Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ironman Arizona

Sorry I haven't finished my race report yet! I've been super busy. Saturday I drove to Phoenix with Sierra - looong drive. Sunday my dad and I volunteered at Ironman Arizona and I didn't get to sleep until 2:30am which is about 5 hours after my bedtime! It was really interesting to volunteer 2 weeks after my own Ironman race. I volunteered at IMAZ last year too, but this year I recognized the looks on the runners faces. I could tell when they peered into the cups of pretzels and chips that we were offering that they were trying to decide if it sounded like something they could stomach. Anyone who is considering registering for an Ironman should definitely volunteer at one first. It's so helpful to see how things work. Last year I watched part of the swim, volunteered in the womens change tent for T1, setup the run aid station and volunteered there for the first few hours of runners (the pros have it tough - even when they look like hell, nobody wants to ask insult them by asking if they're okay), and then cheered for the last few hours of the race, hanging out at the finish for the last 20 or 30 minutes. I felt like after that experience I had such a better understanding of what to expect in Florida.  My dad and I helped with the gear bags yesterday. Wow it was insane. We needed way more volunteers. All in all, volunteering is a great experience. It's fun to help the athletes, and after doing a race I felt like I wanted to give back and play my role again as a volunteer. (Plus Ironman treats their volunteers really well, although I was unable to partake in all the free volunteer food so I also skipped the volunteer party last night.) If you still need a reason to volunteer, it's incredibly beneficial to your friends and family who come to your race because after a day of volunteering you will be really tired, so the next year when you're doing the race and your support team is volunteering or even just cheering all day, you won't hate them when they complain about how tired they are the day after the race. Yes, you just traveled 140.6 miles, but you trained for it. People don't train to run back and forth collecting gear bags or stand at a run aid station for 5 hours yelling "pretzels, chips, powerbars, gels." I had such a great time. I got to see a few people from my tri club, and I met an online training buddy when she ran past on her last loop, and I got to say hi to another athlete for a friend. I also got to see Rudy Garcia-Tolson go past our aid station twice, and I gave him pretzels once. I felt like I was touching a celebrity. If you don't know who he is, google him. I was sorry to miss watching him finish but so excited that he did. I made it over to the finish line about 20 minutes later, and I saw a 76 year old guy cross the line with about 10 minutes to spare. He won his age group and is going to Kona!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ironman Florida Race Report: Swim + T1

I know I promised to bold the important parts for those who don't want the nitty gritty (my dad) but I don't have time right now, so if you're in a hurry, just look at the photos.

SWIM: 1:20:58

The swim was awesome. One of the reasons I chose IM Florida is because of the swim. I came to triathlon from a swimming background. I love swimming (even though I mostly hate training in a pool). For me, roads for the bike and the run are pretty much the same everywhere. Paved asphalt or concrete. Big deal. What makes a race interesting to me is the swim (okay and the hills on the bike). Last October I was in Arizona when the SOMA half iron distance race took place, so I went to the practice swim for the chance to swim in Tempe Town Lake to scope it out since I was considering doing IM Arizona. Well, Tempe Town Lake is just as icky as I’d imagined, and it’s cold. The whole time I was swimming there, I thought “I should do Florida instead. Florida has nice water.”

The water for Ironman Florida was perfect. The temperature was just right – I wish I knew what it was. It felt like it was warmer than 75 to me. My toes didn’t mind getting wet; my ears were warm enough; I didn’t have to warm up in the water for 15 minutes just so I could put my face in the water without hyperventilating. If I'd been wary of the cold I would've spent more time warming up in the water instead of hanging out with Dave and Lauren. Instead while I chatted with them I just kept pulling my wetsuit up as far as it would go. I'm glad I did this because for the first time my arms didn't get tired during a wetsuit swim. Seems like I finally got the wetsuit on properly!

Even though I have a swimming background and lots of experience with open water swimming, I was still a little nervous about the mass swim start. I’d never run into the water with 2500 people before, all heading for the same buoy. I was mostly worried about getting kicked really hard in the face (like in the nose, where it's make my eyes water and be hard to breathe), or getting kicked or shoved. The swim course was counterclockwise, so my coach advised me to start on the right side of the beach to avoid some of the beatings. I took her advice. I'd watched race starts for IMFL before and it surprised me how many people walked into the water instead of running. Well, it's kind of tough to run in when there are so many people in front of you taking their time. There was a group of swimmers who had ventured out a little farther to the right than it seemed we were supposed to be - they had a huge advantage because the water was so shallow there that they ran probably 50 meters in mid-calf deep water before starting to swim. Very crafty!

Race start video that Lauren took (click on image to play)

Since I hadn't gotten any warning that the race was about to start, I had to start my watch when the cannon went off. I usually try to start my watch at the 10 second countdown, so that I don't have to think about my watch and can just start swimming when the race starts. I was ready to swim, but it took awhile to actually get into water that was deep enough to swim. The people in front of me were still walking but I just started swimming. I bet we looked kind of like dominos falling down as we entered the water. Normally I have problems keeping my pulse down at the beginning of a swim race. I expected to have to breathe every second stroke for awhile, but that just didn't happen this time. Maybe I didn't go out as hard since I had all these people in front of me to deal with.

I was sure that Ironman was the one race I'd be able to draft off people, at least the first loop. Wrong! I must be doing something wrong because I had a hard time sticking to peoples feet. I drafted off a few people at the beginning, but I kept finding people were either too fast or too slow - or they stopped to sight rather than incorporating it into their strokes. Or worse - they switch to breaststroke to sight and I'd have to dodge out of the way quickly to not get kicked. I only got kicked once during the whole swim, and it was due to a breaststroke sighter. At least it was just a kick in the arm and even though it hurt I reassured myself because you don't really need arms after the swim, and I was almost done at that point.

The water was clear and I could see schools of fish swim past probably wondering what the heck was going on at the surface. I could see jellyfish but mostly they were well below the surface and they were pretty to watch, especially the farther away from shore that we got. The water was darker since it was deeper, but the jellies were so vibrant and white. I think they were mostly sea nettles. Since I'd swam with a lot more jellies before, this didn't bother me, but I could imagine how it might freak out some people. I only swam super close to one - I basically swam over it, so I stopped kicking in hopes that my feet wouldn't touch it. (My husband is probably laughing if he reads this because I asked him recently to count my kicks per stroke and he couldn't tell if I was kicking once per stroke or if my legs just moved a little as I rotated during the swim.) But I tried to keep my feet up higher than usual. I don't think it worked because I had a rash on my right foot the next day that can't really be explained by anything else. I didn't notice the sting though, but I also wasn't paying attention to my foot at that point.

Sighting was exceptionally easy. The buoys were enormous and it was a rectangular course. Before we started the swim the course looked short to me, I think because the buoys were so big. The buoys were yellow until the orange turn buoy. For the first lap I mostly aimed for just to the right of the farthest buoy. As I got closer I decided there weren't as many people as I'd expected, so I took the turn wide, but not super wide. Maybe 75-100 feet away from the buoy. But once I was past the buoy I turned pretty quickly since there seemed to be space.

Well, space in the water is relative. My brother asked me if there'd be enough people at the turn to just get up and run across everyone. There were definitely not enough people to do that! But I saw holes so I decided to take some of the open space rather than continue to swim super wide. This was probably the most physical part of the swim. I got pushed once, but it just propelled me forward. I think I may have elbowed some guy in the chest (but it just propelled me forward....). At no time did I feel like I needed to do catch-up swim style to keep an arm/hand in front of my face for protection. Mostly it was just having to slow down a bit to keep from swimming into someones kicking feet, or just bumping into people next to me. At times it was a little frustrating because the masses did seem to slow me down on the stretch that was parallel to shore, but overall it was fun and I was enjoying my first Ironman swim.

(Love this next sequence of photos of the first swim loop. Remind anyone of Monty Python?)

Coming back to shore was really easy to sight too because of the tall hotels (with nothing behind them). Also there were lots of wetsuits to follow. This was the first time I did an open water swim where the vast majority of the people weren't getting off course. I got the feeling that the people who seemed to be swimming off course were actually just trying to swim wider than I thought was necessary. On the way back the buoys were all the same color. I saw some people swimming on the left of the buoys and it made me wonder if they were shortcutting or if those buoys didn't matter. Since I wasn't sure I swam the long course - keeping all buoys to my left. I wanted to know I swam my 2.4 miles!

Just before getting to the beach, there was a very shallow area. My coach said to swim til my chest hit the sand. I've always swam at least until my hand hits the bottom. (Learned that after one or two swim races where I thought I could stand up but it was still too deep!) At some point though I stood up because I realized the water was getting so shallow it was going to be hard to get up if I swam any farther. Then we had about 4 or 5 big steps before the water got swimmable again. At that point the water was waist or chest deep, and I think I swam a few strokes before getting to the final shallow area that led us to the beach. I'd already decided to walk the beach segment because I was hoping to be able to pee during that little break since I can't pee and swim at the same time. Oh I wish I could perfect that skill.

Video that shows people running across shallow area then doing the short swim before getting to the real beach:

FIRST SWIM HALF 1.2 mi. (38:08) 2:00/100m

I was pretty much right on target after the first half. Aside from the 2.4 mile Folsom Lake Open Water swim in June where I swam a 1:06, my open water swim times this year have all been exactly the same. 1.2 miles in 40 minutes or 2.4 miles in 1:20. I'm consistent. When I saw my time after the first half, I wondered if I'd actually beat 1:20 for a change. But I didn't really worry about it. 1:30 was my goal considering the huge mass of people, but of course I changed my goal to 1:20 mid-swim, once I saw the 38 minute split.

When I walked over the timing mat, I thought of everyone I knew a few time zones west who would see my swim split when they woke up. It's always nice to think of my long distance cheerleaders during a race. I looked for Dave and Lauren but didn't see them. I got a swig of water to rinse out my mouth. There were so many people walking through the sand with me. I tried to keep to the right so people could run past on the left, but I didn't notice anyone running. Since I hadn't managed to pee and walk, I stopped when I got back in the water to do the job there. I stood with my hands on my hips looking at the swim course and wondering if spectators thought I was thinking about quitting. If they only knew.... I heard another swimmer ask a lifeguard if we had to swim around all the buoys or just the end ones. The answer was all the buoys. I'm still not sure if that was correct, but I just kept my plan of keeping all the buoys on my left. As I finally got to swimmable depth, I felt like I'd sure been walking a lot for a SWIM race!

(Picture below - me getting water between loops - I'm the one in the white swim cap facing the volunteer with the blue shirt)

I saw a big school of fish as I started the second loop. Poor fishies probably wondering what the heck was going on. I saw a kayaker and wondered if the sharks would go for the kayaker or the swimmers first. Hehe. I'm surprised I didn't freak myself out about sharks. I think I thought about the dolphins we'd seen the previous day and decided they would ward off the sharks for us.

Heading out for the second loop:

The swells got bigger on the second loop. I'd heard this always seems to happen so I expected it. My coach had told me if it was choppy that I should do less sighting. I used to sight way too often, especially given I'm a pretty straight swimmer. But this year I'd gotten used to sighting less. Maybe it's mistakenly a function of more pool swimming? So sighting even less often made it seem like I was barely sighting. But it worked fine. As I said, the course was just a rectangle. I thought the big swells were fun. Kind of like coasting downhill on a bike, and the uphills were easy too. I only inhaled water once but I just kept swimming and coughed it out as I swam, like I've done before.

As I was coming around the last turn in the second loop, I got sad. The swim was almost over! Just half a mile to go! I wanted to savor each moment of my Ironman day, and now this awesome fun swim was about to be done! I honestly briefly pondered doing a third loop just for fun! I knew I had the time, but I also knew I'd want that time on the bike!

Suddenly I started worrying that I’d completely mixed up my transition bags. What if I finished the swim and had my running shoes waiting for me instead of my helmet and bike shoes? Ugh. I just told myself that certainly there must be people dumber than me and I’m sure someone had done that at some point and I bet the awesome volunteers would be able to figure it out for me and get me the right stuff. Instead of worrying about the gear bags, I thought about my friend Laurie who was doing Beach 2 Battleship iron distance race that same day. I knew she was already on the bike since the race was an hour earlier than IMFL and I wondered how she was doing.

I just kept swimming and I was feeling good. Before I knew it I hit the first shallow bit, then the deep bit (this time I walked because it was really only 3 or 4 steps and it seemed more complicated to swim it than to walk it), then the last shallow bit again. Woohoo. I had to smile when I crossed and saw my time was 1:20. At least I'm consistent! I was glad I hadn't bothered to do more training swims than I did. Swimming once or twice a week works for me.

SECOND SWIM HALF 1.2 mi. (42:50) 2:15/100m
TOTAL SWIM 2.4 mi. (1:20:58) 2:07/100m
Overall: 1391/2424
Division: 51/95 (for reference, #47 (halfway mark in my age group) was less than 50 seconds ahead of me)

What I would do differently: Find out the course rules regarding which buoys need to be swam around. Maybe this was discussed at the pre-race meeting, but that meeting started over 30 minutes early (during the welcome dinner) so we missed part of it. I potentially could've swam a much shorter race, but I had fun and hit my target time, so not that big of a deal. Also I could probably skip the water at the halfway point. I don't know that it cost me much time, but I've swam 3.5 mile races in the ocean without water, so I'm sure I'd be okay skipping it next time.

T1: SWIM-TO-BIKE 19:01
Almost 20 minutes for a transition! (I wonder if my coach worried about this!) I am pretty sure I was the slowest in my age group, by a few minutes. As soon as I was on the beach I started to unzip my wetsuit and pull it down over my arms. Hah! My arms totally got stuck. With my Inspector Gadget sized watch on my left wrist and my bracelets (medic ID and race ID) on the right wrist, I had a hard time getting the wetsuit any farther down. I was trapped like in a straight jacket, thinking about how ridiculous I'd look in any photos.

After crossing the swim finish timing mat, I looked for the the strippers (aka wetsuit peelers). I'd used the peelers at Vineman Aquabike and it was so quick (10 seconds?) that it was worth sitting down on the towel covered sand to have them pull the wetsuit off my feet. Otherwise it would've taken me a few more minutes to remove it myself. Luckily my tri bottoms didn't get peeled away with the wetsuit! My ankle timing chip stayed on too. I can't even remember if I ever got the wetsuit off my wrists or if they did that for me.

Next we ran under the fresh water showers. I was surprised when the guy in front of me stopped and moved his hands all over like he was bathing. But since the showers were a few people deep I used that time to rinse off too. (For people who use the RX glasses table, Ironman is smart enough to have the glasses table pickup after the showers, so they stay dry.)

I didn’t rush the transition, obviously. Once I noticed my heart rate was super high I walked most of the transition so my HR would calm down before the bike. Also I didn’t want to hurt my feet running barefoot on asphalt. I'm sensitive! I looked around for my people right after the swim but didn’t see them. I realized quickly that my husband probably was waiting near the gear bags - he was and it was great to see him and have him cheer for me. Dave is an awesome cheerleader and he cheered and screamed when he saw me near my gear bag and then he ran ahead (dodging lots of other spectators) to where I'd enter the change tent so he could cheer again and take photos. A volunteer handed me my gear bag and I walked/jogged to the change tent trying to dodge some guy's bike shoes that he'd dropped while going the other way. I also made an effort to stay out of the way so people who wanted to run the transition could get past me. I was surprised how many people were just lightly jogging too. It seemed the people exiting the change tent were the runners.

(The following awesome transition images are courtesy of DCRainMaker! Our bikes were actually very close to each other so his depiction of where his bike was (the little red deviation near the exit) works for mine too!)

When I entered the building with the change rooms (yes, it was indoors! poor janitors), we ran straight - there was about a 6 foot gap between the wall on the left and the change tent on the right. The entrance to the change tent was at the far end of the room though. Women's change tent was first - lots of volunteers yelled this to let me know. There were people in the make-shift hallway changing though. (Well, I didn't see any nakedness, maybe they were just doing the socks and shoes thing.) Once in the women's change tent - WOW what a MESS! It was really different than the change tent at IM Arizona when I volunteered there last year. AZ's tent was square which left chairs around the perimeter of the tent, but also chairs in the middle. There was plenty of space there. Our change tent was rectangular and fairly narrow given how many people were in there.

I finally found a chair by asking another athlete if I could sit where her helmet was. I untied my bag (glad I'd learned when I volunteered at AZ to make it easy to untie!) and a volunteer immediately dumped everything on the floor for me. I quickly grabbed my bike shorts so they wouldn't get wet or sandy. The volunteer immediately started filling my T1 bag with my wet stuff. Even though I wear tri shorts in the swim, I change to bike shorts for the bike and run shorts for the run. I could wear a bikini bottom in the swim, or wear a swimsuit and change all my clothes but I just prefer the tri shorts, and I like to swim with my tri top because it's hard to put dry clothes on a wet body, so the fewer changes required the better!

I used a combination of baby wipes, two small washclothes, and some water to get sand and dirt off of all vital areas. Smeared some chamois cream on me and the bike shorts as I pulled them on. Baby powdered my feet to dry them. Put on the socks and shoes. Put my flasks in my jersey pocket. Blew my nose to get all that salt water out. The volunteer had gotten my helmet ready and opened my sunglasses case, carefully got my sunglasses out and placed them in the helmet, and put the case back in the T1 bag. She asked me "Do you need this?" a few times and put it in the T1 bag for me when I said no. Volunteers rock! She started to unroll my arm warmers before realizing that I'd rolled them for a reason. I rolled on my arm warmers, put some sunblock on my face, used hand sanitizer to get the chamois cream and sunblock off my hands and left the changing room.

I ran out the changing room exit and was facing the people just coming in from the swim. I skipped the sunscreen volunteers (since I'm picky about sunblock) and hit the portapotty instead. I was surprised there was no line. Apparently I'm the only one who has to pee after a swim. I'd planned to just wait til the first aid station like I usually do on a longer tri, but I guess I either wanted to just get it out of the way or I really had to go. After the pit stop and a stop for hand sanitizer I continued carefully walking towards my bike, trying not to slip on the bike cleats. As I got closer, someone yelled out my number, and magically when I was about 20 feet away I saw a volunteer holding my bike. Wow, having someone fetch your bike and hold it for you sure makes you feel special! Anyone who wants to feel like a pro should just do an ironman! The support was great. I hit my watch as I reached the dismount line and I was a bit surprised to see my transition time was almost 20 minutes. I was under 10 minutes for both Vineman events this year, but the transition distance was shorter and I wasn't concerned about running a marathon at the end.

My T1 to do list said: bring eye drops on bike and run (put in jersey!); chamois cream THEN sunblock. Food plan: H20 30 min, Chomps/Heed after 30. Gel 1-1:15. Relax and HAVE FUN! I'd also written the following abbreviated mantras on my list to remind me of the plan for my mind: 123456, amazing, awesome, strong trained & ready, ohm namo guru dev namo (a yoga chant that proved incredibly helpful!).

My T1 gear bag had this in it: bib # on race belt, washcloths for feet, babywipes, chamoi cream, bike shorts, hand sanitizer, baby powder to dry feet, clean rolled socks in ziplock, body glide, gloves, arm warmers (rolled so I could roll them on), hankerchief, sunglasses w/ spare lenses, bike shoes, ventolin (to use and leave; had separate one in my saddle bag) swim ear, face cleanser, bottle of water to wash feet, helmet, RX sunglasses (backup), spare contacts + solution (backup), to-do list. In a grocery bag inside my T1 bag, I also included some cold weather gear just in case it was super cold. In that I had: bike jersey, ear warmers, full finger gloves. My food in my T1 bag included two flasks for my jersey - one with Heed powder and one with vanilla orange Carb Boom. On my bike was my bento box and saddle bag. My bento box had the contents of 2 packages of Gu Chomps, plus 1 packet of honey almond butter. My bike also had a flask of apple Carb Boom attached to it on the top tube.

What I would do differently: Next time I’ve got strippers available I won’t bother trying to get the wetsuit down to my waist on my own. I’ll just run to the peelers and let them do it all, so I don't have to feel like I'm trapped in a straight jacket! I would probably just run to the change tent instead of walking at all, as long as I didn’t think it would hurt my feet. Mostly because I had plenty of time in the change tent to let my heart rate settle down. I might spend a few extra seconds rinsing my face off in the fresh water showers. I'm not sure what else I would cut out of the transition though. I really wanted to have my feet in good condition for the run, so that's why I made sure they were clean and dry. I guess maybe I could've been more aggressive when I first entered the tent and just forced myself into a seat. I think being overwhelmed by the crowd slowed me down a little. But I am glad I wasn't one of those frantic women rushing through everything. I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed. I suppose I'd be willing to run to my bike if I left my shoes off until I got to my bike and then brushed off the socks and put my shoes on, but I bet that wouldn't actually save me any time. I haven't had problems with blisters on the bike, so maybe I could be less careful about having perfectly clean feet in T1 and just do it in T2 instead.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ironman Florida Race Report: Race Morning

To any of my friends and family members who are non-athletes, I apologize for the incredibly long race report posts that are going to follow. I’m writing the type of race report that I found helpful while I was training for my first Ironman. Read the bold parts if you just want the overview!

Pre-race - Race Morning

I went to bed around 8:30 the night before the race. I slept a lot better than I expected. I thought I’d be up all night in anticipation. If that had happened my plan was to just focus on breathing and relax. On race day I woke up at 3:15, the alarm was set for 3:30 so I didn’t go back to sleep, but I stayed in bed mentally going through the race. (So glad my husband noticed the alarm clock battery warning light was on a few days earlier, so we got that taken care of before race day!) The day my watch had been counting down to for over a year was finally here!

As soon as I got up I put on my tri top and tri shorts, my heart rate monitor (HRM) strap and watch, my timing chip ankle strap, my Xtreme Sports ID, and my sweats to stay warm. I’d taken off my wedding rings the night before – hate worrying about them while swimming! I’d made a list of what to do in the morning and what I needed to bring with me to race site.

To do: wake up, put in contacts, bathroom, get dressed (see above), breakfast, put on Body Glide (neck, ankles, wrists, shoulders, armpits, hairline on back of neck (prevents chafing from swim caps) then put on some more Body Glide, put on Arnica (arnica flora is my magic gel that rids aches and pains. how do I always have random aches and pains on race days?), take medicine + 2 Endurolytes with plenty of water

Bring to race site: banana and Gu chomps for pre-race, wetsuit, goggles, swim caps, morning clothes bag, RX sunglasses in case, for backup in T1 in case my contacts fell out after getting kicked in the face during the swim, Special Needs bags, Floor pump, To Do lists and copy of Race Plan from Coach to review.

Around 4am I ate my usual big workout day breakfast (60g cream of rice cereal, 20g Aria protein powder, dash of cinnamon, banana and splash of milk) – I’m a little particular (insane?) about my food but I didn’t want to bring my kitchen scale to FL so I’d measured the dry ingredients and put them in a ziplock baggie before we left CA. I had my usual cup of coffee too. I didn’t want to try having more coffee than usual to get the caffeine boost because I was afraid it’d mess up my stomach. Did some stretching and tried to go to the bathroom a few times. We left for the 15 minute walk to race start/transition area around 4:45am.

The race site was really happening at 5am! Lots of people and excitement and music. We dropped off my special needs bags first then went to the transition area. A volunteer wrote my race number, 63, on each arm, and my age, 30, on the back of my left calf. Only athletes are allowed in the transition area.

It really is a small world. I knew 3 other bloggers who were doing the race; we'd met in person a few nights earlier at Bob's blogger party. Even though there were 2500 athletes, we all happened to be in the same spot that morning for race numbering. Bob, on the left, actually volunteered to do body marking before the race, so he was working and couldn't show off his awesome magic marker tattoo with me and Melissa.

Walking through into the transition area after getting body marked, I really felt like “wow I’m doing an Ironman today!” It felt more real than it had all week. I pumped up my tires and handed the pump over the fence to Dave who carried it around in his backpack until after I was on my bike a few hours later! I mistakenly then put my RX sunglasses in my T2 bag which I didn’t realize until I got to the other side of the transition area to my T1 bag. Ugh. I went back to the T2 bag, retrieved my RX sunglasses and put my T2 To Do list in my T2 bag. In the T1 bag I placed my RX sunglasses and my T1 to do list along with my sunblock (which I’d put on after getting body marked, but thought I might want to reapply after the swim). (Photo below is me fixing the T1 bag)

I was really glad we got to the race start early. I’m not sure what all I did, but I didn’t feel like I was ever just standing around with nothing to do. I went through the port-a-potty line twice (finally success, yay!). It was cold with the wind, even after the sun came up, though it wasn’t miserably cold – just cold by Kendra standards. I was dreading putting my sweats in my morning clothes bag, but then I realized I had a wetsuit to keep me warm. This was only my second race with my wetsuit! I saw a sorry soul trying to use a one-time use Body Glide on his neck to prevent wetsuit chafing. I used my real stick some more (you can never use too much Body Glide!) and handed it to him. Those one-time uses are pretty useless, though I did put one in my Run Special Needs bag just in case.

Once I had my wetsuit mostly on, I threw everything else in my morning clothes bag and then tried to figure out how I was going to fit that bag into the bin of bags for racers 1-100 that was already overflowing. A pro came over and suggested we just put them on the ground. Somehow the 1-100 bin was far more full than all the others. Maybe because the pros started earlier so were already on the beach? Anyways, it made me feel special to share a trash bin with the pros for our morning clothes.

I walked to the beach while eating my banana and a few Chomps and I almost forgot that we had to go through the swim chute so that our timing chips would be registered and everyone would know we were in the water. I thought the chute would be really obvious, but it seemed like you could miss it if you're looking for a place to toss a banana peel... (maybe it would’ve been obvious if I’d tried to walk all the way down to the water before realizing my mistake.) I saw Dave and Lauren as I walked through the swim start chute, and I went over to where they were, standing behind the fence that separated the swimmers from the crowd. I got a few hugs, posed for photos, and tried to enjoy the last few moments with my people before I headed to the water with my caps and goggles on. I wore a pink cap as my base cap, then the goggles, then the race cap. I like wearing two caps because my goggles seem to stay put better over my swim cap, but adding another cap over the goggles ensures that if I get kicked in the face the goggles won’t fall off entirely. I didn’t bother wearing my ear plugs because I’d done a practice swim earlier in the week without them and realized the water was warm enough that I didn’t need them to keep my sensitive ears from freezing. I think it’s really best to go as minimalist as possible so you have fewer things to worry about and keep track of before and during the race.

By the time I wandered to the far right side of the beach it was probably 6:40 or 6:45 and Mike Reilly was already yelling at everyone to get out of the water for the pro start. Oops I hadn’t done any swimming to warm up. I wasn’t too worried about this since I realized the same thing happened for my Vineman 70.3 race. I wandered into the water to pee again before the race – seems like everyone else was doing the same thing. Meanwhile Mike Reilly is getting ticked, but I'm sure he's used to this. I tried to find my starting position. I just kept walking to the right until I could see the spectator barrier on that side. I had no idea if we were all supposed to be on the beach, or if the ankle deep water was okay. I stood just behind the water line, but it was behind a bunch of people. I looked behind me and saw lots of guys who looked like strong swimmers. I didn't particularly feel like starting at the very back, and these guys seemed pretty laid back and I heard some saying they planned to just let everyone else get in the water first, so I figured it was unlikely they would swim over me too hard. I positioned myself what seemed like 10-20 people from the right and about the same number of people deep in front and behind me.

I heard the National Anthem played before the pros went off with their cannon start, and I heard Mike Reilly ask how many of us were about to do their first Ironman. Lots of cheers for that! I think they said over 1300 of us were first timers! But other than that I didn’t hear anything else. There was no announcement that I heard, just the cannon and all of the sudden the race had begun!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Home with the Iron Team!

We are home again, and picked up the puppy today, so the unit is
complete. Except the internet connection broke during our trip, so, it
doesn't quite feel like home having to go elsewhere to check the
email. I'll definitely post a full race report (after I catch up on
sleep!), but for now I wanted to post this picture taken last night
after we got home. I'm wearing one of my many Ironman finisher shirts,
and Dave's got his Ironman volunteer shirt on. It seems appropriate
for him to have a shirt that says Iron Team on it. I had a lot of
people on my team this year that helped me cross that finish line.
Before the race started the announcer had the athletes give a cheer
for their friends and families who supported them throughout all this
training. I don't think it would have been possible for us to cheer
loudly enough. Thanks to my Iron Team! You all know who you are! :)

Sunday, November 8, 2009



Sorry about the yelling. I was pretty excited :-) Right before I start screaming my head off, though, you can hear the announcer say, "Kendra, you are an Ironman!!!" Yay!

[Posted by Lauren]

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Less than 26 miles to go!!

Kendra's running now!

I sat outside the condo complex to watch for her as she returned from the bike leg (the condo is about a half-mile from the transition area), figuring I could see her, snap a picture, then walk to the transition area to catch her again as she started the run.

I was *mostly* right. I got so swept up in cheering on the passing riders that I neglected to keep my camera at the ready (it was in my hand, but not turned on). Kendra actually saw me before I saw her, and she called out to me with a big smile on her face. I cheered and whooped, and she told me she'd had a flat tire out on the course. That would explain the delay - she passed me right about 4 o'clock, approximately 7h 20m after she left T1. She seemed to be in great spirits despite the setback. And she was way, way, way ahead of the 5:30 p.m. deadline for finishing the bike.

I walked on over to the run course, and talked to Dave on the way, so I found out where he was standing, closer to the transition area. He'd seen Kendra finish the bike too, and he got a couple of pictures, so Kendra will be able to post those later (they don't have the connector wire to hook up their camera to the laptop, sadly).

The first segment of the run is a tiny little out-and-back, so by standing at the roadside, we spectators got to see our athletes pass by twice in a very short space of time. Felt like a lot of welcome Kendra-time after such a long period sending general thoughts of support and cheer out into the ether, not knowing exactly where she was at any given time! It was oddly frustrating, sitting around for so many hours and waiting - I felt like I wasn't doing my job as a supporter! (I also came to an epiphany as I sat by the roadside, anticipating her return, when I noticed it was 3:30 and I'd been up for 12 hours and was feeling somewhat drowsy, and then I thought about how all these people zooming by me had also been up for 12 hours, but *they* had been swimming in freezing cold water and then biking in the hot sun and fairly constant wind, and that they all had a full marathon up ahead of them before they could sit down and relax. My epiphany: I will never be an Ironman. And I'm okay with that!! I'm happy to sit in awe of what my friend, and thousands of other strangers, are achieving today, and respect it while in no way understanding it!)

Ok, enough about me, and back to the race! I got a couple of pictures as Kendra set out for the run:

Like I said, Kendra seemed to be in great spirits, and she was also lucid enough to correct me -- I shouted out "See you in 26 miles!" But remembering that it's a double-loop run course, Kendra chuckled and said, "How about 13?" Oops - good point!

It's getting dark already, and cooling off quickly. Good thing she's got her long-sleeved jersey (complete with smiley face) with her. Now that it's dark, the camera's flash should capture the effect quite nicely... (The runners are also being given glow sticks to ensure their visibility on the road).

Hope to post more after 13 miles! Stay tuned!

on to the bike!

Missed Kendra's exit from the water, but I saw her start the bike!

before we get to that, a few pictures from this morning:
Kendra wondered if there was much point to stretching at 4 o'clock in the morning, since she wouldn't be running for probably 12 more hours...

Caught the sunrise today at the Transition Area - the PA system played the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun," which I found appropriate.

Lots of T1 bags!

About 15 minutes before the big start!

This is what it looks like when 2,500 swimmers all storm the Gulf at the same time! (I took a video of that, too, and when I have the opportunity I'll upload it to YouTube and link to it here... it was pretty spectacular to watch.)

Thanks to Kendra's pinked-out bike, and her matching arm warmers, I saw her go by. My watch said it was 1h 38 minutes after the start. (I was standing about 40 yards past the "mount" area).

Ok, that's it for a little while. I'm off to get some grub and then to show up for my volunteer gig at 10 o'clock at the information booth. That's located about a half-mile down the way, where the finish line is, at another resort, so my wi-fi access will not be accessible while I'm there. I'll pick the blog back up in about 5 hours or so, once my volunteering is done and the cyclists start returning for T2!

quick update!

Kendra's swimming! Her first loop was about 38 minutes - really great time! The course is odd - they swim a loop, exit the water to cross the timing mat, then dive back into the water for the 2nd loop.

I'll post more pics soon but I want to make sure I get the water exit and T1 to bike start. Meantime, here's Kendra in between loops. Dave spotted her, which is the only way I was able to snap the picture. She's in the center, white cap, tipping her head back for some water.
More later!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

counting down!

Lauren here.

Panama City Beach is beautiful this time of year! I took this photo from the condo's balcony at 7 o'clock this morning. Yes, a beach-front condo. Wonderful!

Kendra had to drop off her bike, gear, and transition bags today at the race start and transition location, so this morning she finalized the packing and organization. My task was to make sure her running shirt was reflective, since the run course is pretty dark. I brought some pink reflective sticky dots with me, to go with Kendra's pink theme, and decided that the runners behind her would appreciate a nice happy pattern:
By 10:30, we were off to the transition area. We took this picture of Kendra right before she dropped off her bike:
And here it is, bike #63, waiting for athlete #63 to show up sometime around 9 o'clock tomorrow morning!

So that's about it for now. I drove inland a little ways for some wi-fi access to post this little update. Should be able to log on from the start/transition area tomorrow (will be testing it tonight to be sure) so I can upload race-day pictures! Don't forget to track athlete #63 to follow Kendra all day tomorrow!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

TWO days to go!!!

Yesterday my countdown said 3 days. I remember when it was 300 days! I
think the major freakout is going to happen soon. I think so far it's
just been a few small minor ones. Like pre-quakes. We're down to 1 day
and 23 hours. Wow I could just say 47 hours. That's freakier.

This post is long. Yesterday was a busy day. But I aimed for topic
sentences this time, so it's easy to read bits and pieces...

I'm all checked-in for Ironman. My massage yesterday was great, now I
just need to keep stretching to stay loose. Dave met me at the massage
tent and waited in line with me to check-in. I had to show my ID and
USAT membership card to get into the check-in tent (Dave waited
outside but he took a few photos as he peered in). The first table I
was sent to gave me two sheets of paper that I had to fill out -
verifying medical info, emergency contact, etc, and liability waiver.
Then I got in the weigh-in line. (They don't state it anywhere but it
seems like if you end up needing medical attention and you've lost too
much weight, they probably make you withdraw.) My weight was marked
down and then I was sent to the next table where they put my race ID
bracelet on (a little snugly), they numbered my swim cap, gave me bags
for my transition gear, and I got stickers with "63" on them to place
on my bike, helmet, and race bags. I know I did a few other things in
the check-in tent but I can't even remember it all now.

Next I checked-in for the Janus Charity Challenge. I gave them my
total for fundraising so far, though I have until Friday at noon to
update that with more current information. I have to go back there
anyways, so it's not too late to contribute to the National Foundation
for Celiac Awareness - http://januscharitychallenge.kintera.org/fl09/kendra

Janus gave me a tri top and a hat for my efforts! My fundraising is
mentioned in the Sacramento Examiner today.

Janus also had big blank signs that were available (free) for families
and friends to decorate for their athletes. The big signs are placed
along the run course to motivate us triathletes. I made one for my
fellow Sac Tri Club members, and Dave made one for me. It was fun.
Lots of people were doing this. It's probably a great way to entertain
kids while a parent does the whole check-in thing too. Ford is another
sponsor, and they have an electronic sign on the run course that
people can use 25 characters for to inspire their athletes. The sign
scrolls during the race, so I'm not sure of the chances of actually
seeing a mesage for me. But it's a neat idea.

After leaving Ironman village, we walked back to the condo for lunch.
Then Dave drove me the 1/4 mile back to pick up my bike. I felt a bit
silly about that but I also felt like I'd been out in the sun too much
and this is a taper week afterall! I did my bike workout straight
from there. Bike pickup from Tri Bike Transport was easy. Just had to
have them put my pedals on, I pumped up the tires and away I went.

I rode the first and last stretch of the race course. It was a bit
windy. I was most surprised how much variability there was both in
wind and incline/decline. The road is flat, but with the wind factored
in, I felt like I was switching back and forth between two gears a lot
more than I expected to. I had a hard time taking it easy - there were
so many other people out there riding and the whole day was pretty
exciting. I just kept telling myself to ride as slowly as possible.

Finally last night we went to a blogger party! Bob hosted the party.
I met Bob and his octogenarian cheerleader parents; Melissa
and her training partner (both are also doing the Janus Charity
Challenge); Anne and her family. It was really fun to meet these people whose training blogs I've been following this year! And it's great to have some more faces to recognize on the course. In addition to the bloggers, I know two
others from Sac Tri, and my friend Bob who I met at the VI swims.

Melissa mentioned a recent post on her blog, which I'd forgotten that
I had saved to read later. Someone sent her a letter that describes
the day of Ironman
. I just read it and it is awesome. I can definitely relate to

this portion:

"While this taper is something your body desperately needs, your mind
cast off to the background for so very long, will start to speak to

"It won't be pretty.

"It will bring up thoughts of doubt, pain, hunger, thirst, failure,
and loss. It will give you reasons why you aren't ready. It will try
and make one last stand to stop you, because your brain doesn't know
what the body already does. Your body knows the truth:

"You are ready.

"Your brain won't believe it. It will use the taper to convince you
that this is foolish - that there is too much that can go wrong.

"You are ready."

My mind is my own worst enemy right now. It keeps thinking about
everything that could go wrong. I just keep reminding myself this is
just one long training day, with 2500 other people. I've done the
swim+bike together (Vineman Aquabike); I did a 20 mile run a few weeks
ago; this is okay. This is doable. It's nothing worse than what I've
done before, and as Dave pointed out, this time I'll have
cheerleaders. I'll have bananas and bathrooms and water. I'll have
people to talk to (or just listen to). Yes, it's going to be hard,
physically and mentally. But if it wasn't hard, then what would be the
big deal? If it was easy, it wouldn't be called Ironman, and everyone
would do it. Part of the triumph in finishing an Ironman is
persevering through a long tough day. I'm going to try to enjoy each
moment on Saturday. Hopefully I can even smile as I get beat up in the

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Check-in day!

Today the Ironman village officially opens. We've seen the tents get
put up - it's just a little bit down the road from us (maybe a mile?).
I'm walking over there soon to get a massage to help loosen up my
muscles before race day. (I'm getting the massage today so if it ends
up making me more sore at all, I'll be recovered by race day.) Got to
get all the travel kinks out. I'm a little nervous as in just a few
hours I'll have my athlete ID bracelet on and this will all be even
more real than it is right now!

Tuesday morning was another wake up and go join the other triathletes
in the water. It was great. Later in the day Dave wanted to swim too,
so I went out with him again. I complained about how cold it was going
to be (without my wetsuit) the whole walk down to the water, mostly
because I was in a damp bathing suit. But once we got in the water it
was wonderful. Refreshing. Just swam about 10 or 15 minutes. Swimming
after Dave and watching him dive down to look at fish or whatever was
on the bottom of the water reminded me of our weekend swims on St

Yesterday we also drove the bike course, all 112 miles. It's pretty
flat except for a bridge at mile 12 and 100. A few rolling hills, but
I think they'll be a welcome change from the flatness. The roads seem
to be pretty nicely paved too. Tree lined highways for the most part.
The bike course cutoff is 5:15 and I'm really surprised it's that late
given that I bet legally after 4:45 you probably need lights on a
bicycle here.

Last night we drove the run course after realizing there was no point
to waiting til daylight today, since the vast majority of the run will
be in the dark for me. I'm a little concerned about the run course.
It's out-and-back twice, and the roads are not very good. It's mostly
through a residential area, no sidewalks, beat up roads, and some
speed bumps. I'm worried about tripping or turning an ankle given how
un-smooth the roads are. But I guess I turned my ankle and still ran
14 miles a few months ago so I'm prepared for that too right. It's
pretty dark out there too. I can see why they suggest putting
reflective gear on your running outfit. Lauren's going to bring me
some pink reflective dots.

Today at check-in I'll get my transition and special needs bags. I've
spread out my gear into piles in the condo and it'll be nice to put
everything in the proper bags. Although I may leave it all out for
another day so I don't have to reopen the bags to quadruple check that
I put everything in properly. Time to boogie on down the beach and
start the day!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Panama City Beach

As I write this, I am sitting in on a couch gazing out the gigantic
window looking at the beach and the wonderful Gulf of Mexico water.
Our travel was a little bit problematic (mechanical problems, etc) but
we made to Panama City Beach. Thanks to my friend Artemis who took us
to the airport. She was thrilled to help me on my journey to Ironman
Florida by taking us to the airport - seriously. She's awesome, and
she even brought her camera to take this photo for my blog before Dave
and I left. (Sorry we won't have any more photos until guest blogger
Lauren arrives in a few days!)

During our layover, that gluten free salmon meal was the perfect lunch
with some Udi's white sandwich bread that I'd brought along and an
apple. I think it would've been difficult to buy anything at the
airport that seemed like a real meal. Once we got our rental car and
started driving to PCB, we saw lots of Publix grocery stores. Last
week I finally realized that a good way to find a grocery store that
carries gluten free items is to go to a GF products website and use
the store locator option! That helped me figure out that Bob's Red
Mill stuff was sold at Publix, and when I checked the Publix website,
I found they had a page about gluten free items. So we stopped at
Publix and found goodies like Pamela's mixes, Blue Diamond nut thins,
etc. I found a gluten free chickpea salad and bought a container of
baby spinach and mixed the two together for a big salad which I ate in
the car for dinner. I can only deal with so many Larabars or Boomi
bars per day. We also had a stash of crackers that we got at the
Gluten Free Cooking Spree, so they were a nice snack on the plane. I'm
glad I brought what I did though because I haven't seen my GF creamy
rice cereal or GF pretzels anywhere. We need to spread the word on
celiac disease to help increase awareness of the purchasers at grocery
stores nationwide! You can help by making a donation to the National
Foundation for Celiac Awareness by visiting
http://januscharitychallenge.kintera.org/fl09/kendra. I've raised
almost $3000 through my Ironman for the NFCA so far!

I packed a LOT of stuff, but once I unpacked I realized my
non-triathlon, non-gluten free foods took up two full suitcases, so
really I'd be a light traveler were it not for the celiac Ironman in
me! TSA inspected both of my checked bags. Probably thought I was a
psycho. I'm guessing it was the bike pump and the gallon ziplock bag
of CarbBoom gels that looked weird to them. Tomorrow I'm going to go
through all my triathlon gear and food and sort it into the different
transition bags. I spent most of my time on the planes making lists of
what to do, what food goes where for the race, what food I'll eat
when, etc.

The last few days (all week?) I've been either excited or nervous, not
much in between. This morning was a mix of calm and excited though!
Something about waking up to a peach colored sunrise over the beach I
guess! I'm going to have to wake up pretty early on Saturday for the
Ironman, so I decided not to worry about waking up before 5am today. I
did stay in bed to rest until 6 though. I had a swim and a run on
today's workout schedule and I was feeling a little apprehensive about
swimming in the ocean (the gulf is pretty much like ocean) by myself
and I was thinking about how it was just going to be cold and dark and

Around 6:30am though I saw two people in wetsuits walking into the
water, then I saw someone else already swimming. When I saw two more
wetsuit donning people, I decided I should hurry up and go swim while
other swimmers were out there. I raced down there and apparently
everyone else who was watching from their condos had had the same
idea. By the time I was in the water, I saw lots of other triathletes
in wetsuits wondering to the water. I ended up swimming for awhile
with two people from England but also did some solo swimming too.

The water was amazingly perfect for my swim!!! Pretty calm, pretty
warm. I didn't even wince or squeal when I put my delicate toes into
the water. The water is pretty clear too, but because there's
basically just sand (no coral, seaweed, etc) after you get far enough
out from shore it's hard to tell if you can still see the bottom. I
saw two rays and a school of fish. I was really thankful that we spent
two years in the Caribbean doing open water swims. The water here is
pretty comparable (except less scenic), so I feel right at home. I was
actually a little disappointed that I don't have more swim workouts
this week! The weather is great today too. Sunny but white fluffy
clouds. Not too hot, not too cold. I had a short run after my swim and
though I felt chilly for the first minute or two, I warmed up quickly.
It's such a trip to see so many other people out in wetsuits or on
bikes or running and you can just tell they're here for Ironman too!

I'm having an AWESOME time so far. I hope the weather stays this great
all week, or at least on Saturday. Today has been great. Relaxing,
enjoying the view, just taking it all in. I'm going to make sure I
enjoy every moment this week. The race is just 5 days away and I know
the time is going to fly. I'm going to take the time to stop and smell
the ocean.