Monday, June 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

memories for a lifetime

The Road to Kona as a Woman 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 1, 2015

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

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

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

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