Monday, June 9, 2014

I'm a half Ironman! Eagleman 2014 Race Report

I truly can not believe that I am writing a race report for a half ironman, a 70.3 mile triathlon that I completed.  This is going to be LONG so I apologize ahead of time!!

The week pre-race was filled with small freak outs over many small little things, nutrition, weather, packing, stuff, pretty much everything.  I did manage to keep it together for the most part though and the excitement was definitely out weighing the nerves.  I was feeling pretty confident after our training weekend but the confidence was nerve wrecking actually.  My goal was just to finish but I had a goal I hadn't really said which was to finish in 7 hours and 30 minutes, it was my first one though and I knew I had no idea what the weather or distance would have in store for me.

I went out to Jersey Friday night so I spent much of Thursday night cross checking SIX yes SIX different lists of "what to pack" that I found on the internet, compiled from LaDawn and the Athlete guide.  Type A to the max ladies and gentlemen.  I packed multiples of almost everything in case it got lost and read the Athlete guide every night that whole week before bed.  Friday, Jamie came to pick me up and off I went to my second to last sleep before the race!

Saturday morning we got up early, packed the car, headed to Maryland and once we arrived it was a whirlwind of activity.  We tried to wait in line for packet pick up but the line was HUGE so we had to drop out to go to the mandatory athlete talk.  We met up with the other girls and sat in the shade to rest our legs and stay out of the sun.  The head referee ( i am not sure that is the right word) was really good, I loved when she told the men "Women WILL pass you don't try and race them to get back in front".  I, however being a rule follower was petrified of littering or drafting already and her talk did not help those nerves!

After the talk we decided to ride our bikes over to transition to check them in and also give us a chance to ride them one last time to ensure they were working properly after the 4 hour drive.  We brought our wet suits and swim stuff so we could get in a practice swim as well.  At the Athlete talk they announced the water temperature was 74.2 degrees and it would more than likely be a wet suit swim.  The swim went ok, I felt more tired then I would have liked but we did realize it was pretty shallow all the way out to the number 6 buoy.

When we got back to the festival area we waited in line to show our USAT cards, sign our lives away and then pick up packets, shirts, backpacks and trackers.  Excitement was definitely out weighing the nerves at this point and I went CRAZY purchasing swag.  Siobhan and Jared arrived with O and we decided to head to the hotel to check in and find food.  I had been hydrating all day but I was starving, luckily the hotel had food so we could just eat and then head to bed.
Definitely still wearing the wrist band.

I actually slept pretty well that night before but I was pretty achy so I went to sleep covered in BioFreeze.  We woke up nice and early to get ready and head over on the shuttle.  As we were waiting for the shuttle, Dionne texted to say they were announcing it wasn't a wetsuit legal swim then my parents texted to say they were late leaving their house.  I may have almost cried on the shuttle.

At transition taken by Dionne.  The sunrise was AMAZING.
I headed to start setting up transition, all the while freaking out about the wetsuit change.  The finally made an official announcement and said they would add a wet suit wave at 8:40am and that you couldn't win any awards.  Now I knew that you couldn't win an award and was NOT concerned with that but I had no idea they moved your start time later.  I was already concerned about being so close to the time cut offs so it became a choice between using the wet suit which made me feel more comfortable and being the absolute last group up against the 8 and a half hour time limit.  It was a tough decision and there were definite tears in making that decision.  I sat down and took off my calf sleeves and with that the decision was made. Ladawn couldn't decide on her lava pants and eventually decided if I wasn't she wasn't so we could stick together.  I'm glad I did that because being last is not a great feeling, although I did manage to keep myself from having a mental meltdown about it.  Actually mentally this was a great race for me, well after the wetsuit/ swim meltdown I was mentally prepared and kept my cool even with the issues I faced.

All READY for no wetsuit swim!
I did my generation Ucan 45 minutes before the start and I was excited but the nerves were kicking in, however I DIDN'T throw up!  Success!  It was an in water start so we stood down there in the water holding hands when the start went off we hung back a little and then got started.  Things were going fine but I had a complete and utter freak out.  I hadn't been in open water with no wet suit and this was only my third time in open water.  I rolled to my back and I was saying I can't do this and Ladawn swam by and said "YES YOU CAN."  I rolled back over and got back to it.  I swear swimming is the worst, the whole time I never feel that I'm getting anywhere and it is frustrating.  The other age groups behind us started catching up to me and swimming over top of me.  In fact one guy actually swam over top of me to the point I was completely under him and couldn't come up or move my arms.  Before I even had a chance to freak out that I was drowning he grabbed my tri suit and pulled me back up.  He said, "You ok?" I said yeah and he was off, I have to admit that was so nice of him generally people just swim over top of you and don't even stop!

51:59 later I was so happy to see my parents as I got out of the water!

Transition went pretty well, I remembered everything I needed to remember but as I was walking out the guy goes watch your water bottle and at that point I realized the throw away water bottles I purchased were too slim for my cages!  Of course I started freaking about them falling out and getting me a littering call so I pulled over to wedge one into the metal and then held the other one in my hand for 5 MLES chugging it until I got to a trash drop zone that was technically for the run but I used it to toss both water bottles.  That of course meant no water until the next bike stop at 20 miles, oh man and it was HOT.  I got two water bottles at that stop only to realize the event bottles were too small too.  I didn't freak out, I just put the one down in the trash drop zone and then kept the other one in the back cage where it seemed to not fall.  Turned out the power aide bottles did fit so I got one of those but I can't do power aide so my stomach was very upset after one bottle.  Luckily I ran into Ladawn who told me that I should just dump out the power aide and fill it with water.  Thank goodness because my brain was NOT working.  The bike course is very flat which is good and bad, the headwind is AWFUL at points you feel you are going backwards. At times it was very lonely, probably because I was in the back. 

Things I learned on the bike: It is possible for men's armpit hair to blow in the wind, generation ucan did not work very well in the bottles I picked for it, I need to hydrate better, I need to put the salt pills in a more accessible area, wearing the bike shirt worked really well, bike seats and lady bits are NOT friends and the wind is NEVER at your back.

After an expected 3:49:54 on the bike I came in for T2, I am actually surprised to see my splits look so consistent for the bike.  I felt I wasn't very consistent, at times spinning up to 20 mph when the wind wasn't so awful and at times jamming it at 12 mph into the headwind.  My handling skills have improved but I need to get better and passing and not hanging behind people that I should just pass. 

Oh the Run, in my opinion this is where my particular race fell apart completely the sun was beating down on you and you could feel the heat off the asphalt.  I actually looked at the water and said wait can I just do the swim again.  I don't think I actually bonked but perhaps that is what happened because looking back I didn't take in NEARLY enough calories or water on the bike.  Starting off on the run my right calf was KILLING me for some reason and after a near ankle twist near mile 2 I decided it would be smarter to do a run walk method to finish.  My stomach was questionable, my legs were on fire and it was HOT.  I hadn't trained in the heat hardly at all due to the weather and my body was NOT prepared for it.  About mile 3 I realized that all the water I was dumping on myself, the sponges and water I was running through were causing a blister but the heat was unbearable.  At this point I met a girl who said she was going to throw up and as you know I am an expert at that sort of thing so I talked her through eating  banana and we started doing a run/walk together.  We stuck it out until the end with our plan and crossed the finish line together.  I never felt like I hit a wall but I do feel that I sucked at nutrition and I need to be better at it for the next one.  Again though my splits are super consistent so I guess I wasn't as back and forth as I thought.
Definitely bought a finisher shirt the day before and then hoped I didn't jinx myself

My parents were on the sideline cheer for me and my mom was crying and I felt so proud of the accomplishment as I crossed that finish line.  They said my name and I headed to get my hat, shirt and medal!  The girl needed to get my timing chip off and I of course told her there was no way I could bend down to do it, she laughed!  I went to get my picture with my new pal and also alone with my medal and then went around to find my family.  My dad told me I finished in 7:44!  So I killed my original goal of just beat 8:30 but a bit off my 7:30 goal.  My run was AWFUL but I am proud because not once on that run did I think about quitting or giving up.  The entire time I just knew I was going to finish it and needed to beat the cut off time. 

Tastes good!

This whole experience has given me so much more than just the horrible sunburn lines.  I have learned so much about myself and how much I can accomplish and push through pain both mentally and physically. I set a goal and I put in the time needed to get myself there and I fought past many, many freak out moments where I didn't think I had anymore left to give.  I learned there is always more to give and just because things don't go to plan doesn't mean that I will fall apart it means I will find a way to power through.  I've made some amazing friends that I feel I have known for years, we've been through an experience together that has cemented a life long friendship. I know when I falter they will be there to push me and I will always do the same for them.  I was so proud of myself when I crossed that finish line and now on to goal setting for Barrelman in September and more contemplation of a full iron next year. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Road to Eagleman 2014

I would love to start this post with "When I signed up for Eagleman in October 2013 I was a talented Triathlete with a bunch of sprints and olympics under my belt.  I was very experienced and knowledgeable about all three disciplines and owned an expensive bike."  As you probably know by now that could not be farther from the truth

In October 2013, I did not own a bike and I did not know how to swim but I had just been through the most tumultuous time in my life and was very deep in the marathon training process.  My best friend's husband had completed an IronMan in May of 2013 and I had been riveted by  his training and hearing about the race itself.  My friend Jamie decided she wanted to try her hand at a half iron man and told me that I at least had to come cheer.  I figured if I was going to cheer why not just do the race I had all the resources available to me to become better, Jamie was going to prepare a schedule of races to get me prepared and I had all the time in the world since work was my only distraction.

In October 2013 I was just learning to redefine myself and I had thrown myself in marathon training as a means to center myself and regain control over my life.  I was feeling a little adrift and in the midst of major life changes of selling my house as well as all my stuff to make the move back to the city.  Truthfully while selling the house was terribly sad the move was actually a freeing experience because I was able to start over in a sense.  Plus the loss of that commute changed my life in so many positive ways (more time for training)!

When I explain to people that I signed up for a half iron man having no swim skills nor owning a bike they normally look at me as though I am completely insane or have two heads.  Often times they will say "What was going on in your life".  Many times I say back "well I got divorced."  It is pretty weird but that seems to be the only thing they need to hear to make sense of my crazy choice, I guess divorce makes people do crazy things.  If your life is headed in one direction and suddenly takes a drastic turn as I see it you have two choices; wallow in self pity and relive the past day after day or take charge and become the person you always knew you were.  I clearly chose the later with a little help from my friends.

As I sit here, 6 days out from Eagleman 2014 I am nervous but I am excited. I'm proud of myself for taking a leap of faith in my own dedication and athletic abilities. I'm in awe of how far I have come since October but excited to improve even more over the summer.  The past months have been filled with conquering fears, completing new challenges and coming into my own skin to be more confident and self assured. I've restored my own independence and control over my life. The sport of Triathlon is more than a sport, it is a lifestyle born out of dedication and sheer desire to better yourself to conquer fears and achieve goals.

I may not have a swinging social life and I'm sorry to everyone that I don't call or visit as often.  I don't get as much sleep as I would like most nights and some days I really don't want to drag myself to the pool but on those days when I reach a new goal there is nothing better in life.  I don't have quiet, relaxing weekends anymore they are filled with fun new friends and adventures.

The friendships I have made as a result of my interest and rather crazy choice to do a half Iron man are extremely valuable and important to me.  The women of All Women's Triathlon team have become family to me and many of them have faced far greater challenges and adversities than I can imagine but we lift each other up to excel at this sport we have decided is our passion.  My biggest fear for race day is not letting myself down but letting down the women who have such confidence in my abilities to complete this race.

I'm honored and extremely proud to be a part of an amazing group of women that strive to help, train, and assist other women.  No woman left behind!  I will make them proud on Sunday, June 8th although I think many of them are already proud to have participated in my journey.  I will make my parents proud on June 8th although I am pretty sure my parents couldn't be more proud than they already are and my mom could do with less open water swimming ;-)  I will make myself proud on June 8th although I am already so proud that I took a leap of faith to start this journey to discover a life I never realized I wanted to live until I was a fancy watch, a nice bike and multiple tri outfits deep in it.

Alright Packy, it's you and me buddy....let's ROCK this!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Last Big Work Out

The bike ride the day after Brooklyn was awful, my legs were shot and by the end of it my confidence was completely destroyed.  As I made my way back to my apartment I was having some pretty severe doubts about not only my ability to make it in under 8 and a half hours but also my ability to just finish at all.  After some painful foam rolling and an early bedtime I reffocused on the week ahead.

Memorial Day weekend was a planed simulation of the event with a 56 mile bike ride followed by a 10 mile run on Saturday and then a 1.2 mile open water swim race on Sunday.  Nerves were at an all time high Friday when I got completely soaked walking home from work which lead to about a 10 minute meltdown on my bedroom floor while I tried to pack and get things together to take out to Jamie's house on my bike.  I was soaking wet, exhausted and freaked out.  After a call with my mom I pulled myself together, threw some things in a back pack and set off across town for the subway.  Once off the subway I walked my bike to the GW but decided to bike over and I'm glad I did.  It was beautiful although VERY stormy on the south side of the bridge, in fact part of the way across there was lightening striking as I was riding.  I think this was the exact confidence booster I needed!

We woke up early and I had my generation Ucan and we set out on our bike ride with only a little sprinkle at the start.  I felt completely different than the week prior and it was a confidence booster for sure.  We had a few close calls with rude drivers but the bike ride was largely uneventful.  With about an hour left I had to take my generation ucan gel that I had made and put into a plastic bag.  This was not my most graceful moment but I did manage to eat most of it, while getting it all over my face and bike.  I was pretty proud at how long I could ride with one hand, my bike handling has definitely improved!

Transitioning to the run I tried to hang with Jamie too long and gas'd myself out pretty early in the 10 miles.  I need to be more aware and do my own pace and race.  I did eventually get it together and the 10 mile run took my right under 2 hours which was my goal.  I'm not trying to break any records, personal or otherwise on this half marathon!! The generation ucan from the bike did a great job and at the end of 10 miles I was just starting to feel hungry which was likely due to the fact I didn't get a chance to finish my whole baggie of gel.

We woke up VERY early in the morning to head down to Rumson, New Jersey to swim in the Nave-sink river.  My nerves got the best of me and I threw up on a porta-potty on our way down to the river.  We checked in, got our swim caps, timing chips and body marked.  I was definitely chilly as we put on our wet suits but pretty excited.  Luckily Jamie and I headed down to the water for a test swim because as soon as I put my face in the water and realized all I could see was a murky yellow green color I had a freak out.  My heart was racing, my brain was screaming and my body was giving up.  Jamie told me to try Tarzan's so I did those and then realized that was going to exhausted me quickly so I decided to try breathing every three strokes.  This helped trick my brain as I saw light every three strokes.  Ladawn came down and we told her our tricks and she practiced a bit.

The men's group went and we headed to the start line with Ladawn and I holding hands and a plan that we would let the crazy people go ahead of us and start once it wasn't so stressful.  Once we got going I lost Jamie and Ladawn in the sea of pink caps and decided ok well here goes nothing.  That first buoy seemed SO far away and it seemed as though no matter how long I saw I never was going to make it there.  Eventually though I managed to make that first left turn and start toward the far buoy.  Unfortunately at that point I veer'd completely off course and when I brought my head up I noticed I was almost at the dock.  After cursing myself I yelled I was fine to the guy who asked if I was ok and then turned myself back on course and set back to it.  At this point I felt I had been in the water an hour and was getting no where, my heart started racing and I decided to roll over to my back. I looked up at the sky taking deep even breaths trying to calm myself down.  Mentally my brain was not on my side at that point as I thought about how I needed to give up, I couldn't do it, I wasn't going to make it.  Luckily something clicked and I said to myself "You can't quit, quitters don't get medals and you can't take a finish picture without a medal.  You have given up WAY too much to give up now, two weeks before the race"

At the turn around buoy I got kicked in the face pretty hard but luckily my goggles didn't come off and the way back went MUCH more smoothly than the trip out!  Sighting on the way back was nearly impossible because of the sun and there was a bit more chop to the water but my confidence had returned and I think that helped.  Overall a 49 minute swim which is not terrible!

7 days until the big race!