Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Ironmate

Interrupting the Ironman Florida race report saga for a moment to write about some trials and tribulations of training for Ironman. Last Saturday was the first day in 2009 that my husband and I were both home and got to sleep in! Training for Ironman can really consume your life. I thought it would be the best year for Ironman because my husband was living about 100 miles away during most of it. It didn't matter to him if I had a 2 hour workout before heading to work for 9 hours. Silly me. I forgot about the weekend workouts being all day events sometimes!

The following situation happened on multiple occasions this year: He'd drive down on Friday night to visit. Saturday morning I'd go ride 100 miles on my bike. I'd get home in time for dinner, which he'd made while I was out training. (Good thing he's smart enough to figure out the gluten free menu planning without me.) We'd eat, and I'd try to watch a movie but mostly we could only get an hour or so into it before I had to go to sleep. Then Sunday we wake up, have breakfast, and he'd have to leave again and I'd have to go running. After awhile we realized it made way more sense for me to do my long rides on Sundays after he left, and do my long runs on Saturdays. (Worked better for my legs too!) Well, that gave us more time together, but I still wasn't up for much. We sat around watching a lot of dvds and shows on hulu this year.

All year, he heard a lot of this (in a whiny voice): No, I don't feel like going on a hike. Do you mind going to the store without me? Can you buy me more bananas? Can you buy me some ice for my ice bath? I need to go to the bike shop, I'll be back in 5 or 6 hours. Hey, do you want to ride your bike for 3 hours at 5 or 6mph while I run? No, I can't drive up to visit you, I have to train. Can you please take the dog again this week, I have too many workouts to deal with her. No, I don't really feel like going out. I'm tired. I'm hungry.

He cheered at my 30th birthday half marathon even though it meant driving to his 'home' much later than usual, and he spent his 30th birthday watching me do a 2.4 mile swim race which made me so cold that I didn't feel like doing anything other than sit around in warm blankets all day. He put up with me. Sometimes I'd guilt trip him for not coming to some of my races, even though they'd be 5 or 6 hour drives for him and he'd only see me for about a minute during the race. (I'm really a terrible person!) When I decided I'd rather sleep in and hang out with him and just skip my workout, he'd convince me to go do my workout.
He sent me flowers after my Vineman 70.3 PR. He offered to walk the last 13 miles with me at Florida (stay tuned for that story!). He made me gluten free brownies while I was on the bike portion of the Ironman. The next day he stood in line for me to buy my Ironman Florida merchandise so that I could get to my massage appointment. He puts up with me saying "I swear this is the last Ironman thing I'm going to buy" even when he knows better. When I couldn't decide between two m-dot necklaces, he told me I should get the bigger one.

Like all Ironman spouses (or Ironmates as the t-shirts call them), he put up with a lot this year. Waking up on Saturday and having nothing planned for the entire morning, no strenuous exercise to rest up for, it was really nice. I'd been looking forward to that day for months. I woke up at 6:30, of course.
Spousal support is incredibly important, and my awesome husband deserves a big thank you for this year. Hopefully he's cool with me doing another Ironman sometime. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ironman Florida Race Report: Bike (part 5)

Immediately after crossing the timing mat on the short turnaround stretch I made a quick stop at the portapotties which were right there. No line, but also no volunteers to hold the bikes so I had to make sure not to let the end of my Speedfil tube (the part I suck on to get my drink) touch the ground or the outside of the portapotty when I left my bike. I refilled the bottles and was on my way.

I had no idea what the time cutoffs were, other than the 5:15 bike finish cutoff. I knew there were other cutoffs and was pretty sure the earliest one was at 4pm but I couldn't remember where it was. Since my Vineman Aquabike took 9 hours, I figured I could finish the swim + bike at Florida in 9 hours too which would have me finishing the bike at 4. I hadn't planned on a flat that seemed to take forever to get resolved though! My brain was no longer capable of doing math though. I kept trying to calculate how many miles I had left and what pace I'd need to go in order to finish, but my brain kept getting distracted and thinking about all the other things that could go wrong.

Anything can happen in Ironman. I'd heard that many, many, many times. Sure I'd had a flat, but that could be the least of my worries today. I had no idea what more could go wrong, but I knew everything could still go wrong. Before my flat, I was feeling good, a little slow with all the potty stops, but good. I had no doubt I'd finish. Now I had no idea if I would even get to finish the bike.

I started thinking about my secret backup plan. If something went wrong in Florida so that I couldn't finish, I wanted to sign up for Ironman Arizona with a community fund spot. Community fund spots are the only way to register for an Ironman once the regular spots fill up (a year ahead of the race). You pay about twice as much, but half of it goes to a local charity. After a year of training, I didn't want it to go to waste, and I didn't want to wait another year to do an Ironman. Last I'd checked, there were still community fund spots available for Arizona, which was just in 2 more weeks. Yes, the swim would be cold and gross, but at least my family would probably show up. That could work. I convinced myself I would still be an Ironman this month, even if it wasn't today.

Once I realized how negative I was getting, I started thinking about all the people supporting me through the Janus Charity Challenge. I thought about my friends, family, and coworkers who had made a donation to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness on my behalf. I started at A and went through the alphabet and thought of each person and how they were supporting me today. When I got to B and pictured one of my nieces coming to cheer at Ironman Arizona, running along with high heels next to me, it made me laugh. I think my brain was starting to fry a little at this point, because I got a few letters past D before I remembered my husband Dave. I also really couldn't calculate how much time I had to make the final cutoff.

I started focusing on the mantras again. My friend's yoga chant was the one that really helped the most. I just kept repeating it over and over and over again. It got my mind off of everything else: the possibility that my tire might blow, that I might not meet the bike cutoff, or that something I couldn't even imagine could still happen to ruin my day. The yoga mantra calmed me down and helped me get into the zone. My friend was in her first day of yoga college and was sending all her good vibes to me. I really felt like she was right there with me on the bike helping push me along. Each time I said the chant, I felt like I was getting stronger and the ride was getting easier. I was going faster without much effort.

For the entire rest of the bike after I'd crossed the timing mat at mile 73, I just kept passing people, mostly women. That was a real confidence booster. I recognized a few of them, since we'd played leap frog a bit. One said she was glad to see I'd gotten my tire fixed. I saw a woman, Mona, whose age on her calf indicated she was in her 60s. I'd seen her a few times and I was really impressed with her. I told myself that there were way too many people that I was passing for me to have to worry about the time cutoffs.

I tried to get back on my nutrition plan, but it was harder to eat. The Gu Chomps still tasted good though so I kept eating those. I ate most of the gels that I had planned, but I had to force myself. I kept trying to switch flavors. I was good about taking my Endurolytes as planned, and I kept drinking my Heed. I'd missed almost a full hour of nutrition though when I was coping with the flat. I know I didn't eat as much as I should have during the last 35 miles.

It was really exciting to make the turn at mile 100 and see the bridge waiting for me to climb it. Finally I had some easy math - 12 miles left and I had plenty of time. (It probably wasn't even 3:30.) Yay I was going to finish! I passed a few more people on that highway. Everyone was pretty spread out by now.

Once I turned left onto Front Beach Rd I could feel the wind again. This stretch had been super windy during my test rides earlier in the week. It's pretty much the only place in the whole race that I noticed the wind (other than that brief moment of nearly getting blown off the bike). It wasn't anywhere near as bad as it'd been during my workouts though. Either that or I was on an adrenaline high. A volunteer told me I only had 3 miles to go, but I knew she was lying and had 5 left. Seriously why do people do that?? I saw my friend sitting on the grass by our condo and waved.

I just kept passing people. I kind of thought I should slow down and rest my legs a little to prep for the run, but I realized I was keeping a high RPM and I wasn't exerting myself more than I should've been, so I just kept passing people. I was really surprised when I got to the last half mile stretch. People were riding slowly and there was a big group of them. I wanted to pass as many people as possible so that my overall rank on the bike wouldn't be so awful, and I didn't see any safety reason that people should be riding slowly, so I just checked them off as I passed them, riding right up to the dismount line. Woohoo. I made it to T2.

FIRST BIKE SEGMENT 73 mi. (5:14:51) 13.91 mph
FINAL BIKE SEGMENT 39 mi. (2:09:54) 18.01 mph
TOTAL BIKE 112 mi. (7:24:45) 15.11 mph
Overall: 2206/2424
Division: 78/95

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ironman Florida Race Report: Bike (part 4 - the flat)

I'm not really sure what I was expecting when I got off my bike to check my back tire, but I was definitely hoping for a fully inflated tired. *Squeeze* uh oh, I was able to smoosh the tire entirely flat. Let's double check that. *Squeeze* *sigh* yup, definitely flat. I just kind of stared at my bike for a moment and then though "Well, this will make for a more interesting race report!"  One thing I learned by living in the VI is that when things get crazy, it's best to just think about what a funny story it will make, instead of dwelling on the fact that you have no water for a shower because it hasn't rained in months, and so forth. 
This was my first flat tire ever! Luckily I'd practiced changing tires in the weeks before the race. The rear tire is a bit more challenging to change because of the chain and the gears. I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to get it back on correctly, but one step at a time. I forgot to shift the chain into the lowest gear, as usual, and just opened the quick release and pulled on the derailleur to remove the wheel. It took some careful coordination, as I didn't have a kitchen counter to lean my bike against while I did this. I didn't feel like turning my bike upside down either because then everything would spill out of my bottle and bento box. Once the wheel was out, I had to lay my bike down on the ground. I only realized later that I ended up placing my chain in sandy dirt. Oops. Then I decided to check my watch so I'd know how long my tire changing took. It'd been less than 10 minutes when I changed them at home. Just before the flat I'd seen the 100k mark and checked my watch and saw I'd been on the bike just over 4 hours, and that seemed acceptable though I couldn't recall how long my prior 100k training rides had taken me.
I'd practiced changing tires without using any tire levers, so that's how I changed my flat. Thankfully the tire was easy to remove, just a little bit of wiggling involved. I pulled out the flat tube and got my new tube out, being especially thankful that my husband had been willing to buy me the spare tubes that seemed excessive the day he dropped off my bike for transport. I used the CO2 air gun to squirt a bit of air into the new tube so that it'd have enough shape that it'd be easy to put on the wheel. I'd only practiced with the CO2 air gun once and just like last time I got a little too much air in the tube at first so I had to let a bit of it out. But I knew from my practice that I'd still have plenty of CO2 left to fully inflate the tube once the wheel was back on my bike. A few people who passed me asked if I needed help. One guy looked like he was about to stop but I told him I had it under control, feeling proud of myself for having the skills to change my tire.

It took some craftiness to squeeze the tube onto the wheel since I'd left the tire halfway on. I think when I practiced changing tires I had actually changed the tires so had only once or twice before done the halfway thing, but I knew it was supposed to be better and faster than fully removing the tire. The tube was about halfway in when I realized I'd forgotten the most important step - the one I always forgot in practice too! - taking the time to carefully rub my fingers over the inside of the tire to see if whatever caused the flat was still in the tire. If you don't get the thorn or glass, etc, out, then you're just going to get another flat in a moment. I pulled the tube back out and checked the tire but I couldn't find anything. I got the tube and tire all the way back on (without levers, yay!) and picked up the CO2 to inflate the tire again. This is when I ran into trouble.

When I put the CO2 air gun on my valve and turned on the air, the CO2 just sprayed all over. In case you haven't had the pleasure of using one of these things, the CO2 cartridge gets really, really cold (ice can form on it). So my fingers were cold and the tire didn't have any more air in it. I got out another CO2 cartridge and tried to pay close attention to what I was doing so I could make sure I was doing it properly. Turned the knob and a blast of CO2 sprayed outside of my tube again. I turned it off quickly and tried to place it on the valve again, but I had the same problem. After wasting two CO2 cartridges, I decided this was just a user error and I gave up. At this point when people asked me if I needed anything as they rode past, I started saying yes that my CO2 wouldn't work, and I was trying not to cry. One woman said she'd notify the next aid station so they could send a mechanic to help me. I decided it was time to use my backup manual pump since if I kept trying CO2s I'd just be wasting them (they're recyclable but not reusable :() and the CO2s clearly weren't the faster option anymore. Luckily that worked pretty well, but I could tell the PSI wasn't as high as the front tire. It was just a quick fix though.

All the aid stations, roughly 10 miles apart, were supposed to have floor pumps. I knew I had to be close to an aid station so I could just ride a few more miles and use the floor pump. I got the tire back on with the same balancing problems I'd had taking it off. I checked my watch to see how much time I'd lost. I couldn't remember what time it'd been when I stopped though. It seemed roughly that it'd been just over 10 minutes. (I can tell from my HRM data it was actually 14 minutes.) I put my old tube in jersey so I wouldn't be a litter bug. (I'd seen plenty of tubes scattered on this road!) Then I rode off to the next aid station hoping this awful road didn't give me another flat. I had one more spare tube and a patch kit, but I was really ready to be done.

The next aid station was only a mile or so away. I slowed down at the first tent to ask where the floor pump was as I dump my old tube. They told me it was at the last tent. I get there and yell out that I need the floor pump and some guy starts looking for it while I get off my bike to inspect the tire and wheel to make sure it looks okay. The guy radios someone else asking where the pump is. They call someone. Eventually they decide it's not here. "Some guy in a truck took it." I knew that other triathlete might have told these people that I needed help, so I'd kept an eye out for any vehicles that might have had a race volunteer or mechanic and I hadn't seen any. The aid station people tell me they can call a mechanic but they have no idea how long it will take. I decide to just pump up my tire some more with the manual pump. Pumped it until my arms hurt and then I kept riding. More wasted time here!

I was really frustrated with the lack of a floor pump at that aid station. I had no idea how much aid I'd been able to get into my rear tire. The flat itself left me wondering what had caused it. I'm sure it was the bumpy road, but I kept expecting it to flat again. The tube didn't seem settled exactly right, the valve didn't look the same as on my front tire, so that had my spooked. I wasn't sure if the lower PSI I was now likely riding on would lead to another flat either.

About six or seven miles later, while riding on the only stretch of road where cyclists are going both ways, I saw a volunteer truck on the side of the road. The volunteer was on the other side of the road assisting a cyclist. I asked if he had a floor pump and he said yes. I stopped and looked in the pickup bed but didn't see one. The volunteer ran over and opened the truck and handed me the pump. I glanced at the cyclist he'd been helping and the guy was bent over clutching his chest. Yikes. The volunteer ran back over to hang out with him. It seemed they were calling an ambulance. I was so happy to have a floor pump but I felt bad the volunteer had come over to help when this other guy might be having a heart attack. I put the pump on my valve and swoooosh all the air went out. Crap. I hate it when that happens. Now I have to pump it all the way up again. Pump, pump, pump. Uhhh no air is going in. I try again. I play around with it, check the valve, etc. I can't get the pump to work at all and now my tire is 100% flat all over again. Great. I can't very well ask the volunteer for help because then this other guy is going to die. So I just continue the futile pumping until the volunteer asks if I need a mechanic. YES! "there's one coming right now, just flag her down."

I look around and see one of the motorcycle mechanics coming my way. I'd seen her earlier - kind of hard to miss since they have two or three bike wheels on the back of their motorcycles. I flag her down and explain I just need my tire pumped up. She asks how high and I tell her 140. She asks me if I'm sure because that's really high. Then she asks if my tire had a split it in. No, I say, wondering if she thinks I'd be riding on a split tire or if she just assumed I'd carried a spare tire. She explains that a split would indicate that I'd overinflated my tire. Now I'm second guessing everything, worried about overinflation. I've always pumped them to 140, the max says 175 and the bike shop guys said 140 is good. But I wonder if maybe her pump is way better than the one I have at home (I've heard the gauges vary a lot) and maybe I really am only usually pumping it to 120. I have her pump it to 140 mostly because I am too paralyzed by indecision to come to any other conclusion and she'd already started on it.

Finally the tire is pumped up to 140, like it or not, and after thanking her I'm back on the road. Only a moment later do I realize that when she asked if I had a split tire that she meant was the tube split. UGH! I have no idea! I dumped the tube without inspecting it! So now I'm just filled with worry wondering what caused my flat and was it going to happen again. I'm just a few miles away from the turnaround on this little stretch. About 15 minutes later I get to the turnaround, there's a timing mat. Great. Everyone is going to wonder what the heck happened to me.

My total stopped time from the flat tire was just 22 minutes (14 min to change, 4 minutes looking for a floor pump that wasn't where it should've been, and 4 minutes when it actually got pumped up). In retrospect looking at the HRM/bike computer data, it doesn't seem like I was going any slower than average during that 7 mile stretch on the hand-pumped tire. But the mental anguish was awful! By the time I crossed that timing mat, it'd been almost an hour since my flat and I'd just traveled 10 miles. And I hadn't eaten anything!!!

FIRST BIKE SEGMENT 73 mi. (5:14:51) 13.91 mph

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ironman Florida Race Report: Bike (part 3)

So there I am, still riding riding riding away from the third aid station. Feeling cool. Hey I'm doing an Ironman! Woohoo. Go me. This is great. I have no idea how fast I'm going, but I'm following my nutrition plan and my legs feel good. Often in training or in races I have that "omg my legs are sore" just five minutes into a workout or a race and then the feeling goes away. Maybe I realize that my legs aren't actually sore that's just how they feel when they're not propped up on a coffee table in front of the couch, or maybe my legs just start accepting that yes, it's another workout and they start behaving. I don't know. And it's one of those things I always forget about after the feeling goes away so I never think to mention it to my coach. But I'm remembering it now and I'm remembering I did not have that feeling. Maybe that's what tapering does for me? Point is - I felt great and I was still having fun. I expected that to end at some point on the bike though. I don't think I've ever ridden 100 miles having pure fun, let alone 112.

I recently installed Polar Pro Trainer 5 on my desktop computer, even though it came with the new HRM that I got months ago.. Ironman training sure takes over life sometimes! Anyways, it has some great features including the ability to zoom in on the speed/time/heart rate curves. So, at the risk of an overdetailed blog.. it looks like my first stop at rest area 3 was at mile 32 and the stop was actually only 6 minutes, not 10 like I posted earlier. Later in the race I realized the distance on my bike computer was slightly off from the mile markers on the road. My watch was a little behind. Overall it said I rode 110 miles, not 112. Anyone else have this?

I neglected to say in my initial bike post that I'd mentally broken up the bike portion into 4 segments. Mile 0-23; Mile 23-50; Mile 50-75; Mile 75-112. The first segment had ended around the second rest stop when we turned off the first main highway and went east. The second segment was a 25+ mile stretch all on the same road going east. I knew I'd hit special needs near the end of this stretch. I didn't count it as halfway until I made the turn to go west again around mile 60.

Here's the bike course directions and in parenthesis I wrote the total miles you'll have traveled before you make that turn, based on our rental car odometer. I'm posting this because I wanted to know the info before I did the race and I think it's ridiculous that Ironman doesn't just include it in the race course information, so hopefully it'll be helpful to someone else:

* Start at the Boardwalk Beach Resort and go west on S. Thomas Drive to Front Beach Rd.
* (0.6 miles) Left on Front Beach Rd.
* (6.6) Right on Hwy 79.
* (22.8) Right on Hwy 20. (Segment 1 ended when I turned right on Hwy 20)
* (50.3) Right on Hwy 231. (Segment 2 ended when I turned right onto Hwy 231)
* (59.7) Right on South Camp Flowers Rd.
* (64.9) Right on County Rd 2301.
* (70.3) Right on Hwy 388 and go east approx. 3.5 miles to turnaround. (turn around at 75.8 = End of Segment 3)
* (86.4) Left on Hwy 77 and go approx. 1 mile south to Hwy 388.
* (86.4) (4pm cutoff) Right on Hwy 388.
* (87.4) Left on Hwy 79.
* (99.8) Left on Front Beach Rd.
* (105.6) Right on S. Thomas Dr.
* (111.2) Finish at the Boardwalk Beach Resort. (112 - the end!)

So there I am, riding east on highway 20. This stretch of road was the longest stretch without any turns. It also included a few very mild gentle "hills". Hills as in you didn't really have to shift gears to get up them, but it made sense if you wanted to keep a consistent cadence. (For those who live in Sac, they're almost all about the gradient of climbing the bridge from Discovery Park to Old Sac on the bike path, but maybe three times as long. They might be a little steeper than that though because I don't shift on that "hill"... Needless to say, these are not scary hills.) It's fun. I always like variety in terrain. People are being nice and following the rules for the most part. The people that aren't, well, I saw them get carded. hehe.

(You can almost see one of the "hills" in this pic near the horizon.)

At mile 42 I had to stop again to pee. This was the 4th rest stop and my 2nd visit. I had a 4 minute stop, waiting in line again. I was hydrated! One of my big worries had been that I'd end up hyponatremic. I feel like I've read so many race reports where someone ends up with a DNF for lack of sodium and too much water. Peeing was a good sign that I wasn't hyponatremic, so even though it was annoying to stop again, I decided it meant things were going well.

At the special needs stop around mile 48, I stopped again. Believe it or not - I had to pee! No line this time so a quick minute in there, then some time with my special needs bag. Lucky for me (and the smoker) the nice young man who wasn't smoking handed me my bag. (Really why do people think it's okay to smoke on an Ironman course?) Having a low number was so great - so easy to find my bag everywhere!

In my special needs bag I had: Larabar cashew cookie; flask of 5 Carbboom apple cinnamon gels; flask of 5 Carbboom watermelon gels; packet of honey almond butter (in case mine flew out of my bento box); one carbboom double espresso gel (in case I needed more caffeine than the Chomps and vanilla-orange gel were giving me); extra endurolytes; extra Heed powder in a ziplock; 16 Gu Chomps in a ziplock; plus 2 spare tubes and 2 CO2s (in case I'd gotten a flat in the first 50 miles and wanted more backups). I'd mostly been eating my apple cinnamon gels so even though I had some left in my apple flask, I dumped it and got the full one. I can't remember if I picked up the watermelon one or not. I think I did and ended up with 3 flasks in my jersey just in case I got tired of the other flavors. I also poured the spare Heed into my Heed flask, and made some mixed drink for my Speedfil while I was there. I emptied the Chomps and Endurolytes into my bento box. I spent 6 minutes with my special needs bag, and I'm really not sure why. What was I doing? This might be a good reason to go the minimalist route with the special needs bag, but I wasn't sure what I'd want, so I put some extra things in it. I left everything else.

Here's a photo of my wonderful iron team captain helping me fill the flasks Thursday night.

I had a lot of gels!!! I'd labeled the piles for organizational purposes and so I'd know which bag to put the flasks in.

Shortly after I finally leave the special needs bags, we got to turn off that long stretch and have a change of scenery. This time we were on a more major road. I was still following my nutrition plan to a tee. I started to worry a little about how many times I'd stopped and how much time I was losing. Not really worry so much as starting to feel excruciatingly slow. I started using my mental training more. I'd written down all my mantras on the note in the T1 bag just in case my brain fried. But I remembered them. My friend Lil once told me she counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, and I've found that really helpful on tough hills. My friend Jennifer does 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, etc. But the counting wasn't working for me, I think because the terrain was so flat and boring that I needed something more than counting. I wasn't feeling like I was really in a groove. I wasn't getting negative either but I wanted to see if the mental training could give me a boost. A few times earlier in the race I'd tried my coach's suggestion: I'm strong, I've trained for this, I'm ready. That was a good one. I'd also been using I am awesome; I am amazing because so many people used those terms on my Janus Charity Challenge fundraising website! Of the few signs I saw on the bike course, most of them said things like You are awesome so I felt like those were good adjectives to focus on since they were right in front of my face. The volunteers said great positive stuff like that too.

On this southbound stretch between mile 50 and 60, there were more cars so I definitely rode more in the shoulder (although the drivers were awesome about staying a full lane away). The wind was coming from the east. At one point there was a gap in the trees and a sudden gust blew me what felt like a full foot. One moment I was riding on the white line, the next moment I was almost off the road. It was scary and I'm amazed that I didn't fall off my bike. I got out of the aero position then for a little bit and once my heart jumped back into my skin I went for the drop bars instead, since I feel more stable there in wind than on the aero bars.

(I'm 85% sure this is the right photo... If any of you think this isn't Hwy 231 let me know.)

Around this point I pulled out my friend Artemis' yoga chant: ohm namo guru dev namo. I couldn't remember what it meant exactly but had the idea it was related to the spirit of the universe within me. I just kept saying it over and over again in my head and it relaxed me, even though I was at risk for getting blown off my bike. (I was really glad I'd gone with the Speedfil since it made me more stable than if I'd had an aerobottle or one of the hydration systems that hooks up to the saddle.) The chant actually started making me feel stronger and eventually I felt like I was flying. Artemis was taking her first kundalini instructor course that day so she'd promised to send all her good yoga vibes my direction. We'd talked about November 7 so much - the beginning of her yoga journey and the end of my ironman journey - so I knew she wasn't going to forget her promise.

I got into a great rhythm and was feeling super strong as I turned onto Camp Flowers Road. Although I hadn't noticed when we drove the course, Melissa had mentioned at our blogger party that this stretch of road has bumps all across the road every few seconds. She explained why but I can't remember. Something about the way the road was built though. Sure enough, bump, bump, bump. Wow that's not fun. This went on and on and on for awhile. I was still doing the yoga chant in my head though and I felt like I was on a roll even with all the annoying bumps. Finally I'd gotten into the zone and I was going to bring it home! One woman just barely in front of me mentioned she was going to stop to see if she had a flat - she couldn't tell if it felt that way because it was flat or because the road quality was so poor. I wished her luck as I kept riding. It was maybe a mile or two later when I started having the same thought nagging at me. Did I have a flat, or was it just the crappy road?

Ironman Florida Race Report: Bike (part 2)

One of my nutrition rules on the bike is not to eat or drink anything other than water for the first 20-30 minutes. This mostly just applies to half iron+. It gives my stomach time to settle in. I usually swish and spit some water first too, to get rid of the salt water. I did all this on that first 6.5 mile stretch before turning onto the highway. Shortly after getting on the highway I started sipping my sports drink, Heed. My nutrition plan on the bike was built around 15 minute increments, all related to time on the bike. After the first 30 minutes, sip Heed, at 0:45, eat some Chomps with water plus an Endurolyte, at 1:00, more Heed, at 1:15 my first gel with water. After that I had specific plans: gels at :15, Chomps at :45, endurolytes at :00 and :30. Even though I expected to be on the bike at close to 1:30 which would make the numbers easy, I knew from previous swim-bike bricks that I found it annoying to have to do the math to figure out when I was at 0:15, 0:30, 0:45. Inevitably I'd forget what minutes my watch said when I got on the bike. So to fix this, I placed my old HRM watch on my bike computer mount with the plan to hit Start as soon as I got on the bike. Luckily I remembered to hit Start after just about 5 minutes, so I decided to move up the first few calories by 5 minutes but after that follow my :15 min plan.

So I had my regular HRM on my wrist, which doubles as a bike computer, and I had my old HRM on the bike. To see my speed and distance, I would have to look at my wrist, which wasn't handy (haha) to do while in aero, but I'd already decided I didn't care about my pace or distance so I didn't even change the view settings to display them. I was just going to focus on the here and now, and my heart rate. This worked well for me. Mostly I figured I had no idea what pace to aim for since this was my first IM. Even though I'd done the aquabike distances of IM, it was under such different circumstances (hilly course, hot, hadn't tapered) that I felt it wouldn't work to use that as reference. So my coach came up with heart rate zones I should aim for based on each portion of the bike. I set my watch to use those zones and I just followed it.

The aid stations were supposed to be every 10 miles. There were mile markers for every 10 miles, and various distances in km. I couldn't remember the conversion for km to miles, so I just paid attention to the miles. (I asked another rider and he told me you just subtract 15 from km and then you've got miles!) Well mile 10 came and went and there was no aid station. I had been thinking about a potty break already. I got a little worried that this event would be one of those where they say they have aid stations every 10 and really they have them every 15+ miles (Vineman seemed like this).

The bike course is very flat. The only real hill is at mile 12 and 100 - it's crossing a river. I was happy to have a hill to climb and to have a good excuse to stand up and use some different muscles. My plan was to stand up as much as possible and to bend over to stretch my back and hamstrings whenever I thought of it.

As soon as I got to the other side of the hill, I could see the aid station. I decided to stop but then I saw the lines. Ugh. I suddenly remembered reading race reports where people mention having to wait in long lines for the portapotties. I decided to skip this stop and wait for the next one. I think I dumped my water bottle at this point and got a new one from a volunteer. I figured it couldn't hurt to have more water. Better safe than sorry.

(Picture was taken Tuesday of race week.)

Riding on the highway wasn't as bad as you might expect. Dave and I had driven the course and there were more cars out there than I'd have liked, but on race day it seemed there were a lot fewer cars. I did see one woman on a bike fall right in front of a minivan though, but luckily the minivan was moving really slowly. The woman jumped right back up and a volunteer was nearby so I didn't feel compelled to see if she was okay. (She passed me a few hours later all bandaged up.) On this stretch along the highway various times I'd get passed by a guy and then he'd invariably slow to a coast to get a drink. Really annoying. I was pleased when I saw another woman yell at a guy when he did this to her, since he'd just done it to me too. Lots of leap frog going on.

Most of the bike course had the landscape shown in the above picture. Flat road with trees on the sides. I'd expected this because I'd used Google Map Streetview to check out the course almost as soon as I registered for the race. I thought it would be boring, but it wasn't really. Mostly because there was plenty of other things to think about.

At the second aid station there were still lines, so I decided to wait til the third one. Time was flying anyways. I got a banana chunk and ate the part that hadn't been touched by the knife and tossed the rest. I got more water to be safe. But what I didn't do was top off my Speedfil with water. Lesson learned: before tossing a water bottle, dump any remaining water into Speedfil and make some more Heed drink! By the time I got to the third aid station I'd been out of water for about 10 minutes. Somewhere between mile 20 and 30 I took off my arm warmers. I probably could've lived without them and not been cold.

The third aid station still had lines but I didn't think I could wait til mile 40. Plus with special needs being at mile 49, I thought it'd be better to stop now and then not stop again until special needs. There were volunteers holding bikes for us while we used the portapotties! So nice! I even got some volunteers to bring me water while I was in line so I could top off my bottles and make my drink. I was slightly jealous of the woman in front of me eating a PB&J sandwich. Mmm real food. But I haven't found any gluten free bread that works well for a PB&J sandwich *the next day* or even hours later. I used the time in line to put my arm warmers in my saddle bag to make my jersey pockets less bulky. At least I didn't feel like I was totally wasting my time by standing in line. I think this stop took about 10 minutes, but maybe it was less.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ironman Florida Race Report: Bike (part 1)

So apparently life after Ironman means catching up on everything I neglected all year. I feel like I'm busier than I was during my training! I wanted to post each part of the race report together but I think I need to just do a few paragraphs at a time. It'll be easier to read that way too! Without further ado...

BIKE: 7:24:45

I'm not one of those people who can jump onto their bike and just go, I need to stand there, lift one leg over, etc. So once I crossed the "mount bike here" line, I made sure I was far to the side and out of the way, got on my bike, and then realized someone else had done the same thing right in front of me and was blocking me. There were so many people in that 6' wide chute that I just had to wait for her to start riding.

Once on the road, there were lots of people riding, and the first stretch of road is pretty low quality. A few pot holes here and there (nothing like the VI, but not as smooth as you expect in the states). I'd worn my arm warmers since the previous morning it had been super windy and the wind made it chilly, but I felt like the only one with arm coverings. As expected I got a couple of comments about my hot pink arm warmers. People love them. Dave especially likes them because they make me easy to spot! Dave cheered really loudly when I rode past him. He is an awesome cheerleader.

The first 6 mile stretch is parallel to the shore and it can be super windy there, but it's where the most amount of spectators were too. Plus it was the beginning of the ride, so it wasn't too bad. I knew I needed to not be one of those people who pushes it hard early on the bike and ruins the rest of the day, but I also knew it might be tempting to go faster than I should because so many people were going to pass me. But before the race I just accepted that given my typical swim time and my not so amazing bike speed averages, I'd probably have about 1000 people pass me on the bike. I decided that made me cool. Once people started passing me, I honestly thought about counting them. It was especially fun when super awesome fit guys with amazing bikes and aero helmets started passing me. Hah. I decided I really need a jersey that says "yeah well I swam faster."

Once turned onto the highway to go north, things started to spread out a little bit more so I paid more attention to making sure I wasn't drafting. The rules on drafting are strict - you have to be 3 or 4 bike lengths behind the next cyclist (I knew the number at the time but have since forgotten!). (This is one reason I did most of my training alone this year.) If you enter into that zone, you MUST pass the person within 20 seconds or you can get a penalty. When someone passes you, you're required to drop back the correct distance. Well I wanted to play by the rules, but there were a lot of cyclists out there. I felt like I was dropping back a lot. I passed a few people too though, sometimes only because I suddenly realized I was in the zone.