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: