Carol of the Dells: Christmas in August (A Rev3 Race Report)

There was no snow on the ground or cookies in the oven, but coming home from Wisconsin this weekend, I had a lot of the same post-Christmas feelings that I do in December. There were a lot of good things waiting under the tree for me on race day, and we’ll get to that, but first I’ll go through the usual routine. You know how your dad always makes you wait at the top of the steps before coming down and seeing the presents? Well, sit down on the top step my friends. Because I have to go get out the video camera, charge it up, and ask you the obligatory “what day is today?” before you’re going to get to the good parts!

Prior to CDA, I had a completely different race lineup for pre-Kona. I planned on maybe a local race in August, Cedar Point (half), then Kona. I wasn’t sure if I was feeling racing a lot, and just wanted to do a big training block with Cedar Point thrown in to get the lead out. After CDA, Coach and I chatted and we switched it up. The plan became “Bike Camp” through the Dells, a quick turnaround before racing again at Rev3 Maine, and then play September by ear. After all the hours of bike camp and a fairly stressful July, the Dells became the light at the end of my tunnel. I put my head down and was grinding away, and before I knew it I had my 3 day (gee, 3 whole days, I am lucky! 🙂 ) taper starting and I was boxing up my bike.

As usual, traveling was no cut and dry ordeal, and I owe a huge thank you to Erin for helping make this trip happen! Erin was doing a 200k organized ride Saturday – but she gave up her Friday evening to pick me up from the airport, help me build my bike, then make the late night drive to Madison where she organized a stay for us at a friend’s house. And then after getting up a 4am and riding 200k through hilly Wisconsin, she came out to the Dells to offer race support and drive me back to Milwaukee…..and then got up early on Monday to take me to the airport. Cannot thank this girl enough!

Erin left early on Saturday morning, but I was able to relax a little bit in Madison which I was really excited about. I slept in a bit, went for a quick spin around Lake Wingra, got some spicy cheese bread at the Farmers Market, and even got in a short jog. I really love Madison and if it weren’t for the harsh winters I think I’d be sold on living there! But it was fun to be back after 2 years away, and hopefully I can make this a yearly trip! Then Erin’s friend Patrick swung through Madison to scoop me and my bike up, and we headed out to the Dells….aka the Midwest Jersey Shore! This town was hopping all weekend, and when it was dinner time we managed to find a quieter Italian restaurant with Maggie.

Sunday morning came and was chilly for those of us living on the east coast these days. But once I put the wetsuit on I was able to stay warm. The swim venue at this race is really neat – you swim from where the Tommy Bartlett water show is. You don’t have to know who TB is – you just have to know that he has a huge amphitheater right on the lake. This made it super spectator friendly, and gave plenty of seating for those of us competing to not be on our legs before the swim. It was a TT start, 2 at a time, and my age group was in the back. By the time I started there were plenty of people in the water and I did my best to just reel in everyone I could one by one. The water could not have been more calm which was a nice treat after the choppy water I had at last week’s OWS (Christmas in August present #1)! On one hand, I felt like I was flying in the smooth water, but on the other hand it did start to feeling like I was flying for many minutes, and I wasn’t too shocked to see 32 on the watch when I came out. But after running into transition, I didn’t see more than a few bikes gone, so I knew that placement wise I was right where I wanted to be.

Knowing that there were a few bikes gone was just the motivation I needed on the bike. Well, that, and the bajillon hours of bike camp I wanted to make good use of 🙂 But seriously, if nothing else the one thing bike camp gave me was confidence. I knew nothing about the course previously. In retrospect, I had plenty of opportunities where people offered to give me details, but my busyness/laziness factor took over and I ended up blindly going in knowing nothing other than people saying it was hilly. Having done IM Wisconsin, and the rides I do at home, I knew hilly was relative. All in all, I would put this course somewhere in between Quassy and Knoxville, more skewed towards Quassy. There were 3 killer climbs, but I did find that there were some open road sections to really hammer as well. We had favorable conditions with it staying cool and cloudy, and the wind wasn’t a factor (Christmas in August present #2). And it was a HUGE boost that Erin made the effort to make it out to 2 places on the course. So awesome! As I was riding out the final few miles I knew I had passed a couple women but wasn’t entirely sure where I stood given the TT start. I decided to swap to my Garmin for the run. As I put my original watch down, I saw that I had to run about a 1:35 to have any prayer of getting under 5 hours.

By the time my Garmin picked up satellites, I was about 1.5 miles in, so I literally had no idea of my cumulative time on the run. But, I knew a pace for a 1:35 was 7-lows, so that was where I was going to try to stay. The run course was a little tight at times, but I really liked the part through the downtown area of the Dells. The backed up traffic offered some cheers from the cars, and some people pumped the jams as I ran by which, coupled with those people out on the streets, was a great boost. You also run right by the upsidedown house, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

My legs felt good…..really good (Christmas in August present #3). I stayed within myself through the whole run, keeping it dialed back until I knew that it was time to let it hurt. With 5 miles to go I opened up and emptied the tank. The final couple hills were tough, but this was definitely a race where I was able to stay in control. Haley has mentioned before that she talks to herself when things get a little rough, and I used that here as well. When I’d start up a hill I’d begin repeating to myself “you are stronger than this hill” over and over and over. And before I knew it, I was at the top. I also *never* look at my Garmin on an uphill. I don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that I’m slowing down when I run uphill! It also helped that once again Erin was popping out at random places on the run, keeping me guessing where she’d be! As I ran through the finishing chute, Laura and Eric (two of my favorites from the Rev3 fam) were there to give me high fives, and the burning in my legs let me know I had run a great race.

The only question that remained was my time. As I was catching up with Tara and Kurt afterwards, Kurt pulled the results up on his phone and let me know that I did in fact get the sub-5 time, with a 4:59:27. This is a 6 minute PR for me, but more than that I finally broke that 5 hour barrier – and on a tough course (Christmas in August present #4)! I’d say this bodes well for the things to come. All too soon the fun was over…..but, just like Christmas when you have New Years to look forward to – I have Rev3 Maine in 2 weeks! Bring it on 🙂

Bike camp by the numbers

1,207 – miles I rode. (Julie guessed it!!) If my ride was indoors I used 16 mph as my conversion.

30 – days of bike camp (July 9-August 8)

20 – number of hours I spent in the saddle in each of the last 2 weeks

4.5 – number of hours of riding I could squeeze in a day while still working from 9 – 6

2 – hours of my longest run off the bike

3- number of live “wild” animals I saw while riding…..2 deer and a raccoon. (National Geographic should be calling me any day for a story, I know it.)

115 – length in miles of my longest ride.

5 – number of times “hey can I ride wit you” was yelled at me while riding through West Baltimore.

7 – minutes faster I am riding my 2 hour loop since the beginning of camp

4 – seconds faster I am running my 400’s since bike camp happened.

As you can see there has been a lot of quality chamois time going on here! This was definitely one of the more challenging training blocks I’ve experienced, but I have no doubt the mental and physical gains are worth it. Goodbye (for now) bike camp!

While I Was Biking….

If you remember this post, I have been working to reduce my soda consumption lately. One of the suggestions I received was to get a Soda Stream. My roommate, Carly, had other plans. Soda Streams are great – but they are also somewhat limited with what bottles you can use, what you can carbonate, and having to purchase CO2 tanks fairly often.

Why not make our own? Then we could carbonate whatever we wanted….in whatever bottles we want….and a CO2 tank that could make over 1100 liters (so only refilling it every 2 years or so).

Please note that I may say “we” or “our” in this post – but Carly made all the magic happen. All things told, it was about a day of effort to gather the supplies, but putting it together only took about 30 minutes. And this was all for just over $100 – still less than the starter set of the Soda Stream!

For me this past Saturday was another long ride day. For Carly, it was Carbonation Day! I came home to this:

And have been enjoying carbonated (sugar free) beverages ever since! Love it! Thanks Carly!

The Weight of the World

It was impossible to keep my heart from breaking yesterday morning. I woke up before the sun to catch the women’s Olympic triathlon live and as I watched Paula Findlay’s race crumble beneath her, my heart simply ached. Paula is like the Taylor Swift of triathlon – her young innocence and seemingly overnight success have gathered her a fan base that is nothing short of overwhelming. When Paula crossed the line in last place yesterday, she wasn’t thinking about herself. Mouthing “I’m sorry” over and over as she fought back tears, she was thinking about her fans. About her country. About everyone who believes in her.

Now let’s make a few things clear. I have no idea what it is like to be in the Olympics. I have no idea what it must be like to have your country wearing your name on their shirts (Though I do think ‘Godesky Fever’ doesn’t have the same ring…so when my time comes we’ll have to brainstorm). But I have learned a lot in the past few years as I have turned a corner in my own athletic endeavors. And one of the biggest lessons I have learned is that just because everyone loves Taylor Swift doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a little Kanye in you too.

So, what does that even mean? It means: brush your shoulders off! Haha, okay, that is pretty much the extent of my rapper euphemisms, so don’t worry.

One of the greatest things about the Olympics for me is watching all of the young, bright, shining naive faces of the first-time Olympians. But the other greatest thing is watching the old schoolers – Misty May and Kerri Walsh, Laura Bennett, Hunter Kemper, Dara Torres – the list goes on and on. This isn’t saying that there weren’t moments in their Olympic careers where it felt like the weight of the world was on their shoulders. And that’s not to say that they don’t feel that is so even today – but they don’t show it.  They have a maturity that speaks volumes. They have a swagger . They have that Kanye.

People have been quick to criticize Paula’s coaches. They judge how her coaches have dealt with her injuries and training and that’s the reason that she showed up to the Olympics with legs that weren’t all there. But to be honest – I’m moreso hoping that Paula’s coaches pay attention to the fact that this poor 23 year old girl is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. More than bike rides, swim sets and running miles, that girl needs a hug. She needs the reassurance that win or lose, she’s got us behind her. Paula, I am not alone in saying that I could care less that you were last place. I have loved watching you compete in the past few years, and I love watching you win…..but more than that, I know that your successes have come from hours and hours of work. And THAT’S what I care about.

I’ve learned that in sport it’s great to have some Taylor Swift in you. But there’s also times to have a little Kanye. Here’s to hoping you find that balance, Paula. Take some time to just do you. We’ll be fine, I promise. And in 4 years, I’ll be rooting for you. #Rio2016

 

Dog Days of Summer

My mind is going numb these days but I do know one thing is true: if you survive a period of time that is deemed “camp” of any sort by Hillary Biscay, you are going to come out stronger for it! I am hitting a training volume that I never imagined right now during bike camp, but I am happy to report that I have been making big gains and am excited to get in some races in August.

I can barely think enough to blog, but I was inspired this morning as one of my local radio stations was having people call in their “simple pleasures”….so here’s my triathlete version:

  •  An outdoor pool to yourself while the sun comes up.
  • Finding a hidden favorite gel/chew in the pocket of a jersey/shorts/bento box that you forgot about.
  • A newly paved road on your favorite bike route.
  • That moment in a group ride when everyone is content in the pace line and 20 people are working as one unit.
  • Sleeping.
  • Having dinner made for you after a long day of work/training.
  • A bike ride where the bike doesn’t creak or many any weird noises.
  • The moment you open the front door for a run and realize it’s a cool 70 degrees with no humidity.
  • Hitting all green lights on your ride/run.
  • A million hours of Olympics DVRed to watch on the trainer.
  • When the weather is crappy all day when you’re stuck at work, and the moment you leave the sun peaks out.

Happy training everyone! Here’s to hoping you find your simple pleasures 🙂

BAFA

BAFA is the new great thing in endurance sports.

What’s that? You haven’t ever heard of BAFA?

Well, that’s ’cause I just made it up. But it SHOULD be the new great thing in endurance sports. BAFA -> By Athletes For Athletes. In the past few months, a couple things have grabbed my attention. The first was the Ruster Sports Hen House bike case. Designed by TJ Tollakson, you know he has had to travel with a bike quite a few times, and so you know he knew what he was doing when he invented this bike case. Now, I don’t have one of these, but it will probably be going on a Christmas list sometime soon! (Yes, I am 27 and still make Christmas lists. Don’t judge me)

The second thing that caught my attention was XPS Baking Company. After many years of triathlon, Jay had grown tired of the usual sources for calories before and during workouts (who hasn’t!?), so he teamed up with Meghan and created a delicious treat with the athlete in mind. And the best part is that it’s a cookie – who doesn’t love cookies? I have always struggled with what to eat in the mornings. Now that my work schedule has flip flopped I have more time before work and I do my longer sessions in the morning. That means I have had to search for something that is 1. quick and 2. going to get me through a long  brick. I have found that a lot of my usual go-to sources of pre-workout snacks for the afternoon are too sweet or sugary for just after I wake up. The XPS Cookies are perfect though. I can eat it in just a few minutes, it digests easily, and it packs enough calories to get me through my workouts. Each cookie is made to order and mailed out to you that day….when you get them, just throw it in the refrigerator or the freezer if you think it will be more than a few days before you eat it. I tried one of every flavor and lovedddd the Espresso Chocolate and Apple Spice so much that I have already placed another order. If you are searching for a perfect morning snack, I’d definitely recommend supporting some fellow athletes and giving these cookies a try!!

QOTD

Thanks to Dave for sharing this video a few days ago; I didn’t have to look hard for a QOTD. There are so many in this video!

I get the most strength from seeing myself at the weakest point. The challenge of being out there and the environment on you, the miles on you, and the physical effort and the mental effort it takes to endure all that. That breaks you down to this kind of weak point. There’s that  sense of ‘raw’…. you’re just stripped down to the bare essentials. And the more miles you cover the more that becomes evident. But the fact that you can do it and keep going shows you how strong you are. And then those lessons applied to life when life takes you down and it’s hard and you feel really weak….you know that you can come back through it and find something to lift you up again. -Krissy Moehl

 

Q&A

I received a lot of questions after the IM, and since I have been catching up on work/life since the race and have little in my blogging queue, here they are, for your reading pleasure!

I love your singlet you wore on the run! Where did you get it? My singlet is a Pearl Izumi Infinity In-R-Cool singlet. I LOVE this singlet. I am a size medium, and it fit perfectly. Super cool and lightweight, I have found that singlets are much better for me running anything over a half marathon off the bike.

How was running the marathon in flats? Prior to this race, I’ve always run the marathon in trainers. After having a great run at Quassy in my Pearl Izumi isoTransitions (my first pair of flats!) I opted to run the marathon in them. While I went sockless with them at Quassy, I wore my Swiftwick socks under them for the longer distance, and I was happy about that. More time on the feet = more sweat = more moisture in the shoes, and with those socks I don’t have to think twice about blisters. Similarly to Quassy, choosing to run in the Iso’s was a great pick – my feet stayed light and quick and I never had to stop to readjust them or anything like that.

Did you pee on the bike? No! When I got the drafting penalty, I knew I wasn’t even going to entertain the idea of stopping for a bathroom break, and both serving the penalty and going to the bathroom would have to be accomplished in one stop. The penalty tent, however, was not near a porta potty…..this didn’t stop me. That’s all I’ll say about that 🙂

Did you have the same stomach issues you faced at IMAZ? Nope! I have been working with Hillary on training days to be paying attention to my nutrition, and it perfectly translated into the race for me. Unlike AZ, where I stopped 3 times at the bathroom, I didn’t have to stop once.  This isn’t to say though at mile 19 I didn’t have vomit in my mouth that I was swallowing down (gross, yes). But, part of learning to run off the bike is learning to accept the fact that “no stomach issues” really isn’t possible. When you are competing for almost 11 hours, your stomach simply will not cooperate the entire time. It really is all about embracing the highs and lows and knowing that above all, if you keep pushing the calories and drinking water, you will come out of the rough patches and be able to run strong the whole time. Being able to compartmentalize and trouble shoot what isn’t feeling good, while still maintaining your pace, is the ultimate game changer in endurance events. And that can be learned in training!

How did you mentally overcome getting the drafting penalty? One of the many takeaways I had from Arizona was to stay Relentlessly Positive. I capitalize that phrase because it deserves the recognition – this was a phrase that has been used to honor the memory of Sally Meyerhoff. I wore a bracelet with that saying on it during Arizona, and it has hung on my dresser where I can see it every day since. Getting hung up on a bump in the road during an 11-hour day simply isn’t worth it. I have to tell myself to move on and start making decisions to keep that from happening again, beating myself up over it won’t get me to the finish line any faster!

How do you recover from an IM? While getting back onto my bike the day after the race is the last thing I want to do, it’s actually one of the most beneficial to spin the legs out. Getting into the water for an easy swim is great too. In fact, David and I went to the lake on Monday night for an evening swim and it was one of my favorite times in CDA. I love that you can literally just walk into the lake and start swimming in the clear waters. It doesn’t get much more peaceful than that. In the week after, my workouts are kept light and easy and I make sure I touch each sport a few times. Then Hillary gives me time to do whatever I feel like doing – and sometimes that may include nothing! This time around I am getting in some hiking, tubing, and of course a massage 🙂 One of the important parts for recovery is also making sure I surround myself with good foods. I am just as hungry in the days following a race as I am during big training blocks, so having Powerbars in my purse or the recovery beverage in my cup at work is a for sure thing post-IM.

Things I know to be true after IM Coeur d’Alene

I have been staring at the screen wondering how to write this race report. With this race being my fourth event in 8 weeks, there are only so many ways I can spin the story of “I swam, biked, then ran…” So, I am not going to. If you are interested in details of the course or logistics of the race or anything, feel free to e-mail me with any direct questions that I don’t touch on here. But, my hunch is that if you’re into that sort of thing, you don’t come to my blog looking for it anyway. Instead of a traditional race report, I came up with a few things that I am sure of after this weekend. Here they are, in no particular order:

Beginners luck is a real thing. I learned to play Yahtzee and promptly beat all the boys in my first game. It was awesome. It also never happened again.

Learning to spell Coeur d’Alene gave me the same level of satisfaction that winning Yahtzee that first game did. Definitely worth it!

A beach start in an Ironman is much more intense than a mass in-water start. I have now made it through 2 time trial starts (easy peasy), 2 mass starts, and this beach start. While I always felt crowded and rushed in the mass starts, I never ever questioned my ability to make it through. I thought I’m tough, I can handle anything!

This was another story! The gun went off and it was like the freaking running of the bulls in Spain. I had always started right in the thick of things for the mass starts, and I figured this would be no different. Boy was I wrong! As I was being pulled along by the masses I had two thoughts. One, was that this is what it must have felt like when the Titanic was going down and everyone was jumping into the ocean. And two, I noticed a distinct smell of poop and could only think “oh my god this is so scary someone literally shit themselves.” Not exactly the most deep and thought provoking thoughts!

-I swam a PR for the distance. Not by a lot, but my slowing on the second loop was on par with everyone’s due to the deteriorating conditions out on the lake. I swam strong, and came out feeling like I had only been out there a few minutes. Definitely looking forward to more minutes coming off that time!

-Trying to shove numb toes into bike shoes is pretty funny. I didn’t regain feeling in them until mile 10 of the run.

-There was a headwind for a large portion of the bike. That, in addition to the cold and light rain for a while, meant staying mentally tough was the name of the game. When I checked my watch around mile 40 I realized I was in for a long day in the saddle.

-All of that said, this bike course was a fun one. I could have done without the tractor trailers zooming down the interstate towards me in the next lane over as I was climbing, but the views at the top were breathtaking. Good thing we drove the course the day before so I actually had a chance to look at them 🙂

-I received my first ever penalty in a race, for drafting on the bike. Heading out into the wind I was overtaken by a handful of men riding by. A low point for me, I decided to use their momentum to get me going again and put my head down to hammer and keep pace with them. Unfortunately I didn’t leave enough room behind the last dude and the ref pulled up only a few moments later. I found it funny that he was apologizing to me as I was stopped in the penalty tent (4 minutes)! But, I assured him that it was his job, and I would just take a few minutes to eat, drink and get in a bathroom break. No use beating myself up over it, but let’s just say I hope I can avoid future penalties! Seeing the competition whiz by is never fun.

-Sometimes I do weird things to channel some inspiration. But they work. All day Saturday I stayed busy by watching the updates over at the Western States 100 mile. It became clear that the picture perfect conditions favorable running conditions they encountered after the cold/rain/hail of the first 40 miles, were making it a record-breaking sort of day. The men’s, women’s, and men’s masters course records were all broken this past weekend. What many of you may not realize is just how huge this was, especially (in my opinion) on the women’s side. Anne Trason held the course record for many years, and most people thought it would never be touched. I could go on forever about the caliber of athlete that Anne is, and it is truly worth the time to do some research and learn about her. As a pioneer of ultrarunning, she worked hard and set the bar very, very high. Ellie Greenwood shattered the record this weekend, running easily under 17 hours. Words can’t even describe what that means for the sport, and how exciting it is to be watching such great competition be surfacing. I have witnessed first hand the harsh environment of the WS course, first as a competitor, then also as a pacer. I was getting goosebumps as I was able to follow along with Ellie’s progress as she inched closer and closer to breaking that record. I was unable to stay up to find out on Saturday night if she broke the record, but I made a decision that if she did, I would wear my visor backwards during the run as a tribute to what she accomplished (throughout the day the pictures that were being broadcasted of her showed her running with a backwards hat, which I think is awesome.) I woke up Sunday morning and got the news that she did, in fact, crush the record. So, while maybe only a handful of people out there on Sunday knew what it meant, I rocked a backwards visor during the run. And you know what? It worked. In an Ironman you have to find your inspiration where ever you can. And during the times on the run where my legs were getting heavy and I just wanted to let up, I thought back to my own race at WS in 2009. I thought back to the canyons, to Devil’s Thumb, and the climb up to Green Gate. Having that visor on backwards was a constant reminder to me of how hard Ellie had to have been working to push strong all day and get that record. Suddenly 26 miles on the rolling roads of Idaho didn’t seem as tough 🙂

-Flying in this plane was really cool.

Who would have known so many celebs have summer homes on the lake?! The pilot was able to point them all out from the sky, from John Elway to Wayne Gretsky. Totally worth it!

-I’m a very lucky girl. If you had asked me 2 years ago, as I sat on the side of State Street in Madison, Wisconsin, head between my legs, during my second Ironman, if I would ever be able to learn to compete at a high level in this sport, I wouldn’t have said yes. Two years ago I would have never dreamed of producing the fastest run split in my age group at an Ironman….twice. But now here I am, having landed in a Kona-qualifying position in the past 2 Ironmans that I have done.  And no, I don’t think that’s the lucky part – the long hours of training, the sacrifices, and the hard work certainly doesn’t get past me. The lucky part is that I have a coach who took me onto her roster and is 100% committed to my goals as much as I am. I have a boyfriend, friends and family who accept my way of life, as hectic, training-focused, and “lame” as it may be sometimes. I am lucky that there are people out there like Laura’s (another athlete Hillary coaches) brother who ran to catch me on the run and was giving me data on the race and the encouragement I needed to step it up and go for it. Oh, and he did this while also helping support Laura who was out on the course rocking her first Ironman! Her mother was also one of the first faces I saw after the finish with a congratulations and asking me if I need anything. There was also Scott, who didn’t even question it when he had the duties of Ironman Sherpa thrown upon him for 3 people instead of just his one friend he came out to support.

To go far in this sport I am going to have to work harder than I ever imagined. Days like this past Sunday make it all worth it though, and I know that for now I’ll keep racing hard and dreaming big.