Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Queen of Hearts crown

After IMC, I took a nice break which included a week off training and exercising (okay so I did one hot yoga class the Friday after the race) and started back into some strength training and easy running.  I took 2 weeks off swimming and didn't bike for 3 weeks.  I had planned for a long time to do the Rotary Run 10km on Sept. 11, more to just participate and support the race than to actually 'race', as I've done this event every year since 2006 (the cause is close to my heart).  Even better was that my bestie Bonnie and her sister Becky came out to do the 5km race, which was their first race ever!

The Rotary Run turned out pretty awesome!  I ended up running a PB for the 10km, just under 45min (44:59 to be exact), so only a few seconds but a PB is a PB!  As I had taken a week off running and hadn't done any speedwork at all, I was definitely happy with that!  I was surprised my legs came around and I actually felt really good out there.  I ended up placing 3rd female O/A in the 10k and won a Timex watch for that, so that was cool!  Also, Bonnie and Becky did great in their 5km and were even talking about a 1/2 marathon next year (Vegas?) - haha!  

During the week after the 10km I decided to get back in the pool for a couple easy swims, and did some strength and some easy runs.  My mother in law, Deborah, kept pushing me to come and race the women's-only sprint triathlon in Barrhead on Sept. 17, so finally the day before I decided to sign myself up.  My bike had been sitting there for 3 weeks since Ironman, unridden, but hey - my race wheels were still on it so it was all ready to go.  And I had even done 2 swims that week, so why not jump into the Queen of Hearts triathlon?

Deb and I had a blast at the race!  It was super fun doing a women's-only event, and it was a well organized race and great course.  The distances were a 750m pool swim, 20km bike, and 6.2km run.  

We both ended up having great races, with Deb placing 2nd overall and me taking the overall win!  They even had the mayor doing the medal presentations...

On our way back to St. Albert, we stopped at the Hudderite colony and picked up some fresh produce, jams, and baked goods.  Yum!

I'm so glad I was able to squeeze in another tri for the season - almost forgot how much I like sprint races!  Now it's time to enjoy this second summer we're so fortunate to be having, and get back into a fall run focus.  Depending on how things go, I may even do a 1/2 marathon on Thanksgiving weekend.  

Happy training!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ironman Canada 2011 - 'Quitting is not an option'

Well, so Ironman Canada did not go exactly as I had envisioned.  But then again, when does an Ironman ever go as expected?  It's such a long crazy distance, anything can happen, and anything is possible.  

Race morning started with a 4:20am alarm wake up call, and we were out the door at 5am for our 30min drive into Penticton.  It was an absolutely beautiful day, cloudless sky and forecasted high temps in the mid-30's.  Geoff and Bonnie dropped me off at the race site and went to find parking, and I did all the usual morning pre-race stuff (body marking, set up transition, etc).  I put my wetsuit on early and made my way down to the lake and into the water about 30mins before the 7am start, to ensure I would have a good starting spot.  I swam around a bit, chatted with a few people I knew, and watched the pros go off at 6:45am.  Then I lined up front and centre and prepared myself for the long day ahead!  

I had been a bit worried about the mass start of 2800 people, but it was not as rough as I was expecting, and other than a few guys swimming into me, I was not punched/kicked/pulled under etc!  The first 400m or so were chaotic as there were still lots of people around me, but a while later, everyone started to fall off the pace, and I had clear water pretty soon.  I kept the swim pretty controlled and was feeling good. 

After the 2nd turn buoy on the far end of the course, I was leading a pack of swimmers, and we continued this way all the way to the swim exit (although one guy sprinted ahead of me and exited the water before me).

Me leading this pack in just before the fnish...
Swim: 55:28
The swim was a little slow for me, as I had been expecting to swim about 3 minutes faster.  I think I either swam a couple hundred meters extra, or the course may have been a little long (fastest male pro time was 50 min, so it may have been).  Either way, it doesn't matter. 

I was 2nd female out of the water (some super swimmer chick swam 51 mins!), had a quick transition where the wonderful volunteers slopped some extra sunscreen onto my arms/shoulders, and headed out onto the bike course for a beautiful 180km ride!

Bike: 5:53
To sum up, the bike course was freakin' challenging!  Heat, hills, and headwind galore.  I was riding really well in the first section, where we had a bit of a tailwind for the first 40 or so km, and passed the lead swimmer about 10-15km in, then was passed by another female shortly after.  Another girl passed me around 45-50km in, and i kept her in my sights for a while.  I was feeling pretty great for the first 60km of the bike.  I had no speed or distance feedback, just time of day, as my computer was not working (and I did not wear a watch), so I had no idea how fast I was going.  It was good that there were mile markers in various places so I had an idea of how far along I was. 

The first big challenge of the day came just after we rode through Osoyoos and hit the Richter pass climb, which is an 11km climb at around 70km in.  That is one tough climb and there are absolutely no hills around where I live that would come even close to preparing you for that.  It was really heating up outside at this time and I could feel the heat radiating during this climb and my legs were feeling the climb!  I made it up to the top, and saw Wade Church with a big cheering crew at the top so I gave a big smile and wave and continued on my merry way.  

After that, we were treated to some lovely headwinds and some more crazy hills (i.e. the section that everyone calls the "Rollers" - however, my definition of rollers before this race was a lot different than these so i wasn't expecting them to be as long/steep/hard as they were!).  I felt like I was going nowhere, and kept looking down to see if my brakes were rubbing - that's exactly how it felt.  After about 90-100km, I was still riding in 3rd female overall and wondering where the heck everyone was.  I felt like I was going soooo slow and then figured perhaps maybe other people were having a tough time too.  But a woman went by me shortly after that, and then more kept going by for the remainder of the ride.  I started to really struggle from this point on in the bike.  The hills, the heat, and the headwind were really getting to me and sucking the life out of me.   I kept thinking that we should definitely have a tailwind on the back section and as each bend we rounded brought us to yet more headwind, I became frustrated and discouraged at the conditions - which is not a good thing as they are completely outside of our control.  I realized after about 100-120km that I had to throw my time and placing goals out the window and instead just focus on the task at hand: getting through the rest of the bike in one piece and then running a marathon. 

Just past 120km, after hearing a mysterious rattling noise on my bike for some time (thinking it was just my water bottle cage), a screw suddenly flew off my bike and bounced on the road behind me.  I had no idea what it was or where it came from and had a brief thought that I should maybe stop and go back and get it, but I just kept going.  I was a little worried when thinking about the remaining downhill sections in the race, and thoughts of my bike coming apart and me going flying off it while going 70km/hr downhill flashed through my mind.  But, nothing happened and everything was fine.  And I still don't know where that screw came from (?). 

The rest of the bike was extremely tough - I felt like I was going super slow, everything hurt, and the hills kept coming!  Yellow Lake (2nd biggest climb) happened around 145km and the crowds cheering there were super awesome!  They really helped me get over that hill (mountain?).  That climb was actually not quite as hard as I had been anticipating, as I had heard many people talk about how hard it was.  Once back in Penticton, the last stretch of the bike along Main street was of course into a headwind, and i just wanted to be off my bike.  I dismounted at the line, started running with my bike, and before I knew what was happening, my bike started going the other way and I totally bailed, landing hard on my right knee/ankle, my left calf hitting the big chain ring.

Just before the dismount line - my little spill happened a mere moment after this picture was taken!

I stood up, collected myself and picked my bike up off the ground, and started running again.  I think I was more embarrassed than hurt.  I handed my bike off to a volunteer and ran to the change tent, where I sat down for a few minutes and tried to get my $h!t together while I was treated to 2 lovely volunteers helping me.  The volunteers in the change tent are so incredibly helpful and kind, I just wanted to stay in there all day!

war wounds:

Run (*walk*) - 5:40
As I headed out onto the run course, I didn't feel too bad, but unfortunately this lasted only minutes.  I definitely went to some dark places mentally during that run.  My legs/back were feeling dead and aching, I was having trouble breathing, and feeling as though I might faint.  The stomach cramps started a little later on.  I saw Geoff and Bonnie 1 mile in, and just stopped and went over to them.  I became emotional and kept saying "I can't do this, I'm feeling so awful.  How can I possibly run 25 more miles feeling like this?"  I couldn't fathom doing 25 more miles in that state.  I was seriously contemplating just dropping out right there.  Bonnie was awesome, saying "You're doing so great, you can do it!", and Geoff was practical and said "See if you can just try walking to the next aid station, and then see how you feel and see if you can keep going".  So on I went. 

And I just kept going and going.  Mostly walking, but occasionally running, and feeling oh so terrible the whole time.  It was tough.  I started chatting with a young age group guy who was also walking around 7km in, he had had a great bike but was having a really tough time on the run as well, but he was very cheerful.  Something he said just clicked with me, and helped to change my attitude.  He said something like, "We still have all the way until midnight to finish this, so we could walk the whole thing and still finish!"  Then I realized that he was completely right, and I resolved to stop being a baby, to stop dwelling on how much pain I was in, and start focusing on getting this thing done, even if I had to walk the whole darn thing.  After that thoughts of dropping out didn't cross my mind again, instead I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other and getting myself further and further on.  The rare times when I was actually running, I was running really well, but unfortunately these stretches were few and far between.  I stopped a few times to stretch along the way, my muscles and body completely aching and hurting, and with about 7km to go I stopped at an aid station and had to just sit down on the curb for a few minutes to collect myself.  But I got up again and made it through the next few miles, and suddenly I was on that last out and back stretch where you get to run the last mile along the shoreline with cheering crowds on either side of you. 

Struggling along during the marathon:

The final stretch - you kinda have to run this part with all those crowds cheering for you, no walking allowed no matter how much pain you're in!

Finally, I saw the finishing chute and was actually pleasantly surprised to see 12:37 on the clock. Without a watch on, i felt like I was going soooo slow on the run (I mean walk) that I anticipated my finishing time was going to be at least an hour slower than it was.  I felt like I was out on that run course FOREVER.  I stopped caring during the run about how slow my time was going to be and about my placing, I was simply focused on finishing what I started and getting to that finish line.  I was incredibly happy to cross the finish line after such a hard day! 

So that was my 2nd Ironman.  This really is a spectacular event, with an extremely challenging course, awesome volunteers, and fantastic crowd support.  While I'm not proud of my time, or my place, what I am proud of is the fact that I made myself keep going and finished it off, when I really just wanted to quit because I was feeling so bad.  And that is why I'm not disappointed with my race!  I know I can go a lot faster and do a lot better than that, so this experience has lit a fire of motivation within - I've got some unfinished business with this ironman thing! 

Geoff, half of my race sherpa extraordinaire team (Bonnie made up the other half!), took care of driving the whole way to Penticton and the whole way home.

Now the off-season is upon me and I'm still in the mood to race!  It's now time to focus on strength/hot yoga, and fall running, which I love!   Perhaps there will be some fall running races on the schedule for me...