TOTAL TIME: 4:49:00
AG Place [30-34]: 3
Overall Female Place: 25
Just about anyone in the endurance sports world will tell you that, above all, consistency is key. And this is precisely what has lacked from my training regime as of late.
As discussed in my St. Anthony’s report, my priorities for this season shifted drastically from previous. I truly and honestly wanted to have fun and not worry about triathlon! Since that race, I realized that both living in Colorado and working for an entrepreneurial-type company requires you to make the most of whatever the day, the geography, and/or the weather brings. Even when I had the time, motivation and equipment to diligently follow Coach Chris Rotelli’s diabolical plans, a literal storm or a figurative one could roll in at any moment thwarting even the best training intentions. As Mike Tyson explains, “everyone has a plan—until they get punched in the mouth”. I felt like I was punched in the mouth weekly. Travel and weather stunted my ability to train for days on end. On the flip side, both Colorado and BASE Performance provide unique opportunities to train that my previous life did not.
When I did train, my altitude-induced snail paces became quite demoralizing. I tried my best to stay positive, but I admittedly refused to do any interval training in lieu of easy workouts. Also, I traded scheduled workouts for other activities with far more capriciousness as I had previously [and I’ve never shied away from altering the plan].
On top of it all, I made a concerted decision that I didn’t want to give up anything for the sport. I still wanted to have fun with friends, indulge in my abundant guilty pleasures, stay out late when I felt like it and all-around enjoy the relative youth I pretended that I still had (ok, I’m probably going through a third-life crisis).
On the flip side, I’ve enjoyed a lot of cool training opportunities. A random Wednesday, for instance, Matt and friends planned a long bike ride, so rather than wait until Saturday to complete the workout as prescribed, I joined in a good three days earlier. Another instance, I had the opportunity to go to the Master’s swim coached by Triathlon Legend, Dave Scott. Naturally, I made that a “swim day” and traded whatever workout for that. To pull it off may mean answering emails at 11pm and working on weekends, but the next snowstorm could be around the corner, so gotta get it when ya can!
Essentially, I’d end up training a whole lot for three days and not at all for the remainder of the week. Not exactly the most traditional regime… (sorry, Coach, for being a #badkid!). But fun. We’d see if “binge training”, as I called it, would produce results. Is all of this a long-winded set of excuses? Perhaps…
Oh, as an aside, I should also mention that since January, I had read the following books:
- Iron War, which chronicles the six-year battle between Ironman World Champions Dave Scott and Mark Allen (thank you Tim Myers for this!!)
- A Life Without Limits by Meredith Kessler
- Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want It
- And, very loosely related, The Celestine Prophecy
- Oh and I’ve been slowly trudging through Chris McCormacks piece of “literature”, I’m Here To Win
My new life created quite a journey leading up to the race. I had a blast at my college friend, Kristin’s, beautiful wedding in New Mexico. Then drove the affectionately named “Beast” [aka Black Cadillac Escalade] 10-odd hours to work at the epically stormy Ironman Texas. Then flew home to Atlanta for a visit before driving to Chattanooga to work the expo and, eventually, toe the line. The wedding and Ironman Texas both turned out to be more fun (and exhausting) and less conducive to training than I had anticipated. Which pushed back my 80-mile bike ride and 17-mile run to the Monday and Tuesday prior to the race. A far cry from a traditional “taper”. I didn’t stress about it.
That is, until I returned to Atlanta and chatted with the guys at the local bike shop/watering hole, Podium Multisport, and learned that apparently others in the local triathlon scene had much loftier expectations of me than I even had for myself. Jeez, guys! Can’t I just race for FUN?! I sincerely doubted this notion myself… Shoot! Maybe I SHOULD have taken training seriously!! And stayed at altitude more consistently! Maybe experience would compensate for erratic training??
I drove up to Chattanooga on Friday morning and worked at the BASE Performance tent at the expo all day, which requires a lot of time on the feet, engagement with people and energy expenditure. I truly enjoy it, but the work is exhausting. Immediately after, I hopped over to Big River Grille where Doug Kelly kindly arranged a dinner for our BASE Performance Team. We had an excellent turnout, and before I knew it, it was nearly 11pm! I needed to get outta there.
Hit the hay and was up again to set up the expo. Luckily Matt and Tony manned the tent for the greater part of the afternoon enabling me to perform such errands as change the battery of my power meter (which I hadn’t used since Augusta a good 9 months prior… #badkid), install an aero bottle, check in my bike and whatnot. I pumped up the legs with my new favorite toy-Normatec Recovery Boots. Oh, and I locked myself out of our VRBO house, requiring me to walk/hitchhike [don’t tell my mom :D] the three miles back to the expo. Doh!
I returned to the Big River Grille with a feeling of déjà vu to attend the Atlanta Tri Club’s traditional pre-race dinner. I loved catching up with old friends! Of course, the occasion wouldn’t be complete without Robyn’s famous chocolate chip cookie cake, and I indulged unashamedly. And, in fact, hit up Whole Foods for some race-morning fare and an oversized race-eve cupcake because dessert should come in courses [this is how you carbo load, right Ilana??]. I ran into a cackle of ITLers there and chatted a bit before retiring to bed.
Uncharacteristically not hungry, I had a few bites of oatmeal and coffee before heading out the door. I set up transition, and half of one of my two Rocket Fuel bottles dumped out. Whoops! [Apparently I had installed my new XLabs aero bottle wrong…]. I put a few Larabars in my new bento and didn’t give it a second thought. I gingerly placed a good five salt vials by my run shoes. Cause ya never know when you’re gonna “save” someone’s bad day!
This race begins as what’s known as a “rolling start” in which athletes form a giant line on a first-come-first-served basis and wait until the start. Tony and I, unwilling to wake up early, resigned ourselves to lining up in the rear. And in the rear we were, indeed! I stepped out of that line and into the slowest moving porta john line I’ve ever waited in in my life.
I then returned to rejoin Tony, Danny Freeman, and Russell. We chatted about the race and our team and things. We had vetted ourselves against one another, so it was fun that we would start head-to-head-to-head. I noticed Lindsay Amerson a little bit behind me and wished her luck!
Eventually the line moved forward, I christened my wetsuit down the pungent ramp indicating that I certainly wasn’t alone in the act. I started my Garmin and hopped in the water in this particularly anticlimactic start!
SWIM 1.2 miles 30:17 1:34/100m 19th AG
The swim course directs athletes upriver for about 300 meters before turning 180 degrees to race the remaining distance down river. Thusly, my intentions were to grab hold of feet and draft during the first segment. Athletes were all over the place seemingly motionless, making me wish I had started earlier to avoid the chaos. It took a lot of energy maneuvering around the bodies, particularly up river! Oh man did this part feel hard! Eventually I made it to the red turn buoy and clumsily navigated around it, again, struggling to avoid the masses.
Finally! Downstream from here!
I expected the crowd to thin, but it didn’t. I hoped to find feet to follow, but I didn’t. Nope—I was far faster than those around me, which is a phenomenon to which I’m certainly not accustomed. Whenever I would find a rhythm, someone would get in my way, and I’d have to maneuver around.
I normally swim quite straight. Early into this sport, I made a concerted decision that if I wouldn’t swim fast, I’d at least swim straight. So, whereas I’d typically not bother sighting much during a straight downriver swim, I learned quickly that the non-straight-swimmers could easily divert my trajectory. So I sighted for myself. Trust no one!! I struggled to find rhythm anyway, so sighting frequently wouldn’t cause much detriment anyway.
After that, all I could think about was how much I dreaded the Ironman swim that awaited me in August at Mont Tremblant—TWICE this distance?! Why does this feel so hard?! I thought this was down-river!! Why did I sign up for another Full Ironman?!
About halfway throught the swim, I remembered some of the mental tactics discussed in the books that I had read and well as previous experiences. I tried to stay calm, focus on a smooth stroke and remind myself that there was a LOT of race ahead!! Don’t Pull a Raleigh.
I continued to dodge people and weave. Someone grabbed my ankles, which reminded me to kick out the legs. The exit was, not surprisingly, crowded.
Side note: Very ironically in hindsight, while swimming I found myself thinking about the potential hazards of the sport of triathlon and debating which discipline is the most dangerous. Cycling came to mind first, as the quantity of incidents and the severity of injuries are both high. Running likely produces a higher incidence of injuries, but many of them are minor and surmountable [i.e. overuse]. Occasionally someone might get hit by a car, have a heart attack or some other detrimental incident. However, it’s easy to notice and access to attempt to help. I finally decided, however, that swimming is the most dangerous by far. While the incidents are likely relatively few, when something bad does happen, you’re pretty much SOL. Yeah, there’s kayaks floating around. But if you have something like a heart attack or a seizure or head injury, you’re also drowning and far less likely to survive.
Sadly, I later learned that a gentleman did pass away during this very swim—presumably from a heart attack. I’d like to think that this incident would have occurred regardless of the activity he was participating in and that he ultimately died participating in something that he loved. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family!
Up the stairs and ambled up the hill. I saw the wetsuit “peelers” [c’mon Ironman, they’re strippers!] and only then remembered that step of the process. I was rusty! I then jogged the rest of the way to transition, trying to dodge the more laissez faire athletes. I donned my shoes and helmet, grabbed my bike, and took off.
BIKE 56 miles 2:33:26 21.9 mph 4th AG
Here are some of the highlights of the first half of the bike:
- Paul Link FLEW by me with speeds liable to produce a sonic boom
- Joseph McCleod likewise passed me with likewise unfathomable speed. He overtook me at a moment when I was contemplating whether the braid that laid on my shoulder sacrificed aerodynamics in any significant way. I may have hypocritically drifted to the left a bit. Sorry, JoJo!
- This course was CROWDED! Far more crowded than I remembered from the year prior. Dangerously so. Bikes everywhere. And unlike St. Anthonys, where people seemed to understand and [more importantly] abide by both official rules and unwritten cycling etiquette, a lot of people maneuvered in ways that made me nervous.
- The course was not closed to the significant traffic that passed through. And many of the roads had absolutely no shoulder. Too many bikes + too many cars – inadequate amount of pavement = near disaster.
- I got stuck behind a truck trailing a cyclist riding about 12 mph thereby causing him to drive 12 mph for the most maddening 7ish minutes of my life! Well second only to being stopped [literally] in my tracks by a train at an Olympic distance race a couple years ago that no longer exists… Not only did this cost me time, but it also created a dangerous scenario. Woof.
- There were just crazy peletons of athletes.
- I was chased by a dog. I won [this time].
I guess the upside of all of this commotion was that the bike went by quickly! I loved the visibility of my power meter on the new aero bottle—and I actually looked at it more frequently than previous races. My average power was about 175, whereas it would have been 200 last season. This data is relatively irrelevant, though, given I had no actual numbers to work with. Perhaps I SHOULD have actually done an FTP test or two since Augusta…
During the stuck-behind-the-truck incident, Lindsay caught me. I recalled her starting behind me. She must be having an awesome day!! I was truly excited for her. I knew, too, that without open road to clock some serious bike speed, I wouldn’t have my best day.
Whereas I normally love the back half of this bike, the headwinds were strong. Even stronger, though, were the egos of the dudes that Lindsay and I battled. They aggressively rode in packs, drafted off of us and would do the super-annoying “speed up because I don’t want to get chicked, but then immediately slow down” thing that not only irritates me, but causes them to burn their own matches. Just let a girl pass you, darnit! And certainly don’t draft off of us when we do! So there Lindsay and I were—leap frogging one another and trying to shake the guys while trying to ride as legally as possible. It was frustrating.
However, I actively stayed positive—a tactic, I’m learning, that takes will, practice and conscientiousness. At worst, this will be a great training day with a ton of friends! At best, I’ll pull together a decent run [and NOT “Pull a Raleigh”], and perhaps still place!
A few miles from the bike finish, Lindsay said that it would be fun for us to run together. Seriously doubting if I’d pull together any decent kind of run with 17 miles under my legs a few days prior, I told Lindsay that today was her day! She already had at least a few minutes on me, and I honestly wanted her to have a great race. After thinking on it a second I asked, “well, how fast are you gonna go?” “7:30’s”, she responded. “I’m definitely gonna have to start slower than that! Well, maybe I can run the first loop with you and then bonk :D”
I unstrapped my shoes as I approached the dismount line, which Lindsay verbally admired. Don’t worry, girl—it’s super simple! And if my uncoordinated and ungraceful self can do it, anyone can! I successfully landed the flying discount and jogged my bike to my transition spot. I put on my shoes and TIED the laces—yup! This is my new thing. No speed laces anymore for this girl!! Grabbed my visor/race belt and was off!
RUN 13.1 mi 1:40:01 7:38/mi 3rd AG
Ohhh no! I immediately realized that I (very ironically) had forgotten my salt!
Here is where this report has laid dormant for over a month. Seeing as “perfection is the enemy of good”, here, again, are some highlights. Because who will read a novel, anyway?
- Staying on the Positive Train, I made a concerted decision that I would HAVE FUN on this run. That meant going at a pace that enabled me to LOOK UP and ACKNOWLEDGE the scenery, and [more importantly] the spectators that generously came out to altruistically cheer we sufferers on!
- Taking a note from Meredith Kessler, I made a note to SMILE at certain triggers—whether I felt like smiling or not. I treated the tactic kind of like a drinking game… certain cues would require a smile.
- Also, perhaps taking a note from the Celestine Prohpecy, made it a point to encourage everyone around me. If I wasn’t going to have the most optimal day, I could try and ease the suffering of those around me! Perhaps give them a laugh or the cheer that they needed.
- I cheered on the spectators themselves! They surely get bored, so I tried to give them some energy to feed from!
- I saw Jane several times on the run. The first time, right out of transition, I told her I forgot my salt. How ironic! I proceeded to tell everyone I saw that I knew in hopes that someone would have some.
- The course kind of zig zags giving you many opportunities to see the other athletes on the course, which is fun!!
- I saw John Rutledge, the most photogenic athlete in the sport. He was looking strong! Later he mentioned that he was having a less-than-ideal day, but you wouldn’t know it looking at him!
- I saw Danny Freeman out there, who likewise looked strong!
- Although my race-brain skewed things, I think it was Doug Kelly that gave me salt a few miles in and saved the day! Whew, just in time!!
- At first, Lindsay pulled ahead of me on the run. I reminded her that it was her day and encouraged her to have a good run. She lamented having nausea, which she had also mentioned on the bike. Every time I saw her, I tried giving her a cheer. Eventually I caught her, I believe around mile 6 or so? I ran with her a few strides before pulling ahead. Shortly thereafter, Matthew and Shanks of Dynamo Multisport, I believe, saw me go by and then her shortly behind me. I heard them cheer her on.
- There was an awesome 80’s themed aide station on the back side of the course.
- I pressed forward, chatting with other athletes, engaging with spectators, and truly enjoying myself! I didn’t look at my garmin.
- I reached the pedestrian bridge, where I saw Matt and gave him a big high five.
- Back into town, where the Atlanta Tri Club tent was ROCKING OUT in luau gear and giant foam hands and music! It was SO AWESOME!! Y’all are the best.
- Second loop went much like the first. However, when I reached the spot where Matthew and Shanks posted themselves, they cheered me on this time, which I truly appreciated. That’s when I started to suffer a bit.
- Saw Matt again on the pedestrian bridge and knew I was almost home. Just needed to hold on!
- Back into the energy of the town!! Saw the ATC tent and very nearly turned the wrong way to complete a third Whoops!! Thank goodness yall were there to direct me the opposite way into the finisher chute!
Felt nauseous and sat for a minute in a folding chair next to an athlete who was visibly shivering. He told me he had been sitting there for a good 20 minutes without being taken into the medical tent. I brought this to the attention of the medical staff, who didn’t seem too bothered by the situation… I was.
I then visited with ATC, ITL, Team Podium, Tri Coach GA, Dynamo, Endurance Concepts as well as BASE Team friends while drinking a recovery beer. Collected my award at the ceremony, where I likewise watched my new tri hero, Matt Russell collect his.
I beat my previous course swim time by a minute. And apparently that current I felt didn’t exist—it was all mental, which made me feel better about the second half feeling hard. My bike was 7 minutes slower than last year. I believe the truck and the wind and frequently getting blocked in by peletons accounted for this. My run, however, was five minutes faster!
And this was, by far, the most fun I’ve had during the run in a race. And that was a concerted decision. I have many thoughts on the subject, which I won’t delve into here, but I think this directly relates to performance in certain ways and to a certain degree. While being forced to take it easier on the bike perhaps accounted for a portion of the gain on the run, I believe a lot of it relates to attitude and mental stamina.
Now, I just need to work on qualifying for 70.3 Worlds in Chattanooga in 2017!!! Oh, and do that stupid little Ironman in Mont Tremblant in August…