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.