1:05. In 2011 as an age grouper, I swam a 1:04. I have swum (by my somewhat accurate calculations), about 4 MILLION YARDS since then. So 4 million yards netted me negative one minute.
The funny thing is, I'm not actually disheartened by this statistic because it doesn't tell the whole story. In all honesty, I think the course was long this year (based on reports I have from 3 Garmins that showed 4, 2.6 miles, 4000 meters and 4400 yards respectively (Ironman swim is 2.4miles/3800m/4200yds) ... that's about 3 minutes long for the pace that I swim. Now, chances are that all 3 of these people did not swim a straight line, but you just don't know. I know there was current and a significant swell. I know that I swam with a group of girls who beat me out of the water by 4 minutes at IM Western Australia 8 months ago, so for me, I am happy. I swam really hard in the beginning and fell into the group I should have been swimming with. End of story. I got out of the water feeling like a million bucks and ready to ride, as you should in Ironman. Nothing sparkling. No "cracking an hour", but I got through, with about 10 minutes down on the lead.

The bike... 112 miles, 5:11 (21.6mph) 
The ride is the part of the race that I am the most satisfied with. I worked so hard all year long for that bike split. Aside from the first 20 miles, when I rode with a (legal) group of 3 women, I rode alone. All. Alone. At one point coming back in the last 30 miles of the race, I was getting a bit wonky and actually wondered if I had made a wrong turn (pro tip: you really CAN'T make a wrong turn in Kona- it's basically one road) because I literally saw no one for over 30 minutes. Finally a few age group males (most of whom I knew) blew by me in the last 20 miles ( Hi Adam! Hi Levi! Hi Clint! Hi Chris!) and restored my faith that I had not lost the plot entirely and was, in fact, on the Queen K. For me, I rode really well. I may have ridden too conservatively in the beginning with the group of women (I was so excited to be "in a group" that I neglected to think for a while that I wasn't pushing the watts I wanted) , but once I made the move ahead of the group I rode steady and strong with few exceptions. I stayed on top of my fueling, opting for 1 bottle of G Endurance & 1 bottle of water per hour plus 2 gels or 1 pack G Energy chews per hour (to hot to eat bars in Hawaii for me).
Enjoying the ride on my SRAM 1x Scott Plasma 5. I chose Enve 4.5/ 7.8 combo. perfect for the day.  Photo: Jay Prasuhn

Let's see...what else... It rained in Hawi. There was headwind the last 25 miles that nearly broke my soul. It was really hot. Insert other Kona-typical sentences here and I'm sure they'll fit. In the end, my ride was in the top 15 pro bike splits. That is a big win for me (meet 2010 me who rode a 5:48 in Kona). And I rode alone. The bigger win is that I saw the places that I can gain minutes next year, and it seems do-able. I learned a lot. I'm already excited to do it again.

In from the bike, out on the run

The run.. 26.2 miles, 3:16
Grrrrrrr... the run. I was prepared to lay. it. down. on the run. Instead, I wanted to lay down. From step #1, it was a struggle. I don't think I've ever felt so bad in an Ironman marathon for nearly the whole run. In the end, I got through it, but it really just felt like a forced jog, not what I was envisioning. It was a very hot day.
Photo: Heather Scott
I felt like I was on top of my heat management, but maybe I wasn't quite enough. I also think I was a little "low" starting out as there was no final aid station on the bike and I came into transition possibly underfueled/hydrated from the last 20 miles of the bike. Either way, it wasn't the shining moment I had hoped it would be. It wasn't a disaster, either. I kept plugging away even though I was sure I was running 10 minute miles (I stopped looking and decided to just run). I never felt great.
little moments that lift you up: The sign read, "We love Beth Gerdes" (Thank you, Danielle!) 

But I never walked. Eventually, I reached that finish line, having passed one woman in the final 3 miles to squeeze into 15th place.

Photo: John Segesta

In the end, I finished as the 15th woman overall in 9:39, a 25 minute personal best on this course. I can look at my race objectively and be proud of what I accomplished last year and that I hit my goal of placing top 15 in the world championships. The tough part is that I didn't have the "race of my life". The silver lining is that there is a lot of room to go and find that race. I think it would be almost harder if I had the race of my life and still came 15th. Improvement from there is so much more daunting. I feel a bit lucky that I have those minutes to chase and shave on the bike and run.

From here, I'm taking some down time and then will do one final race at Challenge Phuket in Thailand on November 29th. I'm still working on the race schedule for next year, but we have some exciting ideas.

Drowning post-race blues at the More than Sport bike giveaway for kids in need of bikes! #morekidsonbikes

 Thank you to all of our friends, family, supporters and sponsors who make our lives possible. The grandparents and aunties were critical in this Kona trip and all year long and we couldn't have done it without all of them. To my amazing team of sponsors, "Mahalo" and I hope I made you proud this year! Also, a HUGE thank you to #AUSSIETOM our new amazing sponsor who is not in my sponsor picture page yet.

Friday, October 9, 2015

How did I get here?

New race day kit (Endura) & bicycle (SCOTT Plasma 5, SRAM 1x)
How did we get here? It's the night before the Ironman World Championships and I feel like it has all been a blur, but at the same time, I know I'll have vivid memories from this period in time for the rest of my life.

Since I last wrote here, we completed our training in Noosa, Australia and raced the Sunshine Coast 70.3, where I placed 6th. The organizers told us the field was the biggest ever for a 70.3 in Ironman Asia Pacific and strong (25 professional women), so though I didn't make the podium, I had some promising moments that showed me that Kona training was going in the right direction.

I didn't have my best swim. With surf entry and some ocean swell, I slipped off the back in the early parts of the swim and struggled with navigation the entire way. I knew my swim was sub-par when I saw only a handful of bikes still on the rack in T1, but the day was about the process of the race, the problem-solving, and making the most of it.

Onto my bike I had one goal: Best watts ever in a 70.3.. I wanted to prove to myself that my Kona training was on the right track and I was indeed stronger than ever. With the small time gap between pro women and age group men, this wattage goal became increasingly difficult as droves of men started to pass us. I was absolutely not interested in drafting (i.e. riding too close to the bike in front of you which is illegal in triathlon but many try to bend or break the rules)... 1) for principal and ethical sake, it's not my thing, but 2) my goal for the race was "best watts ever" to inform how my Kona prep was going. I dodged all the men, spiked my power way too much at times, but rode in a way I can be proud about and came off with my BEST WATTS EVER on a 70.3 course. I was still far behind after that shocking swim, but no worries, that put a big smile on my face.
*note... the course was gently rolling on a big highway, which doesn't prevent drafting.. We've been advised that it will be changing to make a more clean race for Sunshine Coast 70.3 2016- The 70.3 World Champs, so don't be discouraged! There is a HUGE hill nearby that I hear may make an appearance to shatter the field).

I came off the bike, slapped on the HOKA Clifton's and set about my run. My immediate goal was to make up time and my overall goal was fastest run of the day. With girls like Caroline Steffen, Radka Vodikova, Annabel Luxford, and Britta Martin ahead of me, I knew that both goals were a tall order. On lap 1, I made some good inroads, passing a couple of girls. I noticed I was clipping off just around 6:00/mi pace with controlled effort and felt this was a good sign.
Happy to see Wynne as I came around for lap 2
On lap two, I caught a lot of girls I didn't expect to catch based on how far ahead they were.. I ended up running from 14th up to 6th place. Overall, it was just fun to compete in such a dynamic and tight field. The difference from 1st to 10th in the women's field was just 13 minutes (15 minutes in the men's field) and I'm happy to see the women once again proving that we have the strength that the men do and should be treated equally at the highest level of our sport.
I ended up running a 1:18:Xx split... First time ever 1:20 in a half (off-the bike or otherwise), so I was pleased.

post-race with the fam.. Luke had a fantastic race, finishing 2nd

From there, we recovered for a few days then hit one final training block before heading over to the Big Island. My training overall for Kona has been consistent. That is the one word that comes to mind. There aren't too many workouts that stick out to me as "breakthroughs", just an overall feeling that I did everything I could possibly do, given my circumstances. For the first time ever, the place I saw the most progress was the swim. I swam consistently and I swam A LOT. I swam with teenagers who could lap me on a 300. I swam in a 50m pool every day. I swam open water 1x/ week. I was bummed that this didn't show off at Sunshine Coast 70.3, but I am convinced it will show up on race day.

Kona has been great, but it has been busy! We completed all of our final training sessions and spent some quality time on the course, but off the course it hasn't quite been "feet up and relax".
Photo:Aimee Johnson, Australian Triathlete Magazine

It's my first time racing here as part of the pro circuit, and being Luke's other half, I can't say we've 'flown under the radar'. We have had a lot of fun video shoots and media following our training sessions and interviews and such, which is a lot of 'work', but also fun. The hardest part has been not being able to spend much time with Wynne. Luke's parents are here and they have been making sure she experiences all Hawaii has to offer with beach time and social time, but it does sting a little to be missing out on all of it. I'm looking forward to making up time in the mom department once the race is over.

Photo during my "Wahine Warriors" shoot for Check out the <3 a="" href="" min="" target="_blank" video="">here
Hanging outside Lava Java with my people in their cool Good Time Trunk Co matchies
Run session at Mana road. Photo: Michael Rauschendorfer

Another thing keeping us busy has been working with my new sponsor, Gatorade Endurance. If you follow me, you'll know that I've been using Gatorade products (un-sponsored) for a couple of years, so when they came to me with an opportunity to jump on board, I was excited to say the least. It turns out, I am only the second triathlete to ever be sponsored by Gatorade (the first is Chris Legh). Working with Gatorade Endurance, I'll be tapping into their resources at Gatorade Sports Science Institute to take my racing to the next level. But more immediately, they are featuring me in a "Win From Within" online documentary following my journey to get to this start line. This meant that a full film crew from L.A. was out here in Kona following my (almost) every move for the past 5 days. It was an amazing (and sometimes awkward) experience. I can't wait to see the outcome, but it definitely added another "layer" to the already busy parenting, training, media schedule that is the pre-Kona whirlwind. All worth it though, of course! I finally have a sponsor that people outside of triathlon have actually heard of!
Sweat test with G Endurance

So, that's how we got here. 2 days to go until my first professional race at the Ironman World Championsips. At 35, I'm no "young gun", but surprisingly, this is the prime age for female Ironman competitors. What are my goals? That's hard to say. To be one of the 40 women (35 qualifiers plus  automatic qualifiers) in the world, and 9 American women to qualify this year was already a win for me. My body allowed me to finish 4 full Ironman races in the one year after I had a baby and that is pretty cool, okay, crazy. There's nothing to indicate that I could be in the top 10 or top 15 here based on the fact that every woman on the starting list is incredibly talented and accomplished. I should be "happy just to be here", but of course I want more. I think that if I have my perfect race, I could sneak into that top 15 or even top 10, but we won't know until we know.

"The Rookies" SCOTT athletes making their pro debut in Kona (Van Berkel, Luxford, Me, Naeth) Photo: Michael Rauschendorfer) 
If you're interested in following along head to tomorrow for live streaming of the race. Given how my race plays out, I likely won't be on the actual coverage as I race from the back and they film from the front, but I'm betting Luke will be out there all day giving everyone a good show.

Peace out! #124 heading to bed. See you at the finish line!

 Shout out to all that make this possible for me:

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Settling in...Noosa

We're right in the middle of a "whole" 7 weeks in Noosa, Australia. This year has been crazy on the racing and travel front, and it's nice to post up in one spot for a bit and do a deep-dive into training for the upcoming Ironman World Championships on October 11th in Kona, Hawaii.

Note to self: next time we want to do a solid "deep-dive" into training, don't align this with moving into a new house with nothing but a mattress.

Due to moving in, our first week training in Noosa was more "shallow flop" than "deep-dive", but we got the necessities taken care of quickly and have settled into a nice routine.

I shouldn't say we are "moving" perhaps. We are still maintaining our place in Encinitas, California, but we have now bought our first home in the Sunshine Beach neighborhood of Noosa in Queensland as home base #2. Luke's family is all based here and it is hard to argue against the year-round trainable weather, perfect training grounds, and possibly the world's best coffee shops.
winter in Noosa (thanks to Jacque for the photos!)
Bel Mondos- one of my favorite local coffee roasters
Out the back door is the chop wood loop in Noosa National Park
Out the front door is the coastal cruise
Since Luke's family is here, we have so much help with Wynne that we are both able to really do all the training that should be doing, not just what we can do around her schedule. Luke's parents & sister help us out almost daily.  Combined with 2 days/week of "school" for Wynne (her first time!), they have really made it possible to train almost like non-parents (though recovery is a different story, hah).
Wynne takes weekly Thursday walks with Nanna & Pa's walking group while mum & dad hit a track session
When we arrived in Noosa, I felt tired (from travel from Switzerland to Chicago to Utah to Phillipines to Australia). I also felt (my version of) unfit (from barely any training for 3 weeks after IM Switzerland). But, with just 10 weeks to Kona, we had to get to work fast! The first 10 days were mostly just "chopping wood": Getting some miles in the legs and going through the motions without too much intensity while we tried to get the house in order. I'll be honest. We were both tired and wondering how the F we were going to make this fitness happen. Also, I know it looks picture perfect, but the first couple weeks were quite chilly (think knee warmers and arm warmers and vests and headbands)...not exactly easy to get up and go at 6am!
getting our long ride on in the hinterland

After those first 10 days, though, things started to click. I finally didn't feel tired any more and I started to feel like my old fit self. As I spend more time in this sport, I am starting to realize that the fitness you accumulate over the years eventually DOES add up to something (who knew?). For years, I doubted this. But now that I've crossed into the 7+ year mark of consistent (minus pregnancy) training over time, I find that it doesn't take me quite as long to get back into the shape I was in before I took a break (for whatever reason- post-race, off season, etc).

We've been here in Sunshine Beach nearly a month now and I already feel like my Ironman fitness is coming onto a new level. Now, anything faster than Ironman fitness is not quite sharp at the moment, but I am really starting to dig in to the longer rides, runs and swims with deeper fitness than I've have felt before. I'm not just spinning along for 6hrs on my long ride, I'm riding that s$%t!

more Noosa
Luke seems to be coming around just as I am which is cool. Rarely are we in sync with our training and fitness, but this Hawaii block has really put us on the same cycle (kind of like girls who live together for too long... haha....ok, NOT like that). Anyway, it's cool to see us have breakthroughs at the same time or be completely exhausted after a similar block of training and rochambeau over who gets to change the dirty diaper (ok, "nappie" since I'm in Australia).
the Wednesday crew headed out to Montville.
We now have about 10 days until Sunshine Coast 70.3, which will be a tune-up race, and just under six weeks until Kona! We head to the Big Island two and a half weeks before Ironman to get some heat in the system and some Queen K miles in the legs.

I want to post a few pictures of our new abode soon, but I have a perfection complex with this sort of thing- need to get it just right first..

From my corner of the world to yours... have a great week!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cebu 70.3 - 5 reasons it's more fun in the Philippines

As you fly into Manila, you begin to see the billboards reading:

This is no propaganda. It's the truth.

Me & Belinda Granger on a jog & local kids walking home from school

5 reasons it's more fun in the Philippines, Cebu 70.3 version:

1) Rockstar status.
Not just the pros (but especially the pros), every athlete is treated like a rockstar in the Philippines. I think at most races you get one T-shirt. At Cebu 70.3 every racer got 3 or 4 I think. Along with a race backpack FILLED with goodies. And custom cupcakes. And a pre-race extravaganza party with hundreds of festival dances, And And And And.... As a pro, you are treated like a celebrity. In the land of the selfie, we must have taken hundreds of selfies with avid triathletes. The press conference and post-race  "meet the champs" are packed full of media and athletes.

One of the several press conferences that were held over the weekend

Everywhere you go, many smiling shining faces are there to greet you.
2) Cebu is incredibly beautiful. Who wouldn't want to swim here?

As Luke & I swam out for our pre-race warmup, we looked back on shore and it looked almost exactly like race morning at Ironman Hawaii. Except possibly with more athletes and more spectators and more music and more everything... The atmosphere was incredible. Then, the gun goes off and you swim into crystal clear warm water among the fishies.

I had a decent non-wetsuit swim, just under 28 minutes. I came out of the water in about 5th place.

3) The sensory & cultural experience of a lifetime & opportunities to give back to or connect with the community.

It's possible that there were hundreds of thousands of spectators lining the bike and run course. Most places, 3 or four deep with countless cheerleaders, school groups and bands all cheering at the top of their lungs. The noise, the energy, the sights, the smells, a complete sensory party for 4 and a half hours of racing.

Caroline Steffen running her way through the lined streets. Photo: Asia Tri

Tim Berkel getting some cheers from local school girls. Photo: Asia Tri

Leading up to the race, the race organizers really get the pros and the event involved in the local community. I think it is always important to see life beyond the resort you may be staying at and the Cebu 70.3 crew makes this a priority. We got to run over to a local school and help serve ALASKA milk & breakfast to promote a healthy lifestyle and the importance of starting the day with the most important meal. Having a connection with the community definitely makes it more fun in the Philippines.

Good times at the ALASKA breakfast. How many pro triathletes can you spot in this picture? I spy several Ironman champs and a couple of world champs too. 

Directly after the race, there was another chance to make an impact- by running the Cobra Energy "Extra Mile". For every race finisher who ran an additional mile at the end of the race, Cobra donated a certain amount of money and I believe they raised over $6,000 for local schools.
Several pros here running (ok, walking- we were smashed!) the extra mile right after the race

4) The best aid stations in the world.
ICE. COLD. EVERYTHING!!!! Aid stations were very close together and had SO much ice cold water, Gatorade (my personal favorite), ice, sponges..... It was amazing, not to mention the local kids handing out the drinks and being amazing in general.

As for the rest of my race....
I had a pretty solid bike ride. I ended up riding alone at mostly Ironman pace, a product of being still a bit tired from Ironman Switzerland two weeks prior. Instead of getting down on myself, I focused on staying steady, even if my top end was lacking. I limited my losses and came off the bike in 5th place about 5 minutes down from the lead of the race (Caroline Steffen).
This is Luke. Photo: Asia Tri

After starting the run in 5th, I ran steady into 2nd place. Honestly, it was a struggle and had it not been for those aid stations I would have totally crumbled. I only managed my Ironman pace as I was tired, my heart rate was sky high, and it was SO HOT, but I (barely) got the job done. Caroline was out of reach for the win, but Dimity Lee Duke made me work extra hard to get that 2nd place. I finished in 4:29.

please excuse my awkward "hands-behind-the-back-don't-know-what-to-do-with-finishers-tape-because-I-didn't-win" (I think it's bad luck to raise the tape if you're not the winner, so I avoid it. 

5) The finishers medals and trophies

All the awards at Philippines 70.3 are handcrafted by locally renowned artist who takes incredible pride in outdoing himself year-after-year. They are truly works of art and lusted after by anyone who has raced in Cebu. Yet another thing that puts these races above the rest

my second place trophy- if you look, you can see the swimmer, cyclist, and runner all in one work of art.

So, most certainly, definitely, absolutely:

Thank you to Fred, Princess, and the crew at Sunrise Events for another spectacular race. Thank you also to my sponsors and supporters for helping me to another podium finish this year!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ironman Switzerland 2015

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” T Edison.

In the past seven years of racing triathlon, I’ve learned that the “perfect prep” is an illusion. The truth is, life gets in the way. The fortunate thing is, life gets in the way for everyone. You may be sitting on the couch, missing a session because you are sick. However, chances are that along the way, your competitor misses a session because their car broke down or they had to help a friend in need. I’ve come to realize that the small setbacks along the way are just a part of the game. At Ironman Melbourne in March after a bout of Salmonella just 10 days out from the race, I found out that you can still salvage a good race (not perfect, but good) even when s%$t goes very wrong. 

My prep for Ironman Switzerland was far from textbook perfect, but I’ve come to realize that the imperfections sometimes might just be a part of the perfect prep. 5 & 4 weeks out from Switzerland, I did hardly any training as I was tapering & traveling for Ironman Cairns (the race that wasn’t). When I got “back to work” at home, I was at first freaked out that I had missed “the two most critical weeks” of Ironman prep for a late July Ironman. Once I began training though, I realized that I’ve already done probably 20 critical weeks this year and actually needed a solid break which life incidentally granted me with the DNF at Cairns. My training was better than ever and I took life’s usual hiccups in stride, confident that I had already done the work. Babysitter doesn’t show up for my long ride? Ok, no ride for mom today. Getting a cough two days before the race (which is now bronchitis)? No worries, take some echinacea and ignore it. 5 days of travel to Cape Cod for my brother’s wedding? Just fit in the training you can and don’t be a neurotic freak around your family because it’s not about you. These reminders helped me to get in some solid training, but to also be adaptive and flexible.  

There was also the question of which Ironman race I was going to do. I looked at both Ironman UK and Ironman Switzerland which were on the same day (July 19th). I hemmed and hawed about about the start lists & the course profiles, knowing I needed a podium finish by the end of July to get into the top 28 women in the world who qualify for the Ironman World Championships in the first cutoff (7 more women qualify in August in addition to a few automatic qualifiers). Normally, I just like to race whoever shows up, but this race was different. We were spending a lot of upplanned time and money to get there and I needed to make it count for Kona. To confuse things further, I even threw IM Canada on the table as a possibility. I sent an email to Thorsten of tri rating asking for advice and he essentially said, “You need to have confidence in yourself now that you can podium at any of these Ironmans. Pick the course and race that suits you best and don’t worry about everyone else.” In the end, that’s what I did. I knew UK had a high likelihood of being cold and rainy (not my bag) and Canada was a week later (July 26th) and conflicted with our plans to head to the Phillipines. Ironman Switzerland looked amazing: A beautiful 2-lap lake swim that looked easy to navigate (in-water navigation and rough conditions are not my strong suits). Switzerland also had a challenging bike course with a lot of variety: About 50% flat and 50% ups and downs, but a do-able total elevation gain of about 4000 feet. The run was flat and 4 back-and-forth loops around lake Zürich. Lapped runs are my favorite because you can often see your competition, pace yourself (e.g. 45 minutes per loop) and get an extra boost from the spectators who you see more often on this type of course. So, Switzerland it was. 

Due to our upcoming trip to the Phillipines for Cebu 70.3 on August 3 and then Australia for Sunshine Coast 70.3, we didn’t think it was fair to bring Wynne along to Switzerland as well… Luckily, my sister came to the rescue and offered to look after the Wynnstar while we (hopefully) got the job done in Europe. I realize I’m also incredibly fortunate to have a fiancé that rearranged all of our travel plans and sacrificed our time at home in July in order to get me to this race. Luke literally will go to the end of the world for me and I know he’s a rare catch. This kind of last minute travel is expensive, tiring and logistically difficult, but Luke was dedicated to the trip from the beginning. 

After dropping Wynne off in Chicago, we flew to Zürich where we settled in to Flo & Carole’s house in Horgen- a hamlet just outside of the main city. Flo & Carole are good friends who opened their house to us for the week which was incredible. We had such a good time just hanging out with them it was easy to forget I had a race on Sunday as most evenings were spent laughing around the dinner table with a bottle of wine until after 10pm. 
Lakeside dinner with Flo & Carole

We arrived on Tuesday and took a quick swim at the lake which was INCREDIBLE (and way too warm for wetsuits). Wednesday we had a chance to ride one lap of the two-lap bike course. The course was more challenging than we had anticipated, but had tons of variety and was just gorgeous. The climbs were significant- most notably, “The Beast” which is nearly 3 miles long at 5-6%. The forecast for Sunday was thunderstorms, but I tried to not worry too much and took the “it is what it is” route. I was just happy it was forecasted to be quite hot with highs in the low 90’s. 
Wednesday: Bike course recon. 

Race morning arrived and conditions were absolutely perfect. Calm seas, not too much wind, and no rain or thunderstorms. No wetsuits for pros or age groupers as the water was quite warm 25.8 celcius). I said a little “thank-you” to the weather gods and got my pre-race business done. I took my race-prep jog and felt fresh and at ease. 

The SWIM: 2.4 miles 1:00 (2nd fastest swim) 
My goal in the swim was to have a strong enough start to hop on some slightly faster feet. I was able to do this and ended up on Mareen Hufe’s feet. She historically swims a bit faster than me, so I was pleased and the pace felt perfect. Mareen led us through the first lap and we exited for a short run on an island before diving in for lap 2. 
Mareen (pink cap) & me (black cap/ Blue Seventy)  Photo: Michael Rauschendorfer

Luke yelled, “you guys are 2nd”! Yes! We knew Mary Beth Ellis (a very strong swimmer) was far ahead, but I was surprised that we were next as I knew some of the other swimmers in the field were typically faster than me. I dove back in with a smile and continued for a few minutes until some age groupers started to pass us. (Age groupers had started only 3 minutes behind the pro women so the faster ones were able to catch up). In a critical decision-making moment, I decided to leave Mareen’s feet and try to stay on some feet that had passed us. It turned out that the pace felt fine and these feet navigated me all the way to the finish. I was surprised at how many swimmers we had to swim through that were on their first lap. It was really challenging and I think partly due to the fact that IM Switzerland had a rolling start for the first time. With a rolling start, I think the slower swimmers may not even get into the water until almost 20 minutes after the gun goes off, so they are barely on their way as we started the 2nd loop. I got kicked by a few breaststrokers and whacked in the face but whatever I did, I kept an eye on the feet that were leading me. This choice on the second lap was a good one and I was second out of the water, 5 minutes behind Mary Beth Ellis and 45 seconds ahead of Mareen who was in 3rd place. 

The BIKE: 112 miles 5:13 (3rd fastest bike)
I decided for this race to go mostly by heart rate as my power seemed to play mind games with me at IM Cairns (I had a slow start and was fixated on the numbers and that I wasn’t quite hitting them). In Switzerland, I rode my target heart rate, and luckily, for the first half, this netted me my exact target power without focusing on the numbers. I was feeling strong on my SCOTT Plasma 5 and in control. 
famous Heartbreak Hill. 

Mareen, a super biker, passed me by 20k and I didn’t (couldn’t really) go with her. Going into this race, one of my mantras was “let the race come back to you” (pretty sure I just borrowed this from Elizabeth Waterstraaat). I knew that if I executed my own race, I should be able to get to the podium. I didn’t want to take any risks that could derail the outcome that I needed. 
Photo: Michael Rauschendorfer

To my surprise, the ride was quite fun. (I typically get really nervous about the ride and the pain and solitude it brings). I enjoyed the climbs and was somewhat cautious on the downhills. I didn’t encounter very much age group traffic, but there was some. At times it was mentally helpful (for pacing), at other times it was an irritating nuisance as I’d have to sit up and soft pedal to drop back quickly enough, etc. There was one longer climb where I had to ride much easier than I wanted - I was spinning up in my easiest gear far below my race watts. However, there were 4 men strung out ahead of me and I wasn’t sure I could (or should, given the effort it would take) pass all 4 of them legally (within 25 seconds each going uphill), so I sat back and ate and drank. Other than that, it seemed to be a fair race and from what I saw of others, they competed fairly as well. The second loop, my power and morale dropped slightly, but that’s Ironman for you and pretty much to be expected. I ate and drank a lot throughout and stayed on top of it all to set myself up to run. I remained in 3rd place alone (1+ minute back from 2nd, 5 minutes ahead of 4th) for the duration of the race, but I actually don’t mind racing this way. It allows me to do what I need to do and I don’t have to base my moves upon those of the other girls. 
Heading into T2. 
Photo: Michael Rauschendorfer
The RUN: 26.2 miles 3:01 (fastest run) 
Off the bike I got some splits: 17 whopping minutes behind to MBE (girl can ride!), and 2 minutes to Mareen in 2nd. Right away, I decided to run my own race as planned. I hoped to catch Mareen, but pretty much wrote off catching MBE and decided I’d be quite happy to be a bridesmaid at the Mary Beth Ellis Show. I threw on my Hokas (Cliftons) and set off. 
Photo: Michael Rauschendorfer

I never look at my pace during the first mile and go by feel. I try to run by a “controlled but productive effort” and then I look to see (after the mile) what that split looks like on the day. On the day, the split was right on my target pace and my effort was controlled but challenging. By 3 or 4 miles, I caught up to Mareen and we both wished each other well- we knew we were both in a good position for the Kona qualifying points we needed. After that point, I ran the next 15 miles focusing on solidifying my 2nd place finish. MBE is a world class athlete, multiple IM Champion, top 10 contender in Kona and current ITU long course world champion. I was okay with the fact that her 17 minute lead would probably be out of reach on the day, even if I could whittle down 10 minutes or so. As a result, I got to run in control for the first 3 laps and really enjoy the run! I said “hi” to everyone I knew along the course (Steve, Laura, Luke, Adrian, Joe, Sage, Brian), smiled a lot, and just ran. 

Having a little too much fun at the halfway point

thumbs up

My friend Carrie and I talk about ‘“finishing the business” in training so I focused on just finishing the business and what I came there to do. I had a lead mountain biker with me (Sabrina, who was amazing!) and she let the crowds know I was coming and got me some extra cheers which kept the wind in my sails. By the end of lap 3, though (about 19 miles), I was definitely starting to feel it all and slow down a bit. But, as I came through the finish line area to start the final lap, Luke & the race announcer informed me that Mary Beth had slowed down and that if I kept my current pace, I would catch her by 24 miles. HOLY S%$T. Honestly, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear! I was already happy with where I was, you mean I had to try harder and dig deeper? My legs hurt just thinking about it, but somehow my pace accelerated a bit and by mile 21 she was less than a minute ahead. At that point, the prospect of winning became real and I really went for it. I lifted my pace and eventually passed MBE around mile 23. I kept it going until the finish and had time to celebrate my first Ironman win. 
Photo Getty Images | Ironman

finish line debrief w/ Mary Beth Ellis... can't. stand/ up. 

Overall, I had the most solid start-to-finish race I had ever put together, something I wouldn’t have expected from my choppy prep and mishaps in my last few races. To win an Ironman was my bucket list dream and I get emotional thinking about all of the hard work I put into that very moment and that it has actually all paid off. 

Thank you to our families, who encouraged me to give it one more shot after IM Cairns, to my sister for all her help with Wynne, and of course to Luke, my coach and better half.
Women's pro podium

Thank you also to all of my sponsors for taking a chance in 2015 on the girl who was 20lbs overweight after just having a baby this time last year. We also have a new supporter, mortgage Broker Tommy Ullich #AussieTom and we’re excited about this new partnership.