Tuesday, October 27, 2015

New York City Marathon

I can't say it is a dream come true to run the New York City marathon this coming Sunday because frankly even once I decided to run a marathon I still had no desire to do NYC. While training for my first marathon in 2013 I ran through Central Park and happened to go right by where the finish line was being set up.  I was completely overcome with emotions I had never felt before and decided that perhaps I did in fact want to run NYC. There was something about seeing the finish line set up on the same road I had run countless times before that made me feel the urge to cross the line.

Getting into the NYCM is no ease feat, in fact one might surmise it is actually easier to just run a marathon than qualify for NYC. As an inhabitant of this fair city I had the ability to join the New York Road Runners, run 9 races, volunteer once and get guaranteed entry into the marathon.  I will admit this is perhaps easier than applying for a lottery and being denied, however running 9 races while juggling triathlons and a broken foot proved very challenging. I do wish they would update their policy that if you register and pay for a race but have a doctors note it counts towards your 9 races, instead they give no leeway which resulted in my wearing a walking boot to the start of a half marathon, walking the half marathon and then putting my walking boot back on.

This race is one of the big iconic marathons and while I was really excited to qualify it fell into the backseat compared to my Ironman goals this year so my training has been slackerish at best. I mean I ran a marathon about 4 weeks ago after swimming and biking so surely I can manage a marathon this coming weekend.  It certainly won't be a personal best but I can enjoy the experience of running in New York City streets and bridges, taking in all the scenery of my home turf and I know the crowds will be excellent. I'm really just in it for the experience but in reality isn't that why every marathoner runs except the pros.

I can't help feeling a little annoyed at the amount of waiting that shall commence before hand in Staten Island as my wave doesn't get started until 10:40 but my bus leaves midtown at 7am.  Plenty of time for a swim and bike before hand but I can't seem to find the course maps ;-)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The cost of Ironman

The Ironman experience was truly priceless but when I first signed up I decided to keep a spreadsheet of the costs associated with training to get to the big day.  I think the cost is a very personal thing because there is a way to do it on a strict budget or a way to go all out but I tried to do it within a reasonable budget.

The first expense is of course the sign up cost which let me tell you is a little tough to stomach at $821.50 inclusive of the insurance and active.com fees.  I decided to go the coaching route which added a monthly cost but there are also lots of books and resources to be self-coached so that is not a required expense. I did not track my additional grocery spending but training not only increased my food intake but it also caused me to buy more healthy, fresh foods.

Every training session needs fuel and there are many options for race nutrition from gels, gus, powders and even real food.  I chose Generation Ucan and supplemented with some squeezable fruit pouches, over all I spent about $500 on Ucan. Your bike will need accessories but I ended up spending some money to get a new bike that was carbon after I won a bike in a raffle. I needed new tires after getting a flat and then bought an aero bottle holder, new seat, aero bars and several pairs of new shorts in the great "comfort" experience of 2015.

There were many training camps offered throughout the summer that I did not attend because I wanted to keep the budget under control.  I did, however travel to do a free camp in Chattanooga to get a feel for the course and I think that was the best thing I could have done.  Seeing the course for myself and knowing I had concurred it was a big confidence booster although it was definitely expensive to fly with the bike.

The thing about the Ironman is that it isn't just that one day you spent upwards of $700 dollars to participate in, it is the gym memberships, the pool memberships, the early morning work outs, the hundreds of miles on your bike, the countless miles on your shoes, it all adds up. I think it is important to keep this in mind when you sign up because the stress of training coupled with the stress of paying for everything can be overwhelming. You don't need all the bells and whistles but some of the whistles, like coaching, make the overall experience better and probably more successful.

My total over all ended up being around $7,000 but I am sure that doesn't count a lot of things I should have added.  Looking through the list I realized a lot of the things I spent money on I could continue to use and therefore get more bang from my investment...so with that happy news I am delighted to share I will be doing Ironman Louisville next year!

See, never say never, I guess I was one and done until that one was done and then well I need to beat my time ;-)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report 2015

Apologies ahead of time this will be a LONG one, but hey the race took me 15 hours 41 minutes so there is a lot to write!

"Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life" John Collins, creator of the Ironman race

Let's make things more interesting:
-144.6, an extra four miles added to the bike course.
-7:30am late start taking at least 30 minutes off the normal 17 hour time limit.

My excitement levels were high the minute we started our roadtrip to Chattanooga the Thursday before race day. I made sure to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated which resulted in MANY pee breaks for the entire trip which ended up taking well over 14 hours. I packed all kinds of healthy snacks but by hour 13 I grabbed a chocolate chip cookie from a gas station. We arrived Thursday evening and trying to find a grocery store proved more difficult than anticipated but we picked up a few supplies and got settled in our house.  I highly recommend renting a house as it took the pressure off trying to find proper food and gave space to spread out.

Friday morning it was chilly and rainy and my desire to do anything was extremely LOW but J and I headed out to get in a little 25 minute or less swim above the damn and believe me it was less.  I think I ended up swimming maybe 10 minutes max because I was freezing, it was raining and I was just not in the mood to be cold and wet.  The water felt great and I was still looking forward to not wearing a wetsuit. After changing in the biggest handicap port-a-potty we had ever seen we headed over so J could buy race tats.  Seeing the line we decided checking in would be smart so we headed to sign our lives away in waivers and pick up our swag. Excitement level was at an all time high!  We headed back to the house to pick up Z so we could drive the bike course and then head to whole foods to purchase more food. My parents arrived later Friday and I made a big pasta dinner for my last really large meal because I don't like to eat a ton the night before a race. 

Saturday we got all the gear bags dropped off (what went in the bags is a whole other post!) as well as our bikes even though it was still raining!  At the athlete meeting they noted the water temperature had dropped closer to the 76.1 wet suit cut off and I was pretty disappointed as more rain was forecast.  The irony is not lost that for my first triathlon the morning of they announced it would not be wet suit legal and I cried because I wanted my security blanket yet this time I was hoping for no wetsuits! Things like this show me how far I have come and make me feel very proud.

I slept pretty well and woke up excited with no stomach nerves which is very good for me.  Shortly after waking up the alert came out it would be wet suit optional which made me very happy, although at this point we were already awake so no extra sleep.  We headed to put my nurtition on my bike and in my run bag and then drop my special needs bags.  At that point I realized the myathletelive had been in the bike bag all night and not fully charged, sorry people who were expecting it to work and sorry self for the 75 bucks you spent. After minor tears over that I realized if something was to go wrong it was best to be that, at this point I was hoping it would still work so I wore it the whole race without realizing it never gave my location!

Swim 1:14:59
Spectators were allowed on the buses to swim start which was fabulous because they kept me occupied and made the time pass, Z even held my place in the LONG port-a-potty line.  Time seemed to fly by and my sherpas spent some of the time looking for items from their bingo cards which were a huge hit. I had my three scoops of Ucan and before we knew it the sky was brighter and it was time to march along to swim start, I quickly put on my borrowed swim skin, swim cap and goggles and did some exercises to warm up.  The wet suit swimmers went to the right and we walked by them so the line didn't seem quite so long and before I knew it we went through the arch way.  Many people had said we would go in two by two, but that was not the case, essentially you walked to the dock and just jumped in with about 20 of your closest friends.  This part created a bit of anxiety but I walked to the edge and more slid into the water, got myself together and then off I went. It was a surreal feeling to think that a year of planning had finally come down to the actual race.  The water felt great, the river is very clean and I was excited for the swim instead of anxiety ridden. It was pretty smooth and I enjoyed the scenery on the shores, it didn't feel as fast as my swim in June and there was definitely more contact with other swimmers.  At one point someone grabbed onto my leg and would not let go so I gave the a swift kick which seemed to discourage them from touching me again.  There was a tiny bit of chop at one point but luckily I trained all summer in the ocean so this didn't affect me but I heard a lot of people mentioning it.  I got sandwiched between two very large guys at one point and had to maneuver my way around them but once I saw the bridges I knew I was home free.  The left turn into swim exit was not difficult but getting out of the water was a bit hard, I wish I had practiced at these stairs, you had to really bring your leg up to sort of crawl out and next to me it looked like one girl might drown with people crawling out over her. 

T1 8:45
Jackie had me visualize what I was going to do in transition and I think this helped calm me.  I got excited to hear and see my fan club upon getting out of the water which got my blood pumping even more and then I faced that lovely hill up out of swim exit which was fun.  I remembered where my bag was but there were so many volunteers to help so things went very smoothly.  I ran into the tent and it was pretty crowded so I just looked for an open chair and sat down, a volunteer quickly ran over to help. I got the swim skin off, bike jersey on, salts in my shorts pockets, chamois cream on, glide on my feet, bike shoes on, helmet on and I headed out to find my bike.  A nice volunteer actually unracked Scottie and passed him to me and we headed to the mount line.

Bike  7:56:46
I am so happy I rode the bike course back in June because it helped me know what to expect and really increased my confidence.  The first set of train tracks out of town were covered in bottles and nutrition that had been ejected from bikes but I had no trouble and the tracks were covered, signs were there to slow down and volunteers worked tirelessly to clean up the road. I stayed in my zone, I raced my race as people FLEW past me for miles.  I didn't let it get to me and at one point I told myself it was because I did such a great job on the swim so these people needed to catch up. My goal was to stay consistent, pee twice, fuel properly, not fall and hopefully do a 7:45 bike split (15mph). I felt great on the bike and at times I pulled myself back to make sure I had something left for the second loop.  I sipped water every 15 minutes, Ucan every 30 minutes and BASE salts every 5 miles. Special needs came at the perfect time, I sucked down two fruit pouches, grabbed my third Ucan bottle, smeared on more chamois cream and was off on my way. My backup BASE had spilled all over the bag but luckily I had more than enough on me.  The rest stop after special needs was my first pee break and I decided to ask for the time of day because my watch only showed how long I had been biking and I was unaware of what time I had entered or exited the water. A kind volunteer said "12:20 pm" and I swear I could have kissed him!  This was my "moment" the pre-finishline moment that meant so much to me and made my day because at that point I knew that I was fully capable of making the 6pm bike cut off.  Around mile 95 I started having some trouble with chaffing and I pulled to the side of the road, apologized to the people cheering, put on more chamois cream and much to  my chagrin realized I should have done it sooner, the last miles were painful to say the least but I kept a smile on my face! I didn't get into my aero bars even once because I was too nervous from my last accident and I know this hurt my pacing on both the bike and the run, I need to get better at my bike confidence and handling.  I passed Scottie to a volunteer, said we were on a break but that he did a good job so he deserved to be taken care of and wobbled to my T2 bag. Total of 9 scoops of Ucan, 2 fruit packages, about 5 bottles of water.

T2: 9:13
This transition was not as busy, presumably because it took me so long on the bike but I had my pick of chairs and a very nice volunteer who assisted me with an almost complete outfit change! I put body glide on my feet with toe socks in hopes of no blisters.  I sucked down a fruit packet while the volunteer put my Ucan in the back of my tri top, I grabbed a hat put on my race belt. peed and went on my way only to realize about half a mile later I hadn't grabbed any of my base salts...FAIL.

RUN: 6:11:48
I got to see the family as I left out on the run and Z even ran down the huge hill to see me on the river walk, my biggest regret of the race is not taking the two seconds to go give him a kiss, my poor sherpa.  I went out WAY too fast, the excitement had me on a high and I was just so happy to be off my bike but I settled into a routine.  The first aid station had base salts so I picked up a few and set about my run to the aid station and walk through the station. About mile 4 my stomach was a bit unhappy with me for the first time of the day, I think due to my heart rate being a bit high for the first miles of the run and I threw up.  Nothing terrible and I think my proper fueling on the bike really saved me here, I slowed my heart rate down and it took a little while for my stomach to cooperate.  I didn't eat much from miles 5 to 13 and when I got to special needs my stomach was still a little iffy but I sucked down a fruit packet while dealing with my HUGE blisters.  I was so glad to have clean, dry socks and Vaseline in special needs because these blisters were out of control, I had been so careful not to get my feet wet so I have no idea what caused them.  My half marathon mark was 3:03 so all in all I ran a consistent run and I actually passed a ton of people so I was happy with my progress.  I found a partner who was going my speed and we hung out for a lot of the back half, Lauren and I power walked like soccer moms, dragged each other running, toasted to the joy of chicken broth and shared our stories which made the time pass more quickly.  I ditched her toward the end when all I could think was getting to that finish line, sorry Lauren!

The last time down the big hill on Barton was amazing a group was playing T.Swift so I started singing, they were yelling and giving me high fives and I kept screaming I'm an Ironman, I'm doing this, this is happening!!  At the bottom of the hill stood my rock, my support, the person who has had to suffer through the brunt of my insanity and he had a huge smile on his face and I said quick you can't miss my finish (of course he runs WAY faster than me so who knows what I was thinking.)  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry that the amazing journey was coming to a close and as I ran people kept saying you did it, you are an ironman.  As I rounded for the finish I saw a few people that I knew I could pass so I did with care to make sure I could get a good finish line picture and then I don't know what came over me but I SPRINTED, I mean full out ran down that finisher shoot.  Someone said "Oh wow what a finish!" and before I knew it I heard those words I had been waiting to here..."Katrina Purcell from New York City, NY, you are an ironman". I looked up, gave Packy, and all my angels a kiss and then the winner of the race put my medal on.

Total time 15:41:31        

Turns out that I passed a lot of people on the run, my bike and run times were pretty consistent and I really couldn't be more proud.  I wasn't the fastest person but I did my best and I didn't let others affect my race or mindset.  I kept my fueling and hydration plans under control even when there was a minor hiccup. I thanked volunteers and spectators all day, I had a smile plastered on my face and I enjoyed every single second (ok maybe not that second I found that really gross port-a-potty but all the others).

I am so happy I started this journey and I am so thankful that my parents, Z, Joanne, My aunt and uncle and Jamie and Mike could be there to share it with me.  It truly takes a village to get to the race in one piece and I could not have asked for a better support system. Z massaged my calves while waiting for swim start, carried every single bag, took on anything that could possibly cause me stress and kept me calm.  My words when I crossed were I am never doing this again but that has worn off and I could entertain it but first I have a long to do list of things I promised to do "after the race" :)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

On the Road to Ironman...

I need to do a race report, and I will soon but first I felt that there are a lot of emotions that I wanted to wrap up so that the race report can be more focused on the race.

A little background on me, I was NEVER considered athletic, in fact I was down right scrawny throughout middle and high school. My siblings were both extremely athletic and used to physically remove me from situations if they found I was annoying. It was very powerful to be called an athlete and feel athletic as well to have my brother call and tell me that he was proud of me (then he called me crazy :0)

2012 I turned 30 and my best friend talked me into training for a half marathon and so started my fitness journey.  I HATED the entire process and I knew I would never do another race ever again, but as we all know you should never say never. We did the diva half marathon in October and the minute I crossed that finish line I was hooked on the race endorphin high. I have never in all my other races hurt as much as I hurt after this first half marathon, I was sore for DAYS.

When the opportunity to start my tri journey presented itself I was worried and concerned about swimming as well as the bike but I decided that my 30s were a time to conquer fears. The first tri I signed up for was a half iron distance, 70.3 miles of swimming, biking and running perhaps not the recommended first distance but I like to really go for it when I sign up.  Eventually my friend Jo convinced me to sign up for a mini tri so that I could get a feel for transitions and the tri experience.

September 2014 is when the journey to Ironman really started because I signed up for Chattanooga and I was wearing a walking boot unable to swim, bike, run or even walk very well. This is not the ideal situation and I don't recommend unless you are prepared to really throw yourself into training. The nerves really got to me at certain points because I felt I was missing valuable time to be improving my skills but trying to ensure I recovered properly from my stress fracture.

Doing an Ironman your second triathlon season is not something I recommend to the faint of heart. I am not a strong swimmer or biker and although my skills have greatly improved they caused some heartache during training about time cut offs. I got the option to upgrade my bike by winning a raffle in April and instead of going with a time trial (triathlon) bike I elected to go with a carbon road bike and add aero bars.  This decision was smart because adapting to the carbon bike and aero bars was still difficult, the bike is much lighter and tends to be harder to control. I took two spills, including one only a month out from Chattanooga which really shook my confidence and limited my swimming.

Leading up to the race I felt very calm and settled because I knew I had put in the work and the day would be what it was but the training had already given me such a thrill.  There were so many days I didn't want to cycle one more mile, the pool was the last place I wanted to be and towards to end all I wanted to do was sleep but I stuck with it. Just getting to the starting line of an Ironman, uninjured and ready to give it your all is an accomplishment and I was feeling very proud of myself.

Race day is about execution, following the plan and being able to adapt when things don't go to plan.  Fitness only gets you so far which is actually a good thing for me! :)

Spectator Bags!

I wanted to wait until after my race so that I didn't ruin the surprise for my spectators but I put together a post because I know many people were asking about the goodies.

I went on Oriental trading and bought 12 draw string backpacks, cowbells that matched my team colors as well as some glow in the dark bracelets.  The site runs some good sales and is a great place to pick up things in bulk.  I found small things of wipes on sale at my local CVS and threw those in each backpack because you never know what the toilet paper situation will be like!  Someone in a group I'm in found some TRI tissues so I had her send me some and put a packet of tissues in each bag.  I saved old NUUN containers and used them to put advil in each bag because let's face it the day is very long for your spectators. I also threw in hand sanitizer because again its a long day and you never know what the bathroom will have.

I bought some paint and glitter to decorate each bag as well as the cowbells to make them a bit more personalized.

Each bag contained a BINGO card that I created with typical things you might see at an Ironman event and the winner was promised a massage and the game was a BIG hit!  They used pens to write the time they saw the item in question and my dad was so competitive he started it as we waited in the swim line at 5am!  This was also something fun for me while I was doing the race I would see things and think to myself oh that's on one of the cards so it passes the time.

I found a spectator guide to the area online and added some key information about where our house was located, the shuttle information and added some other resturant information more specific to the tastes of the people from my group.  At the last minute they called for rain so I went to a dollar store and threw in ponchos.

Then I took into consideration each personality to fill the bag with snacks I felt they would like, some ideas include candy, trail mix, nuts, airplane liquor bottles, gum, and hard candies.

 I also hand wrote a personalized note to each person thanking them for their support as well as coming to cheer.

My T-shirts were made using custom ink and were a HUGE hit apparently!

If you need any help thinking of ideas or are too pressed for time to put together spectator bags but really want them just reach out to me via the blog and we can discuss pricing.

Happy Racing!!