Thursday, November 16, 2017

Ironman Florida Race Report! Last One Fast One!

Sometimes you need a little time to digest just what happened in your race. This race report has been rattling around in my brain for a week or so, and I’d better get it written down before I wait any longer.

The Short Version

Swim 1:08:32 / T1 6:06 / Bike 5:52:05 / T2 6:07/ Run 4:33:48 – Total time 11:46:38

The Long Version

I signed up for Ironman Florida with just at 4 months to race day. My “mentee”, Margaret had signed up for it the year before when the Alabama Triathletes were there volunteering at bike special needs. I watched an old DVD while I was on the trainer one day, and it inspired me to do “one more Ironman”.
My Mentee, Margaret after a lake swim!

I wrote out a detailed training program for the 4 months, and pretty much followed it to the letter. Monday was a swim only day, so it was kind of a rest day, but other than that I think I only took 4 or 5 days off completely from any training. But I believe I trained smart. I like having a plan that is consistent week in and week out. Sometimes it makes it difficult to get training partners, because it is rather rigid, but for me it works best knowing that on Tuesdays I have my long run, Wednesdays are a swim, mid-distance ride, and run off the bike if I feel good, etc.

So here is how my week was laid out:

Monday: Long Swim (not a continuous long swim) 5000 yards.
Tuesday: Long Run
Wednesday: Swim, Mid-Distance Ride, Transition Run (only 1-2 miles if I was feeling good)
Thursday: Mid-Distance Run (this started 4 months out at only 4 miles, it was the longest I was running)
Friday:  Swim, Short Ride (23 miles), Transition Run
Saturday: Long Ride with the local bike group
Sunday: Recovery Run

Once the long rides became longer than the typical Saturday Druid City Bike Club rides I switched them to Friday. Up until then I would ride the typical 50 or so with the group and then head out for some more miles. I also wanted to do my long rides on my tri bike by that point, and not on the road bike. So I scoped out the flattest roads I could find, even if that meant multiple (and I mean multiple) loops on the same roads. I parked at a place along the course so I could stop at the car to refuel my hydration. I trained with the same thing that they were serving at the race. This way I didn’t have to worry about bringing my own on race day. I had a plan and stuck to it. One e-Gel at the bottom of the hour, a salt pill at the top of the hour, and the Gatorade Endurance. I also had some mini Payday candy bars that I took when I felt hungry. When the weather was hot I tried to get one bottle of water and one bottle of Gatorade per hour. Once it cooled down some I decreased that amount somewhat.

Refuel after a long ride!!

I built my midweek long ride from 50 miles, which was the typical group ride distance, to 70. It took 6 weeks of increasing the distance to get it to 70, and then that is what I did every Wednesday following a swim with the Crimson Tide Masters. That swim was typically 3000-4000 yards.

The swim was the easy part for me. Monday I did a longer swim, in the month of September it was a 5000 yard swim. Not a straight swim, lots of different intervals, varied through the weeks. I don’t believe in the long straight swims, the main set needs to be close to what you will be swimming in the race. So on these days the main set was about 4000.

Now for the running…I have “bad” knees. I’ve written about them before, two micro-fracture surgeries, one in 2002 following IM Florida, and one in 2008 following IM Louisville. Last December I had one more for a torn meniscus, removal of a loose body, and some debridement. My longest run training week was 31.4 miles, and my longest run was 17. Every Thursday was the mid-week long run which I built to 8-9, typically this would have built to 12-13, but here is one of the areas that I held back. My long run was on Tuesday, trying to keep it from being back to back with the long ride is better for the knees, giving them some time to recover.


We're here!!

We got to Florida on Wednesday, rented the most amazing house from VBRO, it had a giant Swim Spa Hot Tub, a fenced back yard, and it came with a golf cart, so it had a one car garage! (Perfect for the stinky bike post race).

Got Bill a VIP pass to make the day easier!!

Thursday Bill, Margaret, and I went to the Ironman Village to get our race packets, and do a little shopping. The “expo” was a little unimpressive, but we did spend some time in the Normatec Recovery Boots. These were amazing, would love to have had these during the training. The next day was bike and gear check in, all went smooth.

Pre Race Practice Swim!

Race Morning:

I had a very uneventful race morning, which was good. Dropped off the special needs bags – nothing special in them. The bike SN had a PayDay, a couple gels (in case I dropped one while riding), a tube, quickfill, and tire irons. Run Special needs had another Payday, a gel flask, and a short sleeve shirt.

I had my wetsuit, goggles, cap, and a can of Skin Slick with me, so before I put my wetsuit on I sprayed everywhere that there would be possible chaffing. A guy saw me, and asked if it was lube, and if he could use some. So I sprayed his neck for him – one of the best things about Skin Slick and TRISLIDE (other than the fact that they work amazingly) is that you can share it and not have a stick glide toughing someone other than yourself.

Warmed up some before swim start, this is important to me because of the wetsuit freak out that I experience. Margaret and I did two ocean swims when we got to Florida, and my new Roka wetsuit with its very flexible upper body felt great.

IM Florida is a two loop swim, I lined in about the middle of the first corral of swimmers. The time for this group was actually 1 hour or less, but after talking to my friend Becky who has done a bunch of Ironman races, she reminded me that people lie. There was a very old man in front of me in the corral, absolutely no way he was swimming a sub one hour. After the gun went off I scooted around him because he was walking super slow and I didn’t want to get stuck behind him. I had absolutely no bumping or issues on the swim. I started on the right hand side of the corral and angled in like Becky advised. Only one time did a man cut in front of me (twice) as he was zigging and zagging. I did the roll over his back with a backstroke and kept on my merry way! Came out of the first loop in 32 minutes but had a tough time angling back to the course once I started on the second loop. So my second loop even though I swam straighter was slower than the first. Bill found me in the corral just before the gun went off, he said he had been looking for me for an hour. He asked what time I thought I would swim and I told him 1:10. Total time 1:08:32.

Running to the change tent on the asphalt was tough. I stepped on a rock or something and the ball of my foot behind the great toe got bruised. In the change tent no one was there to help me so I just was going to stand up and get ready, so I dumped my bag by a trash can. Then changed my mind and sat in a chair a few feet from my pile. A volunteer then came over and shouted “WHOSE STUFF IS THIS??” I said it was mine, and she got onto me saying it couldn’t be in the aisle (it wasn’t) and that the aisles needed to be kept clear. I said “Thank You For Reprimanding Me!” She then apologized and said she thought one of her people did it… yeah right, there was no one helping me remember? I finished getting ready, and carried my shoes with me until I got to my bike. (No bike shoes allowed to be attached to your bike.) Transition time 6:06.

Onto the bike ride!! Started out and felt great! My right piriformis had been bothering me in the few weeks leading up to the race, and I felt it twinge, but then just backed off and it went away. In all of my training rides I followed the exact same protocol. Easy ride for the first 2 hours, and then increase and build speed. In training this meant in the 17+ mph, but this was a race so I held it closer to 18. I don’t wear a heart rate monitor but I could tell that I was riding easy. Within the first 5 miles a woman in my age group went by me, DRAFTING. Uuuuuuggggghhhhhhh!! Just after she passed me, I could still see her up ahead, a marshal came by and waved to me! I waved back and said “old lady in the white jersey drafting”. They zoomed up and rode next to her for a long time, maybe a mile or so. I didn’t see her at the first penalty tent, so I don’t think she got dinged. And who knows if she continued to cheat later on in the ride. Why why why….

I was totally planning on stopping to use the bathroom, went by mile 20, 30, 40… I guess I just wasn’t paying attention at the aid stations because toward the beginning of the bike I never saw the port-a-potties. Margaret and I had talked about peeing on the bike and I wasn’t planning on it, but did it anyway… ewww gross. I just rinsed after wards with water. They say in Ironman if you don’t have to go at least 2 times during the bike then you’re going to be in trouble on the run. Well, not to worry, I think I went about 5 times. Guess I was well hydrated…

Bill, Margaret and I talked about bike times before the race and I didn’t think a sub 6 hour ride was possible, but I was happy to see that I made it with 8 or so minutes to spare!! Yay!! Right before I got off the bike I had an average of 19.1, that made me unbelievably happy. I was hoping for an 18.5. Bike time 5:52:05.

I could have easily kept riding. In the three other Ironman races I did, I couldn’t wait to get off the bike. I’ve actually described it as dislodging the bike from your body. But on this day it felt like I could have ridden another 40-50 miles! Nothing hurt, I was really comfortable. This goes to show you just how much a good bike fit is worth. I got mine from John Cobb years ago on this bike and it was the best investment ever! I ride a Cobb V-Flow saddle, and have for years, I am biased but I honestly think that Cobb makes the best saddles out there!

T2 was also uneventful, I kind of wish the nice volunteer didn’t help me. It almost felt like it slowed me down, she knelt there holding things out for me, but in a really strange order. I sprayed my feet all over with TRISLIDE - bottom of the feet, heels, between the toes. I had also sprayed them the day before and put my socks on, then took them off to put in the transition bag. This way there was a light coating inside the socks. I did this before every one of my long runs and never had one problem with hot spots or blisters. Proved again in the marathon!! T2 6:07.

Our numbers both added up to 19 - Prime Number!

I had dorked my watch coming out of the swim so when I was running out of transition I stopped it and switched to run mode. But like an idiot, started it as I ran out of the changing tent. Then I stopped at the port-o-potties while still in transition and my watch kept running. What an idiot.

Saw Bill as I ran out and stopped to give him a kiss and a sweaty hug! As soon as I started running I realized that the bruise on my foot was going to give me some problems, it was hurting bad! And I had put some different insoles in my Hoka Bondi running shoes because I had been having some plantar fasciitis problems, and while this worked well on fresh feet, it did not when my feet were slightly swollen from the bike. My little pinky toe on my right foot (the same one as the bruise) felt buzzy and numb. I tried not to think about my feet and after a while (like 10 miles) I stopped thinking about them.

Bill brought Bogey out on the run course!
He got lots of pets!

Becky and I not only talked about the swim start but a lot about the run too. She said if you want to have a good Ironman run you’ve got to keep moving. So I only walked enough to get two cups of water or Gatorade down at each aid station. I had my e-Gel flask and mostly used water. By this point the sweet Gatorade starts to get cloyingly sick tasting. The water cups were paper and made the water taste bad, so I finally started getting a cup of ice and a cup of water and pouring the water into the ice, that way it was colder and didn’t taste as bad.

Lap 1 Feeling Great!

I had my watch set to alert every three miles to remind me to take a gel, and I was taking one salt pill per hour. Before the race I talked with some of my friends at work and felt that I would be okay in the marathon as long as I didn’t cramp. Well, around mile 18 or so I felt the twinges of a cramp in my upper left leg. Not so bad as it shut me down, but bad enough that I knew if I stepped wrong it would seize.

Just before the turn around in the State Park there was a tent for Base Performance. Margaret uses Base salts and gave me a little vial once, I tried it but didn’t like it so I gave it back to her. On lap one of the run (Florida is a two lap out and back course), I took one of the vials and had a few licks but then ditched it at an aid station because the salt was irritating my tongue. But on the second time I went by the tent, just after my leg cramp I stopped for a second to try and massage my leg. One of the guys, who I later learned was Matt Miller, came sprinting over to me. “Are you cramping?” “Yes” “Have you taken any salt?” “Yes I just did.” “A salt pill, that will take like an hour to work. Here take 6 licks of this, and drink this down and I promise you won’t cramp for the rest of your race.” I looked at the little bottle of light pink liquid, couldn’t read the label, and thought for a minute that this might really mess up my stomach. Then I thought... what have I got to lose, I have to do something. So I took the 6 licks and drank the little magic bottle of liquid. And guess what… no more cramp. It was like magic, and I am now a believer.

Lap 2 after the Base Salts!

Without a watch running constantly from the beginning of the race I had to keep switching mine to look at clock time. I thought we started at 6:40 am, so I kept doing the math in my head of where I was and my predicted finish time. By this point in time you can calculate it, but then a mile later you’ve forgotten what you were thinking and have to do the math all over again. If I’m running 10 minute miles it will take me an hour to run 6 miles, but it’s really 11 minute miles at this point so I need to add 6 more minutes…so it will take me 66 minutes at this pace to run 6 miles. Then another mile goes by and you do the math all over again. And all of a sudden I realized that I was going to break 12 hours if I could hold on. At mile 24, the guys were out there with the glow sticks, also known as “THE STICK OF SHAME”. My friend Laura named these, that if you were out on the course after dark you had to carry the stick of shame. It’s also a tradition to toss it to a kid before you finish, so it’s not in your finish picture. Well the guy offered me the glow stick and I remember saying “I don’t need one, I’m about to FINISH!

Running down the finish shoot, and knowing I broke 12 hours was pretty emotional. I honestly did not think I had that in me. My “best” race scenario was to finish in 12:30. I did it in 11:46:38. After I crossed the finish I turned and looked back at the clock, and started crying. My marathon time was 4:33:48, just 10 minutes slower than in my very first Ironman when I was 31, 25 years ago this year. Bill was right there at the sideline and called out to me. It was so great to have him there and see what I worked so hard for these last few months. I was dedicated, I trained hard, I raced smart, I stuck to my plan. A 13 minute PR from my very first Ironman! It all fell into place for the best race of my life.

My retirement race, what a way to go out.

I placed 3rd in my age group at an IRONMAN.

I still can’t believe it.

I was hoping, hoping, hoping to be in the top 5.
But I got 3rd, me it may as well have been 1st.

I have lived the Tri Life for 33 years.

The best sport in the world!

Thank you for coming along on my journey.

Margaret and I both placed 3rd in our Age Groups!!!
Her first Ironman!!

Some super cute deer we saw on our
easy ride a couple days before the race!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

My Ironman Support!

This goes into the category “Above And Beyond”!

My Ironman is almost here, and I want to share a story about my husband that happened at IM Louisville in 2007.

Ironman Louisville has a perfect spectator viewing point on the bike course at La Grange. There is a highway that spectators can take to get there without having to be on the bike course, and the bike route goes by the town two times, so there are a couple opportunities to see your loved ones.

I searched the crowd both times and was able to spot Bill! We waved, and yelled, he cheered me on! It was such a good feeling to see him during the race!

After I went by for the second time he got back in the car to head back to transition to see me start the run. As I left transition, I was looking and listening for him, but didn’t see him. I figured that I must have just not seen him in the crowd.

On the second loop of the run I found him and ran over to give and get a hug!

At the finish line he was there and we were able to get a picture together, he had brought my recovery drink in a plastic bag filled with ice so it would be cold. I hadn’t asked him to do this, warm is okay, but he knew it would be better cold, so he carried around a leaking bag of ice so it would taste better.

Got changed and we got in the car to head back to the hotel. Not until this point did he mention anything, he said “Notice anything different about the car?” The car we had rented smelled like Spencer’s Gifts, apparently they had sprayed a ton of air freshener in it to mask the smoke smell. The smell was gone. Then I looked around and noticed it was a different car.

After Bill had left La Grange and was driving through a neighborhood a car came across an intersection and hit him. It spun the car around, and Bill hit his head on the driver’s side window. The rental was wrecked bad enough that it could not be driven. The police came, and an ambulance came.

The ambulance driver told him that he needed to go to the hospital because he had a slight concussion. Bill told him “I can’t go to the hospital; I HAVE to get back to transition!!”

He had to call a taxi to take him back to the airport, rent another car, and book it back to the transition area. This is why I didn’t see him after the bike.

He never said a word until I was finished and safe in the car.

He also got my bike, and bags and took them back to the hotel in the time that I was running.

With a concussion.

Watching an Ironman is tough, it is super tiring. Your feet and legs hurt from running all over the place to cheer for your athlete. But you feel like you can’t complain because the person you are watching just did an Ironman.

Bill never uttered a peep. He even went back out after we got to the hotel to get me a milkshake and something to eat.

Let’s pray that nothing like this happens at Ironman Florida!

So here is to my super amazing husband, Bill! Thank you for supporting me through this crazy life of triathlon! You are the BEST!

I just bought him a VIP pass for the day... shhh it's a secret surprise!!

p.s. The house we rented for Ironman comes with a golf cart, so getting around should be a lot easier!

In Napa at our nieces wedding! 

This picture is appropriate since we are moving to south Louisiana!!
This was the year that the Saints won the Superbowl!

Bill kayaked for me at the 4 mile Take The Lake swim!

Rock n' Roll Half Marathon! With no training Bill ran just over a 2:00 Half!

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Ironman Training Paradigm Shift

I am a sprint distance triathlete. The last Olympic distance race I did was 3 years ago. The last half Ironman I did was 5 years ago. Since then my “long run” is typically 5 miles. I’ve been protecting/preserving my knees. I had zero plans of ever attempting another Ironman.

Never say never, right?

All of a sudden my 5 mile Sunday Recovery Run has become my short run. It feels effortless, done in a flash. The Paradigm Shift. (Since the 1960s, the concept of a paradigm shift has also been used in numerous non-scientific contexts to describe a profound change in a fundamental model or perception of events, even though Kuhn himself restricted the use of the term to the physical sciences. – Wikipedia).

Fifty miles on the bike was the traditional Saturday long ride. Now it feels short.

Don’t you just love the Ironman Paradigm Shift? I do!

I can already tell that I’m going to have those post Ironman blues.

I am truly enjoying my training and the consistency. My husband told me that he is proud of me!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Anatomy of a 100 Mile Bike Ride!

This was posted by a friend of mine! Just too good not to share!! Enjoy!

The anatomy of a 100 mile bike ride
by Jason Riffle

Mile 1: lets get this over with

Mile 20: this might not be too bad

Mile 50: half way!!!

Mile 60: man that was only 10 miles?

Mile 80: you think my garmin is working correctly with all these trees?

Mile 85: if I see one more hill!

Mile 90: wtf you mean that was only 5 miles?!?

Mile 95: I really don't give a shit about the last five miles

Mile 96: fml

Mile 97: FML

Mile 98: FMLMF!!!!

Mile 99: @$&&@)&$;$&&(;$&);$&)

Mile 100: that shit wasn't that bad....could of gone harder

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Ironman Training - 10 Weeks Down - 9 To Go!

Just finished week 10 in my Ironman training. If you read my prior blog post, you know that I entered the game late. Up until last week it has been a constant mileage build for the bike and run. I am old school and instead of writing up my plan in a spreadsheet, I like to have it on paper. I wrote it using a combination of several plans, including Paula Newby-Fraser’s, Paul Huddle and Roch Frey, and Joe Friel and Gordo Byrn.

Because I started rather late in my training for IM Florida I didn’t schedule a Recovery Week until this past week. True to form, at the beginning of the recovery week I still felt really tired. Ah, but by yesterday not only was my motivation back, but also the spring in my legs.

New Birks for when I'm not training!

The week concluded with a 50 mile bike followed by a 2 mile transition run. The ride was with my local bike club, and it was hilly and challenging, but I was able to crank out two 8:30 miles off bike. The day before I swam 4500 yards, rode 23, and ran 2 off the bike, and was only able to manage 8:45’s. And then today I just had a 4-5 mile easy recovery run, the weather is cooler and I averaged 8:39! Which is my typical end of the run pace at this distance (pre-Ironman training).

Fun Socks that match my Cobb Mobb Kit!

Nine weeks left before the race! I have three more Base Weeks, followed by another Recovery Week. Then two Hard Weeks, and then the Taper begins. Some people taper for two weeks, I’m using a three week taper, going 75% volume for week 1, 50% for week 2, and Race Week will be at about 25% volume.

My Cobb Saddle is saving my butt on the long rides!

My nutrition plan is also going well, and last night I put it all down on paper, planning calories, CHO, and electrolytes for the bike and run.

So far so good! I’ve crested the hill and am rolling down the other side toward Race Day!!

TRISLIDE is saving my feet on the long runs!


Friday, June 23, 2017

The Ironman Journey

I was on the trainer last Tuesday, and popped in a video that I got at the Ironman store when I went to watch and cheer my friend and teammate Becky when she raced in Florida. It was the 2010 Ironman. I don’t know what it was about that video but all of a sudden I got sentimental...and started thinking.

Just after Becky finished IM Florida 2012!

Twenty-five years ago I did my first Ironman distance triathlon. I went to Canada with no expectations, and just hoped to finish. A month or so before the race I adjusted my goal to not wanting to be out there for 16 hours. There were no Garmins, no fancy wheels, no elaborate nutrition plans. Early that year I raced the Frost Yer Fanny Duathlon in Austin, and Paula Newby Fraser gave a little talk about training for the different distances. I took a bunch of notes and came away with her “Key Workout Training Program”. I used this to train for Canada. I had been working as an Operations Manager for the Gap, and going to school studying Massage Therapy and hadn’t been doing much training. Races were really mostly winging it and having fun with friends. I had 10 weeks before the race and wrote out my training plan based on Paula’s key workout program. Her theory was that if you were training year in year out doing the 3 key workouts a week, one for each discipline, then you could get ready for an Ironman in 6 weeks. My longest bike up to that point was 40 miles, and my longest run was about six.

Paula's Key Workout Program

As I started the run at Ironman Canada, a Texas TriFed official that I knew (this was before it was changed to USA Triathlon) was heading out onto the run at the same time. He said, “you know Ginger, if we move right along we can break 12 hours.” I remember looking at my watch thinking, “WHAT?” I had 4:23 minutes to run the marathon. As I ran along, not really paying attention to the times that the volunteers were calling out, I saw a girl with a long ponytail running up ahead of me. I kept my eye on her, and watched as I narrowed the gap. At the halfway point I came up next to her, and went by. She picked it up and passed me. I thought I do not want to play leapfrog for another 13 miles, so I struck up a conversation with her. She was Tricia Cadden from San Diego and worked for Scott Tinley (he had a clothing company back then). We ran along together and talked about breaking 12 hours. We were clocking out 10 minute miles on the nose, and got to mile 20 and saw that we had one hour left to make it under 12:00. Well, at a 10 minute mile pace that would get us to the finish line at 12:02; I said we needed to pick it up a little. Two miles later we hadn’t made up any time and now had 40 minutes for the last 4.2 miles, which now I know mean a 9:30 mile pace. Tricia had to make a port-a-potty stop and I stopped for a minute debating on waiting for her. I told her I was going on, and she said “GO!” I remember as I got close hearing the announcer’s voice saying, “Athletes, if you can hear my voice you can break 12 hours!” It felt like I went into a full blown sprint, trying to run fast as my calves were both cramping, hitting the finish line with 4 seconds to spare! I had never expected anything like that.

It would be 10 years before I would sign up for another Ironman. Laura, and Kara, some friends of mine that I trained with in Dallas were doing IM New Zealand, and I was doing a lot of their long rides with them. Another friend, Darcy had signed up for IM Florida, and I decided to give it another try. This race ended in fiasco. Three weeks before the race I went out for my last long run, and as I started felt some pretty serious pain in my knee. I had noticed some pain during some of the rides but nothing like this. I finished the run, and I knew there was trouble. My Mom begged me not to do the race, she told me she would give me the money from the entry fee and hotel. I did the race anyway, like any typical hard headed triathlete. I remember walking and running the marathon. I would walk because I was worried about doing more damage to my knee, and then it would catch and I’d almost fall down. Then I would run a little. Repeat. And a month later had my first knee surgery, micro-fracture…this is where they cut off the flapping articular cartilage on the end of my femur and punch holes in the end of the bone hoping that the holes will ooze and bleed and fill the space with scar cartilage.

I recovered from that surgery to race again, but stuck to short distances. Five years went by and a bunch of my friends were doing the 2007 Ironman Louisville. It was the inaugural race, sure why not! The easiest way to train for Ironman (in my opinion) is when there are several people that you know doing the same race. Those long bike rides are awfully lonely if you have to do them alone. I don’t mind the solo long runs, but cycling is a different story. It was 15 years since my first Ironman. I was really happy with the outcome of this one, 15 years older and only 50 minutes slower than my first IM. My friend Mary saw me on the first loop of the run, and I remember her saying to me it didn’t even look like I was doing an Ironman (on the second loop she said I fit right in.) I finished in 12:50:55, 7th in my age group, best finish ever. But this race took its toll on my other knee. So in 2008 I was back having another micro-fracture surgery on the “good” knee.

Jump forward another 10 years to 2017. It’s been 25 years since that first Ironman. I swore I’d never do another one, my rational and reasoning being that the run training would probably take me out of the sport for good.

But who is rational? I gave it some thought and talked to my husband. What better way to exit this sport that I love? I’m not saying that I will stop racing. I will only know after seeing what my poor little knees feel like after this race. It may be time to stop, and I can't think of a better way. One of the things that prompted me on which race to choose is that my Tri-Mentee Margaret is racing at Florida. This will be her first Ironman, and my last. Fitting. Passing it on to the new guard. I can't wait to see her on the run course and cheer each other on!

My Tri-Mentee Margaret Lloyd!

So I’m in for Ironman Florida in November. I could call it a redemption race, but I don’t think I will. I have no idea what I will be capable of at 56 years old, but I know I will enjoy this journey.

I hope you will come along for the ride!

See you at the races…

IM Florida 2002 with Darcy!

IM Lou 2007 with Mary Tubb!

IM Lou with the best husband ever!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

USMS Open Water National Championships

Earlier in the year when I was planning my race calendar I came across this open water swim in Chattanooga. This year it was the USMS Open Water National Championships. There was a 1 mile fun swim on Friday, a 2.4 mile on Saturday, and the Ultra 9 mile swim on Sunday. You could do the trifecta or choose any of the above. Since 2.4 is the Ironman distance swim I thought it would be fun. I set my goal to go sub 60 minutes. At Ironman Louisville in 2007 I swam 1:05 – that was with a partial up river swim and the majority down river, so I felt that if I could break an hour I would be happy. Little did I know that the river was moving at a force of 46K current on race day! I finished the swim in 38:40 – a sub one minute per 100 yard average! HAAHAHA!! Only in my wildest dreams could I ever swim just one 100 in that time!

The swim is held in the Tennessee river, pretty close to the same swim that is used for the Ironman that takes place there, except on the north shore of the river. The swimmers are taken upriver on a riverboat then we jump off and swim over to a 100-foot-long floating dock. The gun goes off one minute after the last swimmer is in the water.

Bill, Phoenix, Bogey, and I left for Chattanooga on Friday, hit the race venue for packet pick up, and then took the boys for a walk across Coolidge Park to check out the river. We saw some people on paddleboards going upstream and thought it didn’t look like they were having any issues, so that the current must not be very strong.

Sweet Phoenix almost 14 years old!

I was a little anxious the next morning, not because of the swim or the distance but because of all the logistics and timing for the event. There was a detailed timeline on the website outlining when to check in, when to board the boat, etc.

Hurry up and wait!

2.4 Mile
Saturday, June 3 at 8:30 a.m.
6:45 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.
Swimmer check-in (packet pick up, athlete marking) at Outdoor Chattanooga.
6:45 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.
Pilot check-in at Outdoor Chattanooga. Kayakers who have their own boats will need to drop them off at GPS boat dock prior to the 7:30. Staff will be at the boat dock to watch your boats.
7:00 a.m. – 7:20 a.m.
A warm up area will be available for athletes along the North Shore from the finish under the Market Street bridge to the Blue Rhino Kayak Steps and back.
7:20 a.m. – 7:50 a.m.
Swimmers board Southern Belle Riverboat under Market Street bridge, next to finish line. There are multiple restrooms on the boat.
7:30 a.m.
Pre-Race Safety Briefing for Officials and Pilots at Outdoor Chattanooga – mandatory for officials, timers, boat support (motorized and non-motorized), and safety personnel.
7:40 a.m. (or immediately following the pre-race meeting)
Pilots will board one of two microbuses and be taken to either GPS boat dock or a private residence. Kayakers who have their own boats will need to drop them off at GPS boat dock prior to the 7:30 a.m. meeting. Staff will be at the boat dock to watch your boats.
7:50 a.m. or 8:00 a.m.
Pilots enter the water from the GPS boat dock (7:50 a.m.) and the boat dock from a private residence (8:00 a.m.).
7:55 a.m. – 8:15 a.m.
Boat ride from Market Street bridge to race start. During the boat ride to the start, we will check swimmers off the master roster and hold a safety briefing. Swimmers should leave bags on the boat, and they will be unloaded at race finish. There are restrooms on the boat.
8:30 a.m.
8:35 a.m.
9:20 a.m.
First finishers expected at finish line. A warm down area will be available along the North Shore from the finish under the Market Street bridge to the Blue Rhino Kayak steps and back.
9:30 a.m.
Lunch available for swimmers and pilots at Outdoor Chattanooga.
11:30 a.m. or 15 minutes after the last finisher
Awards ceremony at Outdoor Chattanooga.

From the looks of this it seems like someone was VERY organized. But that is about as far as that went. The race didn't start until 9:30.

At 7:30 the boat still hadn’t left the other side of the river and Bill headed up to the walking bridge over the river so he could get some photographs of the boat as it headed out. It turns out he could have stayed with me for almost another hour.

Bill's view from the bridge!

I’m not sure where the breakdown in communication happened. Before the start the riverboat was anchored downriver a little ways and on the opposite shore. The boat didn’t even start making its way over to us until after 8:00 am. It took them 3-4 tries to get the “gangplank” over to the boat launch ramp so we could board. I don’t know if it was because of the current, or operator error.

I met an interesting man as we were waiting for the boat. Jonathan Ezer was one of the original people invited to do the very first Ironman in Hawaii. Back when it was just some guys seeing if they could do the course distances of the Waikiki Rough Water Swim, the ride around the island, and the Honolulu marathon. He lived in Hawaii at the time and was the race director for the Waikiki Rough Water Swim. He didn’t do it that year because the winds changed and the jellies came out in abundance, and he was allergic to the stings. They held off the race one day hoping that the winds would change, but they didn’t so he wasn’t able to do the race.

Waving at Bill on the bridge. (the guy in white is Ezra)

On the boat I handed out a few samples of Foggies to the people around me, and one of them was from Jackson, Mississippi. I found out the he knew most of my triathlete friends from there, too! Small world stuff.

We all finally got on the boat and headed upriver. Once we got to the starting point another lengthy maneuvering began. The pilot turned the boat around too close to the start buoys, and too far out into the river. The current, which we thought didn’t look that intense was apparently very strong. I heard the race director below us tell him he needed to get closer to the floating dock, or move more upstream so we could swim down river to the dock. After some back and forth it finally got close enough and we jumped off one at time and swam diagonally to the dock. We were allowed to either just hang on to it until the start or climb up onto it. I dove in and started swimming at the angle to intercept the corner of the dock on the up river side. I was in a good line, but as I got closer I could feel the current pulling me down stream, so I angled hard to change course. Held on and felt my legs pulled hard downriver. This was going to be ONE FAST SWIM!

I watched as three ladies were trying to swim to the dock, the hadn’t angled in soon enough and were almost to the start buoys but swimming upstream and not making any progress. One of them had to finally be rescued by a kayak and brought over to the dock. People had to drag her up out of the water.  It was like Ironman Louisville when I watched people warming up, they looked like they were swimming in an endless pool. Going nowhere.

We had been instructed to keep the orange buoys on our left and stay between them and the shore. The race started and I found clear water almost immediately. I did get scratched on my shoulder once, and hit in the leg one time too, but other than that there was hardly anyone around me. That’s because the majority of the swimmers were on the opposite side of the buoys, toward the middle of the river where the current was stronger. Okay…I have to say it. I hate cheaters. It wasn’t difficult to stay inside the buoys, there wasn’t anything pulling you to the middle of the river. These people knew what they were doing. Bill said he saw the kayakers trying to get them to move back inside. And this was at the end of the swim where he could finally see us finishing. UGH…… A USMS National Championship.

Buoys on your left!
Back to the swim. The water felt amazing! The temperature was perfect! I had no idea how fast or slow I was swimming. There were some electrical wires overhead at about the half way point, and when I saw them I knew we were moving fast. I glanced at my watch and saw that my sub one hour would not be a problem!

We were supposed to touch a pad above the finish line and hold our hand on it for 3 seconds at the end, so they could get a picture of our number. The pads were WAY above the surface of the water. I kicked really hard and was able to “High Five” the pad, but that was about it. I heard a guy shout “what is your number?” and I called it out to him. I wanted to get in a little warm down but with the swift current only did a little and then got out.

See how high those touch pads are!

We had a bag drop on the boat and they were going to bring the bags to the swim exit. We apparently beat the bags back. Finally, one truck arrived, but no bag for me. It was on the next truck which arrived almost an hour after I finished. It was crazy! When the first truck arrived full of bags, everyone crowded around it looking for their bags. Some snagged theirs, others started trying to dig in the giant pile. I started grabbing bags and laying them out on the sidewalk, my bag didn't show until the 2nd truck.

We asked about the timing for awards, and were told 15 minutes, so decided to wait around. Time went on and nothing, and then finally they started awards. They were all messed up, so they said it would be another 30 minutes. Apparently the timer grouped both the Championship wave, and the non-championship wave. (On the table where the timers were, there was a opened box of TRISWIM bodywash/lotion samples. We got a sample of the shampoo in our swag but not the bodywash…apparently someone didn’t include them during bag stuffing. Hmmm…. SBR Sports Inc. is a sponsor of the race. Not good on the race organization part.

I prepped a bunch of packets of TRISWIM and Foggies to hand out pre race!

We had plans to go sightseeing so we left and headed to the hotel to take care of the babies and get on with our day!! Did the tourist thing and went to see Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain, and ride the Incline railway! When Bill was 6 years old, their family took their first big vacation there and we wanted to see the change! I never saw Ruby Falls, we were on the extremely commercial (and annoying) tour and saw that it was going to take forever… and I started thinking about claustrophobia. We had to stop and wait a lot, and with the low ceilings I almost had a freak out. A group headed out passed coming from the opposite direction so we hopped on and blazed out of there. Yikes!!

Chattanooga was really fun! Would I do the event again if it was held here? Probably not. I actually wanted the swim to take longer, and wanted to see my time for the distance.

Of course I must pose by the turtle!

His tail indicates the speed of the current!!

Always smile at your husband!

Met  Facebook friend Kelly Randall! A fellow COBB CYCLING fan!!!
We've got to get her on THE COBB MOBB next year!!

The End