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: Witsup.com
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.