Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Mental Component

2014 marked my 3rd year racing Eagleman 70.3. The first year I raced was the completion of a "dirty double" which consisted of Mooseman 70.3 followed one week later by Eagleman 70.3. Ouch! 

In 2013 I desperately needed a top 3 finish to qualify for the world championship and I finished 3rd! Last year was also extra special because my 2 sisters and cousin competed.  I love racing when I know I have friends/family racing because the energy is always high!  Eagleman 2013 was full of great memories and I chose to race this year again and plan to make it a tradition.   

My sister and her husband live in Annapolis so it's great to be able to visit and explore the very beautiful city of Annapolis. 

I arrived at my sisters house late Thursday and Danny, once again, drove my bike down on Friday so I could avoid bike fees. If someone were to ask me what my secret weapon was in regards to continued progress in sport  my answer would be: Danny Ferreira.  Eternity is what I need to repay the acts of kindness he has delivered. 

We had a relaxing few days before the race. Luckily I left all of my forget-fullness in Texas and I did remember my pedals and even attended the PRO meeting. I was on fire.

Race morning I dug into some watermelon like a widlebeest, ate a  yogurt and a banana and felt like I was raring to go. I was unsure of how I would feel just 3 short weeks after Ironman Texas but mentally I was in attack mode.  

It was a non-wetsuit swim which I should be in favor of because swimming is a strength and I am not a huge fan of cold water. BUT every time I am granted a non-wetsuit swim I swim like a manatee. You know, the manatee...sort of resembles a chubby dolphin. Also, the slowest moving critter this side of a sloth? 

Yep, I 'manateed' the heck out of that swim. I did however feel amazing once I was vertical and sprinting through transition.  I zipped off my TYR speedsuit and hopped onto the Argon.

Once on the bike things got interesting. I was in a solid pack of 4-5 girls and the pace was all over the place.  Every so often I would take a turn leading and surge out in front until someone eventually made a pass.  The pace would spike and then another person would pass or sit up and the pace would drastically slow. There was an official by us the ENTIRE ride. He actually gave me a few 'thumbs up' along the way, meaning I was riding legally and doing a good job considering this was the most tactical and surge-y ride to date.  You can read about the gritty details in Danny's blog. I won't say too much because I know things like this happen in racing. I love a good honest race BUT with the emphasis on honest. 

I tried to ride as steady and as strong as possible, focusing on positive thinking, conserving energy and chugging Infinit (which is a nutrition game changer). I rolled into T2 in 2:25 which was a fine split considering I felt very fresh but I knew the leading girls had put some big time on us.

Still, I entered T2 excited to start my favorite leg!   Danny yelled that I was in 8th and I was determined to save the race. I saw my sister and her husband cheering for me and this gave me a HUGE surge of adrenaline.

The first 2 miles I clicked off in 6:05 and then it happened.  You know how they say never trust a fart in a Ironman? Well it's true. I spent the rest of the 13.1 miles doing a tour of the port-a-potties. It was around mile 7 that I was really starting to hurt all over: quads, calves, stomach!  The very speedy Kim Schwabenauer was behind me and I knew I needed to RUN or she would surely run me down.  In all honesty though, there were points when I wanted to quit. I was in pain and I was not going to get enough Kona points and I was barely hanging on to 8th.  

But I made a very important choice directly after that pity party moment.  In all of my discomfort I decided to live in the moment and just love it! I would never have this exact experience again and I would never get this moment back to push a little harder. So I dug really deep, I ignored my screaming calves and quads and gurgling stomach and I just raced. HARD.  I was able to catch 2 girls and move myself into 6th. 

On this day 6th was my win.

And now, 6 weeks until Ironman Lake Placid!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

When Someone Believes in You

It’s hard to write about racing now because I am sitting here with my Grammy in a nursing home. She had a major stroke and her health is failing.  Hands down she is way tougher than me as she successfully raised 4 boys and waited on my Grampy for 92 years.  Her name is my middle name and I got my giggle from her.  I am thankful I get to be with her during these last days but it’s still so hard to say goodbye.

It does really put perspective on life as well. Racing is important to me now but the reason I smile so much out on the course (I smile a lot if you haven’t noticed!) is because I am truly grateful for the ability to just be out there competing.  I am thankful for this body and how hard I can push it.  If I am in the midst of a low point I smile because I have my health, my loving family, my support system, and my friends.  How can you not smile?

And the theme at Ironman Texas was pretty much this:   

Ironman Texas was NOT on my original race plan. We in New Hampshire had a wonderful winter but that also meant we had snow pretty much up until April.  However, I had put the work in this winter,  won snowshoe nationals and was feeling very confident. Five weeks before Texas Ironman I called my Coach and convinced him to let me race. I think he hung up the phone thinking: this girl is nuts. My last minute-charlie decision meant I only had 4 weeks of real Ironman Prep (with a race in the middle). It was a bit of a smooshed build to Texas and that only included 3 measly outdoor rides in 30 degree weather. Well, so much for proper heat acclimation.

Stepping off the plan in the woodlands was a shocker. It was 86 degrees and what was that big fiery ball in the sky?? Oh the sun. Haven’t seen that baby in awhile. Even though all the locals promised that Texas was in a bit of a cold spell I was sweating like a piglet and all I wanted to do was lounge.

We were lucky enough to have the most wonderful family welcome us into their home for the long weekend: The Lee's.  It was an amazing time with lot's of laughs.  At the end of our trip we were strongly considering just quitting our jobs and moving in with the Lee's. I think we did proclaim this plan to them in which they nervously shared a laugh. ;)

I was pretty calm before this Ironman despite leaving my pedals at home (disaster!), and knowing I was a bit "under cooked" on a training stand point. But, it my opinion, it's better to go into an early season Ironman a bit under prepared than over trained and tired. Ironman Texas would be a stepping stone to other big races. And who need pedals to bike anyway?

Cool as a cucumber (Except very, very hot. Because we are in TX)

Laughing because I realized I'd be be pedaling 112 miles like Fred Flintstone and I just missed the PRO meeting.  

I figured I made all the mistakes I could possibly make that weekend so the race should be a piece of cake.  The swim started just like that. Male and female PROs started together. I very much prefer this setup as there are more packs to latch onto and the start is usually faster. I started off sprinting with the rest of the crazy pack of PROs. Why not go anaerobic in the first 10 minutes of a 9 HOUR race?  Luckily, I did find myself in the front pack and had a smooth ride to the finish coming in as the 4th girl. 

Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming...

Out of the wonderfully awesome TYR SLEEVELESS wetsuit  (never using a full sleeve again!) and onto the bike.  Let's pause for a bit and talk about the bike. I'm riding an Argon E-118 this year with Rotor Q-rings and an ENVE composite wheel set and it is proving to be a wonderful setup.  I felt fast and powerful all day. Early on, I caught Bree Wee and Kristina Weigand which means I was in 2nd. What?! It was quite exciting, nerve wracking and actually quite lonely all at the same time. I was all alone for 90 miles of the ride which meant I had to keep telling the lazy part of my brain to shut it and keep pushing.  I also had my best sherpa Danny and my team manager out on course yelling and screaming. They. Were. Amazing. Every time I saw them my heart rate spiked a little and I got a surge of adrenaline.

Smiling but you can't see it!

Smiling and you can see it!

Still smiling at mile 100

It was pretty much me doing my thing for the majority of the ride.  And by doing my thing I mean chugging Infinit, and eating. Twelve gels and 9 bottles to be exact. As you can tell in the above bike photo sequence I get a little chubbier as I go.

Kelly Williamson ended up catching me with 10 miles to go and I couldn't have been happier. Another human! And someone to chase! Let's go!

I was quite nervous heading out onto the run because Bree Wee and Sarah Piampiano were HOT on my heels. I knew both of those girls can run like the wind so it was up to me to dig deep and push.
Don't think, just run!

 I pushed hard for 17 miles all of which were sub 7's and then the wheels started to come off a bit.  I saw Danny and Chris Hutchens multiple times that day and again my heart rate spiked a bit and the adrenaline surged. At my 20 things started to get very very hard. But I forced a smile and told myself to keep pushing hard.

Third! Holy Moly!

Going to give Danny a big hug

My very fast Maverick Team. To my left, Matt Hanson ran a 2:41 and Clay Emge ran a 2:52! WHAT?!!


A whole lotta fast going on

And of course the gluttonous breakfast. Can't forget that.  I mean this is the reason I race Ironman.

Overall it was a solid 3rd place finish at 9:11. I scored some good points for the World Championships and I am lucky to have such a wonderful support system.  I really did not deserve to cross that line alone.

And in 5 days I'll see how well I recovered and give Eagleman 70.3 a go!