Sunday, May 20, 2012

Spectator Fun and New Adventures

It has been an exceptionally fun past couple weeks recovering from Ironman St. George (in my world that means mostly sitting on the couch and catching up on all the fun stuff I'd been neglecting during my high volume training period). One of my favorite things about recovering is SPECTATING!!! I had been looking forward to May for a really long time and the opportunity to just go to watch the TCat and my other training buddies race...skim vanilla latte in hand of course!

May 12th - Oakdale Duathlon
TCat had a 50 mile ride to do so it was just Marge and I making the trek out to Lake Elmo Park Reserve for the race. Once we located the race venue we searched desperately for a coffee joint...Caribou in Woodbury...thank GOD! Lisa, Greb, Eman, Dolan and Scotty (coach) were all racing and it was a perfect day! Pretty much everyone PR'd on this course and Lisa biked a whopping 3+ minutes faster than last year!! Incredible and so excited for her hard work to be paying off on the bike! Scotty...aka beast...was incredible and as impressive as ever winning the race and breaking the master’s record as well!

May 19th - Blaine Triathlon
Minnesota weather can be quite interesting almost always skipping the spring season heading straight into hot was a windy 85+ degrees, smashing away any early season cold water concerns! This was the first running of the Blaine Triathlon and minus a couple rookie mistakes it was a fabulous race that we'll likely consider adding the schedule for years to come..I mean they even had Cuzzy's cater in a post-race shredded meat feast! Lisa picked me en route to the race and our course we allotted time for a Caribou skim vanilla latte run at which point I also added a lovely raspberry white chocolate scone to the order after proclaiming "I really had better start training again..." Since TCat was racing this one as well as Christina, Greb and Pearson we were stoked to put on the cheering hats! Greb had the most jaw dropping lead on the swim that I had ever seen! He also was leading the race coming into T2 unfortunately wasn't able to hold on for the win but did nag a very impressive 2nd place finish! My TCat also had a stellar first race of the season grabbing his first ever Triathlon PODIUM spot finishing 3rd!! I was so happy for him! Christina killed the women’s' race finishing 3rd (largely due to her new found biking power!!). My buddy Greta had a great day coming off injury as well to take the win for the women....what a fun day!

You would think this spectating excitement would be enough...but oh no... we have been busy. This past Wednesday I drove all the way to Owatonna with Karlita (my mom) to meet and adopt our newest member to the family Vito! He was currently set up in Foster care..and the moment we saw his picture we just knew he had to be ours...anyone that knows me probably knows that once I my mind on something there is no distance too far or mountain too high keep me from getting it! You see...Chubbs our current and much loved Orange Tabby Cat has quite a personality of her own...we like to say she is high maintenance...but seriously she meows like a raging goat...which is cute mostly, but totally not cool at 2, 3, and 4 am in the morning! Anyways after much reading and encouragement to get her a "buddy" Vito has found himself a permanent home!  First couple days were a bit rough with lots of hissing and growling Chubbs style...but now we are flying nighttime meowing and Chubbs seems happy...and Vito... well he just brings so much life and energy to the family...we just love him.

Lastly...OMG I BOUGHT A MOUNTAIN BIKE!!!!!! You see I have always been intrigued by the MTB scene and the Xterra Mtb races and deep down always wanted to give this a go. Buying bikes is never a cheap endeavor, but since giving up our 2nd car last Fall we now have the means to as I like to say "buy as many bikes as we want to!" We decided on a Salsa Mamasita hard tail frame due to its flexibility for racing many different events and had a ton of fun picking out all the parts to build her up! She is fast, fun and a Hottie of course. In my opinion every bike should have some white on it! today marked Hottie's maiden voyage and in all reality my first proper mtb ride ever!! Chris Balser, the bad ass Bicycle Fit Guru and mountain bike beast so generously offered to show us the Theo Wirth ropes and teach us some much needed technical tricks. Love that guy! First he took us to this random place called Brownie Lake??...when we first rode in I quickly realized the insaneness of this venue choice (knowing Balser I of course wasn't really surprised) and instantly my heart was pounding like a sledgehammer and I thought I was going to friggin kill myself! Well after some serious sketchy riding in there I survived and we then ventured over the Theo course and thank GOD this was much better. I was starting to feel more and more comfortable every 5 minutes or so and by the second loop was really enjoying myself...well with the exception of the 2 really gnarly head over handlebars wipe outs that both Balser and TCat had front row seats for! I even shed my first drop of mtb blood!! 3rd loop was a go slow and no brakes loop ( or more like brake as little as possible). It was a blast... and the small amount of rain made it seem even more epic ...I had so much fun and seriously felt like I was a kid again...loved washing off the dirt and actually made me realize the last time I'd been that dirty was high school soccer! I can't wait to ride again and already adding some mtb races to the calendar. First race will be the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series Red Wing Classic.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ironman St. George Race Report

When Ironman St. George made its way onto the Ironman circuit 3 years ago and quickly dubbed itself as one of the toughest Ironman courses, I knew that I would have to do this race at some point.  I was strangely intrigued by the difficulty of the bike course and what at that time appeared to be an equally hilly and even more difficult run course.  Last summer I decided 2012 would be the year.  When WTC announced the change in run course for this year’s event I’ll admit I was severely disappointed, feeling as though I had been cheated…after all you don’t sign up for an Ironman, and definitely not Ironman St. George, unless you truly like to suffer.  In some sick way I’ve always envied those warriors that you see towards the end of an Ironman, glowing necklace around their neck, shuffling, crying, puking and collapsing their way to an Ironman finish.  I desperately wanted to know what that felt like, to question if a finish was even possible, to throw out any limitations and find out what was my real “uncle” point. 
Looking out across the reservoir at conditions similar to the conditions of the race start.

As God would have it…on Saturday I got the ultimate sufferfest…the one that I had always so desired.  2012 Ironman St. George was relentless.   25mph winds (40-50 MPH gusts) made for a treacherous, incredibly wavy, fear for your life and those around you kind of swim, one that my words on paper will never give adequate justice to.  The morning weather was calm….however 10 minutes into the swim it was as if someone had turned a hurricane switch and suddenly everyone was in a state of panic! The waves were based on my estimation about 3 feet high with white caps spraying water everywhere making the visibility extremely difficult.  I have never seen so many heads above water and all the volunteers in boats were yelling, but the wind was so strong that I couldn’t understand a single word they were saying except one gal pointing her ore and saying “aim for the right side of the rock” (there happen to be a massive boulder right in the middle of the Sand Hallow Reservoir).  So that’s what I did… bringing my head up about every 5 strokes to get my balance and catch my breath!  It was freaky!  If you were prone to motion sickness, this was one for the record books.  At about 1.5 miles in…I was puking like a college kid, and suddenly feared for my own safety.   There was only one kayak in sight at this point and he appeared to be fighting for his own life trying to make his way over to shore near the massive boulder. 

Very choppy, racers scattered everywhere  (let me know if this is your photo so I can give credit!
 The “race” had become more about survival with the main goal of just flat out getting back to shore.  Some buoys seemed to be flung off course and I remember seeing some racers skip the last red buoy, probably more out of desperation rather than an intentional cheating of the course.  Once I finally rounded the last buoy there was somewhat of a reprieve from the face smashing waves and I could see the end in sight. As I stumbled my way up the boat launch, I knew I had already accomplished something incredible and that this was going to be an epic day!  I heard that 80 to 200 people were pulled from the water and that they even had to send a bus across the other side of the reservoir to pick up people who had swam to their safety.  So many people were unable to complete the swim that they actually allowed them to continue the race without their chip, something I’ve never witnessed in an Ironman event.  I also believe the swim cut-off was extended beyond the traditional 2:20 as official results exist for those that swam over the 2:20 cut-off on the swim.  No where can I find confirmation of this however.
View from the shore, you can barely see the buoy to the left (let me know if this is your photo so I can give credit)

Heading out of T1 I was very glad to be hopping on my bike and heading out of the reservoir, however, it quickly sunk in that these same evil winds would be right smack in our face for the next 50+ miles as we made our way north past the town of St. George. The first 20 miles or so were seemingly manageable until we started to climb into up the mountain towards the town of Veyo…. at which point things got crazy!  The winds were really whipping through the canyons in multiple directions, staying upright on your bike became a real challenge, and seeing single digits MPH readings was very disheartening…about 30 miles in I actually started to laugh as it was sinking in how truly ridiculous this was, and suddenly I was incredibly excited and invigorated by the extreme difficulty of this event. I started to notice that other racers looked mentally exhausted and some seemed to be seriously struggling.  I began to feel like Pacman gaining a little bit more energy and power with each biker that I passed.  The last 10 miles of each loop was a an adrenaline junkies dream as we had the winds at our back and were riding scary fast downhill  reaching speeds up to 51 mph…at one point it occurred to me that just a small pebble in the road could leave me skinned and very broken.  Luckily they had just repaved the roads, likely for this very reason.  I felt pretty solid on the bike and recorded my best amateur bike placing to date, something I am very proud of considering the conditions.  You can see the downhill speeds recorded on my Garmin here:
Coming into T2 I was feeling pretty good and was really looking forward to the run.  The first couple of miles felt pretty good, however by mile 3 I could tell the swim and bike had really taken its toll as it was taking almost every ounce of mental and physical energy I had left just to keep turning my legs over….23 miles to go.  I focused on continuing to run no matter how slow it was…taking in liquids, gels, salt tabs you name it anything that might revive my tired legs.  The run course was nowhere near as hilly as the one from 2011 and not nearly as epic as the day’s swim/bike experience, however, but it wasn’t flat by any means and its 58 turns certainly kept things interesting.  At about mile 16 as I was climbing up Diagonal Street my gut was in such a knot it brought me to a walk as I tried to calm it down and revive the rest of my race. 

The next mile felt like an absolute eternity and I was feeling increasingly worse unable to take in much as the aid station and nothing seemed to ease my stomach.  Finally I reached my husband Tom, my Coach Scott, and friend Lisa at mile 17 at which point I was stopped hunched over taking in all the encouragement they could provide, and finally put on an incredible projectile vomit show for those 100 or so folks that lined that specific street.  I remember staying “I don’t know what to do” and trying to think of a means to make it through the next 9 miles as I knew that quitting was absolutely not an option and I was starting to fear if I didn’t turn things around I would pass out and leaving he course would be outside of my control.  At this point….another racer heading the other direction on her 2nd lap went out of her way running over to me and screaming so incredibly loud “c’mon lets’ go” at which point I reminded her “I am going that way” pointing to the direction I was heading…her response, “I don’t care” which was proceeded with a shove on my back that catapulted me my 4th Ironman finish. 

This was my slowest and lowest placing Ironman race to date, however it was by far my most satisfying.  I had suffered in way that I had never suffered before; and finished an event that will go down as one of the toughest Ironman’s to date.  On this epic day, only 1024 people were able to call themselves finishers, a feat 29% of starters were unable to accomplish, by far the highest DNF rate of any Ironman.   I feel truly blessed to have completed this event, and to have witnessed some incredible camaraderie, more than any endurance event I’ve participated in!  My training partners and great friends Shane, Voss, Marge, Julie, Jason, Donetto and Brian also persevered and found levels they didn’t know were possible on Saturday…having trained with all of these Ironmen, I had no doubts that we would all Finish this race. Thanks to my great friend Lisa who took time out of her life to share in this epic day with me, and thanks to my Coach Scott for your relentless passion towards my dreams and your enormous amount of patience , I know I am at times not the easiest person to coach.  So glad you got to witness this display of mental strength you helped build. Thanks a million to Chris Balser, AKA Bicycle Fit absolutely rock, and thanks the lovely folks at The Fix Studio for your serious smashfests! Lastly, to my calm and poised husband Tom, you heal my mind…. you are so patient, and believe in me more than I do at times…I could never accomplish any of this without you.
Vegas Baby!  Post race at the Bellagio!