Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ironman CDA, the race on the surface of the sun

I wanted to get this post out while it's still fresh on my mind, pain in my body and a slight hangover from yesterday's celebration.

Ironman is hard.  Even on a day with perfect conditions it will test your body, it will test your mind.  You can train 20 hours a week or 6 hours a week and the end result is going to come down to how well you EXECUTE a plan, and what kind of grit you can pull out on the day.

Last year training for this race everything went flawless.  I followed my plan to a T, I rested and I recovered.  This year was a little chaotic with a lot of travel then followed by 6 weeks of caring for sick dogs and packing up to move to CDA for the summer.  I wasn't resting, I wasn't recovering and all of my workouts were not the quality I would like.  However, in the last couple of weeks leading up to the race my dogs were recovering, my stress was low and I was doing what I needed to get my body and mind race ready.  I was feeling great!

In addition to getting myself ready, I had my biggest year of coaching and 5 amazing athletes getting ready to race CDA as well.  We were dialing in our race strategies with fueling, hydration and pacing.  They all had a plan and they were ALL very ready to race an Ironman.  The 10 day forecast came next and this is where everything began to change.  Honestly, I never actually believed it was going to be 100+.  This was my 5th time racing Ironman CDA, and it has NEVER been over 85degrees.

As the days clicked off and the weather only got worse, it was time to adjust our plans.  All but one of my athletes lives in Arizona.  We train and we suffer in heat, we know what it takes.  That said, we do NOT go run a marathon after being out in the heat and already training for 6+hours.  We wake up early and we get as much done before the sun is up and the temps are blazing.

As part of TeamBSC all of our athletes are getting the personal coaching from either Michelle or myself, but in addition they get a community and support of a team as a whole.  While we were all getting race ready and adjusting our plans Michelle was doing research.  She was having 1:1 discussions with the Osmo creator Stacy Sims getting exact details on what we should be doing to stay hydrated in this heat.  We all adjusted our plans (drink ALL the OSMO) doing everything in our power to keep our bodies healthy.

Before going into my race report, I just want to say that my day was hands down made 100 times better being able to watch every single one of my athletes out there on the course fighting through the conditions, sticking to their plan, not once even considering giving up and doing it ALL with a smile and high 5 when I would see them.  Those smiles and seeing them out there only pushed me harder when my body wanted to do nothing more than stop and or walk.  I can't thank you all enough for making me so proud, and helping me out there even if you didn't know you were.

My 2015 race!

Before the weather forecast my plan was to swim strong, bike strong and have the run of my life.  I had been given some intel on my competition and I knew it was TOUGH.  I knew a Kona slot was a long shot, but it's Ironman and anything is possible.  While I may not be the fastest one out there I know how to execute a race.  I have been training with power for a year now, and I knew exactly where I needed to be to have a solid day on the course.  I was able to do a few of my long training rides out on the hilly section, and had my numbers dialed in.  On a light wind day I estimated a 5:50 bike split.  Holding my power, and eating all of my nutrition and hydration would set me up to run about a 3:45-3:50 marathon.  I had been training out on the course and had no problem running 8:30's -8:40's on trashed legs.  With a 1:05-1:06 swim I figured a 10:45-10:55  would put me in contention for a podium spot, and then give me a shot at Kona.

And then the 105 degree forecast happened.  My swim and bike plan did not change, with the exception of having to basically double my hydration plan.  This meant not only stopping at special needs (planned) for Osmo refills, but also going through EVERY single aid station to grab more water, soak myself with water and also stop to refill my bottles and mix Osmo.  I've never stopped on my bike in an Ironman.  My run plan was to do the same with Hydration carrying Osmo with me the entire run.  I also added a cooling towel to my special needs.  I figured I would assess pace when I got off the bike, having no idea what my body could run in 100+temps that was the wild card.

The swim went great!  I lined myself up exactly where I did the previous year at the front of the 1hr + wave.  My first split was 31:30 and I was stoked!  Having done this race so many times I new my second lap would be a little slower, but my tendency to swim to my right definitely slowed me down getting off course a bit.  I swam a 1:06 and was 8th in my AG out of the water.

Out on the first out and back on the bike I felt AMAZING.  I flipped my garmin to show me cadence and 30" power.  While my legs felt unbelievable my power was higher than I planned.  I slowed myself down and just started my hydration.  By mile 20 I already had to pee.  I climbed up the first big hill on the second out and back, and as soon as I descended I was able to go what would be my first of 6 times peeing on my poor bike!  While I wasn't hot yet, I was still pouring water on me at every aid station.  I was passed by a friend, and girl in my AG and as much as I wanted to go with her, I held back and stuck to my plan. Just before the turnaround (so maybe mile 35 ) I stopped to mix up my 3rd bottle of Osmo.  It took some extra time, but I was determined to stick to my plan and do everything in my power to set myself up for a good run.

I could feel the heat picking up as I headed back into town to start the second loop.  My back started to feel the sun, and while my body temp was fine I was wishing I hadn't walked passed the sunscreen people coming of T1.

I picked up my special needs bags with additional calories and more Osmo and headed back out on the bike.  The big climb on the second loop was where I really had to test my patience.  My power was at the top of where I wanted it, but I had at least 3 girls in my AG pass me.  It was SO hard to not start my race then and there, but I just prayed and trusted that my plan was going to work.

After the climb I was actually running out of water.  I had already gone through both of my Osmo bottles, but there wasn't an aid station for a while.  I just watched my power and stayed on target and kept stuffing down my nutrition.  I flip flopped with a guy on the bike that was covered in sunscreen and asked him where he got it.  He handed me some Zinc and let me coat my sizzling skin with it.  Seriously, I love making friends on the course!!!

At the next Aid station I stopped yet again and mixed more Osmo, had them pour water on my head and back and then was on my way.  My pace and dropped just a little from the extra time at the stop, but it was worth it.   On the way back into town I could just feel the heat radiating of the asphalt (I later read that the fire department said it was 148degs coming off the highway).  I had to make 2 more stops to deal with a wheel issue, but thankfully it was just the tape covering my disc that had come loose with all the water.  I started taking at least 3 bottles at each aid station to pour on myself.  If I was wet, I was cool. 

In my last 10 miles this is where things got ugly (not for me).  I saw people WALKING their bikes up the hill heading out to the turnaround.  I saw at least 15 people just sitting in the brush on the side of the highway seeking shade.  Kits were covered in salt.  People just looked ROUGH.  I was so thankful to see each and everyone of my athletes smiling and just doing their thing out there knowing they would all make it off the bike!

My bike time was 6:10, and I moved down to 13th place in my AG.  I drank 6 bottles of Osmo, at least 5 bottles of water and about 8 more poured on me.  I peed 6 times and consumed 1800-1900 calories.  I took 12 xe21 and zero additional salt.  My stomach felt fantastic the entire time!

As I headed into T2 I was shocked to feel how amazing my legs felt.  I purposefully left my bike shoes on so that I didn't burn my feet.  Everyone around me was barely walking to the changing tent so I did the same.  Then I realized what am I doing???  My legs felt great so I grabbed my bag and I booked it in there.  I dumped my bag out, did a first time sock change, drank my diluted Osmo pre-load, stuffed my gels down my top and headed out with 2 other girls in my age group (they had passed me and I had I guess caught back up with them).

My origional plan was to run 2x9' miles then drop it down to 8:40's and hold.  With the heat, I had no pacing strategy.  My plan was to run what I could and dig when I needed to do.  Within the first half mile I looked at my garmin and was running about a 9:30 and it felt comfortable.  I had to stop at a porta potty just before mile 1, and after that I was on my way.  I ran with a girl in my AG until the second aid station and she fell back.  Another girl passed me and shortly after one more.  I just kept doing my thing.  Sipping on my osmo, running about 8:45-9' pace but walking through every aid station taking in ice, and water.  I ate a gel every 4 miles, refilled my bottle with Osmo and topped it off with ice water when needed.  I took sponges and water every chance I had.

At the turnaround I realized I was gaining on 3 girls in my age group.  I walked up the steep hill, and cruised down it.  My energy felt great, and I was doing what I could to keep my core temp down.  I stopped at special needs and grabbed another premade bottle of Osmo, more gel and more e21.  I also had a cooling towel that I wrapped around my neck and tucked in my bra.  I ran through every sprinkler, and let everyone with a hose spray me.

Somewhere between miles 15-20 I passed 3 girls in my Age Group.  Shane & Theresa came out on the course to tell me what Michelle had passed on to them to run myself into 5th place.  At one point they thought I was in 4th and with 5 miles left I DUG.  I gave it every ounce of everything I had left in me to hold pace.

At mile 23 my friend came flying by me and as much as I wanted to try to go with her I did not have that speed left.  She was gone.  But, I didn't give up.  I picked up the pace as much as I could, walked the last 2 aid stations, ditched my towel, ditched my bottle and when I turned on to Sherman I clenched my teeth and held back tears.

For the first time ever I ran 6 girls down in my age group.  I RACED that Ironman like it was my last.  I took in 4 bottles of Osmo, 4e21, 5 gels and maybe one cup of cola total.  I never felt stomach issues, I never felt bonked, I never cramped.

Run time 4:10, 3rd fastest run split in my AG and putting me in 7th place with a finish time of 11:33.

I found Shane, got out of the finishers chute and headed straight to dump myself in the lake.  It felt amazing.  We walked to some shade and that's where everything changed.  I started to go white, and I couldn't keep my eyes open.  Shane half walked, half carried me to medical where they moved me from the chairs then to lay down, then when my eyes started rolling back in my head and I couldn't stop shaking they carried me to the "back."  I don't remember a lot of what happened other than a lot of questions and hearing my blood pressure and O2 stats not being good.  I got wrapped in a blanket, and an IV inserted.  I started coughing.  They called Shane and got my inhaler, but that made the coughing worse so they started a nebulizer breathing treatment.  After I finished that things started to go much better!  My blood pressure went up.  My body soaked up the IV in record time and I could hold my eyes open.

I don't know how long I was in there, but I can't thank those volunteers enough for taking care of me!  They were simply amazing.  Having never been in there, I witnessed some very scary stuff and was just happy I was not in worse shape!

I can hands down say that this was THE hardest Ironman, or any race that I have ever done.  It is also one that I am most proud of.  Holding back on the bike and taking extra time to hydrate was the best plan for me.  I'm simply amazed at how my body endured that run, and I have absolutely NO regrets!  I earned Baxter THE best medal to date!  This one was all for you, B!

To top it all off each and every single one of my athletes finished the day with a smile, and I couldn't ask for anything more!!!

What's next?  I have absolutely NO idea ;)

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to my amazing support crew.  All the cheers on course (Shane, Jen, Tracy, Teri, Dad, Cindy) the virtual support (far too many to name!), and the best sponsors providing me with everything I need (TriScottsdale, Tribe, Osmo Nutrition, Recoverye21, Planet Sun Hawaii and BeetElite).  And to my coach and TeamBSC Michelle.... words can't even begin to say what I want to thank you for turning me into the coach and athlete that I am today, and we're not even close to being finished :)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When it rains....

It's been almost a month since my last post and I feel like my life has completely changed.  I can honestly say this has been one, if not the hardest, most stressful months of my life.

I'll back up a bit and talk about the good. Before our life got turned upside down and both of our dogs were diagnosed with cancer, I was training hard, feeling great and had a pretty solid race in Rocky Point. I conquered one of my huge fears which was swimming through huge waves, basically dolphin diving and body surfing and avoiding all stingrays! I biked my legs off and ran fairly strong landing my second 3rd overall place at the Rocky Point Tri.

After our trip to Mexico we learned that Baxter had hemangiosarcoma. The really bad kind. The kind that spreads quickly and the prognosis is 1-3-6 months.  I'm happy to say that he has mostly recovered from his splenectomy (where the tumor was) and that he's doing great. We've had a couple of little scares, (most recently our first visit to the doggy ER in CDA for some weird allergic reaction on his puppy paws),but for the most part he is happy, eating (hot dogs and steaks and whatever else he wants) and just trying to be a happy old dog. I've started Baxter on an organic mushroom immunity supplement to help keep him healthy, and we also opted to do a very low oral dose of chemotherapy. We never planned on doing this, but after speaking with an oncologist the risks were low, costs were low and if there was anything we could do to help give him a little more (good) time, well than why wouldn't we do it?

A week later later we took Juliette in to have a "thing" on her leg removed before we headed away for the summer. When I took her in because she ate the stitches out of her leg, we were told that she too had hemangiosarcoma. Thankfully, hers is a less aggressive and scary one, basically skin cancer.  While her cancer is about as good as we could hope for in prognosis, her little injury on the leg has been nothing but a pain in my ass. I have spent the past 3 weeks re-bandaging, cleaning and caring for her would that she has somehow even manged to chew through with a cone on her head.  There have been many a' melt downs and tears of frustration with this dog....

A weekend up north to celebrate the wedding of one of my absolute most favorite people in the world's wedding.  Jen, my twin! Shane stayed home with the dogs for one night so I didn't stress, and we had an amazing friend and dog sitter watch them the next. It was a beautiful weekend away, beautiful wedding and we even through in a nice little training ride climbing Mingus Mountain!

It was back to business, and of course more dog drama (and leg eating), lack of sleep and training for the last weekend before heading to CDA. Another random incident happened in the long ride.  My athlete, good friend and training partner had a bike crash right next to me. Thankfully, he walked away with some bad road rash, but no serious injuries and is already back up and training. But, as luck would have it, in the mix of the whole thing, I somehow dropped my bike and broke the derailleur hanger.  A piece which I later found out could not be found in town.  I once again, found myself stressed and in tears as I was supposed to leave town in 4 days, and race 24hours after my bike arrived. I don't know how I did it, but somehow I scrambled, found a bike shop to get the part and committed to fixing my bike in a few short hour window so that I could indeed race.

The next few days were spent packing and trying to stay afloat with work, (thankfully I have the BEST co-worker and friend covering my ass) athletes, training and dog care. Then, 2 nights before we were supposed to leave my house started to smell like something was burning up. When I realized it was the AC going out, I made a call to one of my athletes who owns a home services company with a cry for help. Sure enough the AC was dying and we were left with 12 hours to figure out what to do before leaving. With the help of many friends and a nice little zero interest financing plan we somehow had a brand new AC installed while we were on the road....   Not exactly an expense we had budgeted for, but honestly right along the lines of how everything was going this month.

I don't know how, but both our travel (me flying, Shane driving) went perfectly. We got to our rental house and it is just perfect. The dogs did well and Shane had no issues with the journey. On Friday I spent the day doing everything BUT race prep. I didn't sleep well (up with the dogs), didn't rest. I moved furniture, ran errands, and drove around. I finally had my bike at 6:30 pm and had to find the rest of my race gear. Around 10pm I finally went to bed, hoping for a good night's sleep and some race day magic.

Unfortunately, I've yet to have any sort of race day magic and that day was the same as always.  While I am fit, I knew that my month of stress and tears and maybe 2-4hours of sleep per night on top of crappy pre-race chaos would take it's toll and it did. The race was (for me) somewhat of a shit show. I was exhausted. My quads burned, and on the run all I had in me was a nice jog that was at a pace slower than I had run 20miles at a week before. I'd be lying if I said that dropping out didn't cross my mind, but instead of doing that I tried to just not think about sleeping, and just put in a training day. I made some friends on the course, I cheered for the people having a great day, and the second I crossed that finish line I laid down in the grass ready for a nap. I was so incredibly exhausted. I didn't have a bad swim, or bad bike, or a bonk on the run.  I just didn't have any gears and went through the motions for almost 5.5hours. One of my slowest half ironman race times in years.

We spent the evening in our new back yard with some cocktails and the dogs.  I was so tired getting into my recovery boots didn't even cross my mind!

Sunday was spent trying to finish unpacking and purchase everything we needed to make us (and the dogs) comfortable. Extra rugs and dogbeds so they weren't slipping all around the floors and some food to get the week started. Unfortunately, we had one last little scare with Baxter as he woke up with swollen feet. Before we left for our errands I gave him some benadryl, but when we got home several hours later they were still puffy. Being completely paranoid I went ahead and took him to the ER vet in town. THANKFULLY, they weren't concerned and figured he was just having a reaction to something new in the house.  Best possible news. However, the past few days I've spent trying to keep him from licking them and it has not been easy!  We've done epsom salt soaks (for me too!), more benadryl and extra anti-inflammatories.  

It's finally June. I've taken a couple of extra days to recover from my race than normal but have finally had a couple of quiet days, catching up on sleep and just hanging out. After noticing a slightly suppressed (low) HR on my run today, I moved my bike ride to the end of the week and am spending the cold and rainy day catching up on life and resting. I'm motivated and hopeful that I can spend the next 3 weeks refocusing my training priorities to fine tune myself for my absolute favorite race of the year, IMCDA. The weather looks gorgeous (warm) for this weekend so I can't wait to get out there on the course and put in some quality time!  With any luck (and lots of prayers) we will have no more drama for a while.  The dogs love it here, and I'm pretty darn happy myself!  Can't wait for Wednesday farmers market to start up and many ventures around town on the cruisers ;)

I hope that all of my amazing friends and people in my life realize how much I appreciate their support over the past month. I honestly don't know what I would have done with out you all.