Friday, July 30, 2010

Lake Placid 2011

Here I come!

On Friday afternoon Andy and I left the kids with my cousin Lauren (the most beautiful and awesome babysitter in the world) and headed to Lake Placid.
This was what the kids did while I was gone. This beautiful piece of art work was inspired by the 2009 Guinness Book of World Records:

Here was the plan for MY weekend:
Ride/run/swim/drink beers with Andy, catch up with all my Mainer friends who were down to race or spectate, volunteer at mile 4 of the run on Sunday, and finally, TO SIGN UP for 2011.

I did all of the above.

We stayed in a little dive of a hotel in Saranac Lake. We could've camped, but I decided that might ruin the fun a bit. I've never been to Lake Placid when it hasn't rained, and I really hate camping in the rain. Okay, FINE, I admit it! I hate camping. I want to be a camper chick--and trust me--I have done my fair share of camping. Alina and I lived in a tent for a few months when I we were young lassies and we went cross-country, for example. I also lassoed Andy into my lair by convincing him I was camper girl way back in the days of yore. Only when we were well established did he find out I was a fraud who actually liked plush hotels and super expensive spas as opposed to sleeping on a therma-rest.

Anyway. This weekend was great. Andy and I rode one lap of the LP course on Saturday. He kicked my ass, which was not particularly amusing, but I still had a good ride. Lots and lots and lots of bikers out there, many all decked in their IM attire, so all knew that even though they had no blue bracelet this year, they had donned said bracelet in the past. Most of the riders were there to spectate or to sign up for 2011-although I did spot a few dumb asses who were racing and yet out riding the day before the big show anyway. duh. I then went for a great run. Andy again kicked my ass, but I ran well (for me). I finished the day off with a dip in Lake Mirror... ahhhh.... a great day!  I love those days that are devoted solely to working out/outdoor play. Andy made me work harder than I wanted to, but how can you argue with swim/bike/run on a beautiful day and a beautiful course?

That night we went out to dinner with Ange and family, and Ange's little brother Jeff (who is not little anymore, but whatever) and Jeff's family. Jeff competed on Sunday (and would go on to do very very awesomely well.) I must admit it was a tad pleasant to be out the night before Ironman and have a glass of wine. I felt the pre-race excitement, but not the nerves. That was a treat. I like Jeff and his wife Leigh (who is so signing up for LP in 2011, I know it!) so that made the dinner even more fun. Here is Jeff on the bike on Sunday:

We got up on race day to watch the swim start. I knew about a hundred people racing, but of course I could identify no one. My friend Mike got a bunch of awesome pics, though. He somehow was a VIP and got into the swim start area so his pics are phenomenal. (He's also just a great photographer.)
The two girls smiling, arms in the air, are Erin and Stacy, who trained together, and also swam together! The last picture of is of Carrie, who kicked some tail in this race and qualified for Kona- (but decided against going...She's going to Clearwater instead.)

Good pics, huh? Watching the swim start both inspired and instilled renewed fear in me. Before I had done an IM swim, watching \the IM swim start was pure inspiration. Unfortunately, I now know full well what is happening when the canon booms and the washing machine begins churning. It's insanity.... and maybe not as cool to be swimming in it as watching it. Still, it was hair-raising to watch the start, and got me SO PSYCHED for 2011.

Okay, this post is too long already, so I will write another after the weekend.
I am racing on Sunday--my first race since CDA. I hope to do awesome, but my legs are still a bit IM'd... They just aren't moving as fast as they should quite yet. Ange is racing too. RR when I get back!

Friday, July 23, 2010

What is Going ON?

Yep. I haven’t posted for over a week. And why?

Because I am living a life of passion and crime? (No, but I would be good at that, I’m sure, if I just got the chance…)
Because I have been moving mountains and making the world right? (I’m too cynical for such an endeavor.... Pleassssseeee…..)
Because I got a new PUPPY? (Not yet. Soon, though. Soon.)

Alas, it is simply because I am staying in Maine with my parents, my kids, and my extended family (which includes Alina and her kids), and this house doesn’t have wireless access. Sometimes I am able to get online by stealing access from neighbors, but usually that doesn’t work. When I do get online I’m frantically responding to my athletes and updating schedules. Anyway, have you missed me?

Here are the exciting tidbits from the last week:

I had a great brick at which I was super speedy and finally felt like I’m BAD and I’m BACK!
Then I ran a 5K. I was not fast. Not even a little. That was a bit deflating, I must say.
Then I got into a bike crash. It’s okay. I’m fine. But that was REALLY deflating.

So, from the beginning. On Tuesday I went out for a 2:30 brick. I as on fire the minute I started. It was me and the road and my rested legs… Wahoo! I was moving! I sailed all over Saco, Dayton and Buxton and then headed home. I followed it up with a run along the Atlantic at which I moved faster than I have in months.

The next night I ran a very informal 5K. The 5K was part of a series that runs from May to September and follows a path around Baxter Boulevard. It is flat and fast course, but, unfortunately, this did not matter. I was not fast. So much for I’m BAD and I’m BACK! I warmed up really well and then made my way to the start. There was a storm moving in and wind swirled around us and whipped us in the face as we waited to start. You could see lightning strike in the distance. I wondered how long I had before I was absolutely soaked. At the GO! I jumped and then started to run. I dodged a few people and got into a rhythm. Then it started to hurt. I hadn’t run more than a quarter mile. I tried to silence the voice that told me that I was dying and this was a very bad idea and that I should slow down right NOW.

First mile-- 6:43. Okay, pretty slow for a first mile of a 5k, but I’d take it. Unfortunately, the race continued onto mile 2 and I was pretty much cooked. I tried to quicken my cadence and lean from my ankles (I have a habit of leaning back when I get tired) but it didn’t seem to help my pace or attitude. I passed a few girls, which felt good, but it wasn’t because I was moving faster; it was simply they were slowing down. I hit the second mile in 7:05. Ouch! This wasn’t going to be one of my best 5Ks, that was for sure! I picked it up a bit, and passed a few guys. I figured I must be the second woman at this point. I’d passed most of the girls in front of me, but I remembered there was one woman at the start who shot right out there, and I hadn’t seen her since like a half mile into the race. I was feeling a little more optimistic at this point—like maybe if I just focused on reeling in guys I could get my pace under seven again. I churned right along and passed a few, but then lost gas again and started to slow again. Two of the guys passed me back. Damn. I hate that! I finally saw the finishing line and it couldn’t come fast enough. I did my best to pick it up and bring it home, but it was sort of a lame attempt. Then some guy tried to sprint by me at the very, very, very last second. He sprinted and then moved over and almost body checked me so he could cross the line first. What a douche bag. Does it really matter if I cross one second ahead of you?  Must you sprint wildly and push me over like you are five years old – just so you can finish 37th instead of 38th? Argh. Anyway, I was pleased to see in the results that his time was the exact same time as mine. Sucker.

Anyway. This was such an informal race that there were no awards or anything. I didn’t know where I had placed, and it didn’t much matter. Later I found out that I had been the second woman, but that the first woman beat me by like two minutes. Oh well! My time was a full minute and 30 seconds off my 5k PR—which is disappointing—but not unsurprising. The whole purpose of running it was to remind myself of sprint hurt, which I haven’t felt in a long while, and to get my legs moving again for my upcoming races. I’m planning to run the same race next week to see if I can get that time down a little bit.
The rain never did hit us—at least that was lucky!

The next morning I got up for an easy two hour ride. It was nice out in the early morning, and the majority of the ride was pretty peaceful. Commuter traffic began to pick up as I was headed home, which made things slightly less pleasant, but still okay. But then, just as I was coming into downtown Saco, a guy in an SUV began to pull out of a convenience store parking lot right in front of me. I slammed on my brakes, and having seen me at the last minute, he slammed on his. I hit the front and side of his car, just by the front wheel, and then flipped over the handle bars to my right, landing on top of my bike and somewhat under his car. I lay there for a second and thought—he could kill me now by moving his SUV forward one foot. I scrambled up and he leaned out his window to ask if I was okay. I looked at my body. No blood. Not even a scratch. Wow! I was totally fine! I picked up my bike, and she looked fine too! But on closer inspection, she wasn’t. The right handlebars were bent and the rear brakes weren’t working quite right. I was shaking a bit and I moved away from his car. He didn’t get out. Do you want me to call the police? he asked from the window.  I assured him I was fine. For some reason I just wanted him to go. He asked about ten more times if there was anything he could do, telling me he just hadn’t seen me and I came so fast, and that he was so sorry. I just nodded and said it was okay. I was fine. I was fine. I was fine! 

The whole thing was scary. I think I need to put a neon light on my helmet that blinks so that I'm not missed like that again.

So, there you have it. My last week in the world of training.

I’m off to Lake Placid to cheer on all of my friends who are competing this weekend. My cousin Lauren is watching the kids while we are away. They are psyched, and so am I! Good luck to my IM friends!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Getting Fit



A few days back  I went to see the master smarty pants guru of power and speed, Kurt to have a bike fitting.  Pretty cool, huh? Don't I look so much more like I'm supposed to look in that second picture? You know, like a ball? I'm psyched!
On a side note, I also need to give a shout out to my fab. posse at lululemon. Those freaking padded bras are awesome. I totally look like I actually have a chest in these pictures! It's like-- a miracle!

Kurt messed mostly with my bars and stem. He took out a few spacers, moved the bars closer together, and then tilted the horns upward. The effect is that I feel like my elbows are in a sort of trough. At first it felt very wrong when riding, but after a few hours out it is starting to feel more normal. One thing I did note on my ride this morning: my watts were sort of pathetic, but my speed was faster than normal. This is, of course, what I was hoping to see. Thanks, Kurt. 

I was feeling incredibly ready to get back to training last week, and on Monday, I got my wish. I've been swimming in the Atlantic with Alina, running a ton, and on my bike enough to know I'm psyched about my new fit. Today, though, I hit the wall. Isn't that always the way? I had a great brick planned that involved a few fast intervals and some fast running. However, I got on my bike at 6 am and knew immediately the brick was not going to happen as planned. I was so tired, and my throat hurt, and my muscles felt sore--kinda everywhere. You know that feeling? I had also had night sweats the night before and had had trouble sleeping. The symptoms are always the same for me. I wanted to ignore them--but I know my body too well. It wouldn't let me ignore them. Today I was riding easy.

I rode for two hours and crawled off the bike and called it a day. Alina had coffee and pastries waiting. Husbands take note: that's how it's done!

I need to say that like so many of you, I really hate when my body decides things are going to be different than I want them to be. I'm so jazzed to race fast the rest of the season and I'm already planning for my next IM. I want to rush rush rush--to get back into peak condition RIGHT NOW. But the body just won't let me rush like that. It pisses me off and it's hard to listen. I want to believe I'm just being a wimp, that I really have no symptoms of fatigue at all. But the symptoms are always the same. I know what I'm dealing with... sigh.

Just curious, what symptoms do you experience when your body wants to let you know it's had enough and it's time to slow down and rest?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I'm Your Surfer Girl

Alina has wanted to take a surfing lesson for --- ummmm--- ummmm---- well, forever.

Today we finally did it. And I sucked. But hey! It was still fun!

We got up early, got the kids scrubbed, fed, and lubed up in sunscreen for camp, met the babysitter and said Good Luck (Six kids under age nine. We are evil.) Then we headed down to Kennebunk to test the surf! Believe it or not there is some surf in Maine, and today it was actually quite rough out there. The waves were more choppy and angry than big and rolling, but there were some tasty waves to be had. I didn't have any though. Not really.

I think I need to short board. The board I got was 10 feet long and some, and frankly, I couldn't handle the thing. I couldn't even carry it sideways b/c my arm didn't reach to the bottom of it! I had a hard time paddling out over the surf too, but I think this has to do with the fact that I don't really get how to move forward when a huge wave crashes on me while I'm trying to paddle. Alas. At one point a wave broke on me and the board just flew over my head and I went crashing all over. The fin on the underside of the board somehow smashed my hip and boy oh BOY does it fucking hurt now. But I am whining. I think I may just be bitter that I wasn't super cool awesome surfer chick my first time out.

I made it up to the point where I had my feet on the board a few times--but I was never able to let go without immediately getting dumped. Alina, on the other hand, was a surfer natural. She got up five freaking times! (I'm jealous.)

I think I may stick to body surfing. I'm an awesome body surfer. Alina, of course, wants to go REAL surfing again, though, so I think I may be surfing again sooner rather than later. Maybe I'll body surf while she goes after the real deal... I don't know yet.

After our surfing adventure we got lunch at a little Mexican place in Portland and had maragaritas on the rocks. I'm not sure it was even noon yet.... Have I mentioned that the week Alina and I send the kids off to day camp for the week is one of the best of the summer--of the year--of my life?

As for training... welll.
I had to run for an hour when I got home. Running after maragaritas is never ever a good idea. I just thought I'd tell you. I'm back to swimming, biking and running--albeit I am pokey and I have gained a few pounds of post IM indulgence and it is simply no fun to carry that around. I know enough to know it will go away with training and a little more discpline than well, maragaritas at noon, for example... but it seems very annoying to me that it trakes so much time to get fit and slim, and so little time to get lazy and rotund.

Tomorrow's indulgence with Alina: massage and then lunch. It may be wine at noon.... (I"m not making progress yet, am I...) Maybe a pedicure too since my nails are on the nasty side. My feet are always nasty, but a little polish looks good on even the most homely feet, right?


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Run: Part III –The Ring of Fire

Warning: Explicit and at Times Disgusting Content....

A lot can happen over 26.2 miles, both on the course and in your mind. But before I describe it ALL of it in excruciating detail, let me just say there is one dominant memory: The Ring of Fire. I will get there eventually but let’s begin at the start.

I held back on the first mile of the run. Unfortunately, I had no idea if my pace was too fast or too slow because my Garmin didn’t catch a signal until mile three. I realize there are many an athlete who can brag they know exactly what pace they are running without the use of technology, and actually, I am one of the people. However, I am not one of those people coming off the bike in any race—especially IM, at which I have so little experience. I tried to run those first miles very easy and prayed the signal would catch at some point. It turns out they were not too fast--all in the ballpark of 8:30-8:45, which was my goal pace. You can say it, Good Job, Mary-- you Goddess....

The first part of the run was lined with spectators and jammed with runners. The crowds were cheering, I was smiling and feeling fine, and man, I just wanted to hammer! But I was good. I didn’t hammer. I let others pass me and I just tried to relax. You will be running for a long time, I reminded myself—so just chill.

The run course for CDA is not flat. I repeat. It. Is. Not. Flat. It is also not what one would describe as an incredibly challenging course. It is mostly gradual, easy climbs and gradual, easy descents with a few short hills interspersed to keep things interesting. Because of this, I was able to hold a relatively consistent pace for the first 15 miles. I never let my pace get faster than 8:35, and I tried very hard not to have any miles slower than 8:55. This worked for quite a long time—and that surprised me. I actually felt okay! I didn’t feel awesome—I didn’t feel like I could run much faster than I was running-but I felt okay. Would the shit hit the fan, I wondered? Would I suddenly crack?

The only real problem I had was bloat—that, and the fact that I was super gassy and kinda sorta really needed to take a shit. Why did I feel this way? Too much salt? Too much fiber in the bars I ate? It occurred to me that it could be the sweetener in the Nu’un I had been drinking on the bike. Usually I handle sweetener quite well—but you know—in racing, all bets are off. Things that work great in training often don’t work at all when executing a race, and I just have so little experience with IM racing that I haven’t found what works exactly for me yet. I had had a mix of bars and gels on the bike and that had left me feeling satisfied and fueled. But something was causing the bloat and the urge to crap big time. Then I ran past a window and saw my belly…. And OH. MY.GOD. I didn’t just feel bloated, I looked six months pregnant! Check out that tire...

I began to fart with every step. They were air farts—a bit anti-social perhaps, but really quite benign in terms of smell. No doubt those around me were starting to wonder but I created a little story for myself that they thought it was my sneaker squishing and carried on.  It really was with every step, so the sneaker theory was plausible, and since it continued for 12 miles straight, what else could it reasonably be?? There was some cramping too (of the boy do I need to take a shit variety) but I really felt like I could keep it under control—that a porta-potty stop was not absolutely required—YET. To be frank (which I always am for purposes of your entertainment) I will say that I knew, deep down, that visiting a porta potty was actually a very bad idea—because I knew what this was. I knew that if I caved and decided to let the gate open that the gate would not close—not for a long time. I was dealing with a Code Red, Ring of Fire situation here. It was patently clear to me: If the sphincter goes, so does the race. Be very afraid.

So, I held on. And then I hit mile 12 and had a nice little fart that I was quite sure was not really a fart anymore. OH MAMMMMMMAAAA, here we go! Luckily, my shorts were black. (Very thoughtful of Sugoi/TriBike I will add…) My tummy was not feeling so great either. I had a gel in my hand that I had grabbed at mile 11. It was orange—yucko. BUT, I needed the fuel and I knew it, so I opened it and began to suck it down until…… gag, choke. I stopped mid-step and heaved. Nothing came up save a little orange spittle, but I knew I couldn’t get the rest of the gel down. Oh special day! Mile 12—and gels were no longer possible. NOW things were getting fun! I would have to take Gatorade at every stop and hope for the best. But really, what did I expect? I was finally there… the second half of the marathon. My nemesis. My biggest fear and my biggest hurdle. The time had come. I had finally arrived at where the race begins.

 At mile 16 I saw Andy. I had slowed a bit to about 8:55 pace, but I still was running—even through the water stops, and from the video he took I didn’t even look that bad. Andy was thrilled—You got this Mary! There are girls in front of you fading! You got this! I smiled weakly. Had he known what was inside my shorts I’m pretty sure he would not have been quite so enthusiastic about my prospects of running other girls down. It felt so good to see him. It was such a bummer to leave him. I tried not to think how nice it would be to finish now instead of continuing with this second loop of torture. I tried to believe he meant what he said—that others were fading and I had a chance to improve on my place. But I also knew that I wasn’t actually doing so hot myself. This would be a battle for sure.

At mile 18 I saw a friend from home, Rob, coming from the other direction. You’re headed to Kona, Mary! he shouted. Oh... how I wish that was true! But alas, I knew the number of girls ahead of me, the number of girls I had passed, and the one girl who had passed me (Stacey—who is a rockstar runner so I didn’t feel too too bad about that. She finished it in 3:36—the second fastest run split of the day next to that crazy mom McGrath) Anyway, my prospects for Kona didn’t look good. By my estimate I was in about 8th or 9th position—which was definitely not the top 4 placement I needed to secure a slot. One good thing about the torture of the second loop is that it makes Kona far far less appetizing anyway. But really I wasn’t thinking about Kona. Really I was thinking about my main goal—to keep running. And I could do it. I was still okay.

At mile 22, I really stopped being okay. With every step I ached to walk only because I just felt so damn sick. But I simply couldn’t give in. I had to just keep running. I tried to think about all the things I had hoped to call on at this point: my daughter’s amazing 100 fly, my burning desire to pass other fading women in my AG, that Miley Cyrus song about climbing mountains. Yep, there would be none of that. The only thoughts I had were-- in order: OMG I’m going to throw up. OMG I’m going to shit myself. OMG I need to stop. NO! NO! Don’t stop! Just keep running. I don’t care if you are slow! If you keep running you can go straight to the bathroom when you finish and shit then—that is your reward! If you just keep running you can get that Boston Terrier puppy you want—(random, I know, but it truthfully was what kept going through my mind), and finally, If you just keep running you can write on your blog that you DID IT--THAT YOU JUST KEPT RUNNING!

And I did it. I did not walk one fucking step outside of the three I needed at each water stop to get the Gatorade completely down. Okay—it wasn’t fast. I slowed to 9:40 pace –and when going uphill I was even slower. Still, I did not walk until I had ¾ of a mile to go. I hit mile 25 and a quarter mile later my stomach just rebelled and I started hurling violently. I went to the side of the road and gagged again and again. Nothing really came up after the initial watery surge because there wasn’t that much in me. But the reflex was there, and it wouldn’t stop. I tried to walk, and then would have to stop to heave again. After awhile (I had no real sense of time, but I’m guessing it was two minutes or so) I was able to collect myself and I began slowly walking, and then running. And then I turned the corner and there it was—the arches! Oh God! I was that close! I could do this!

Usually at the end of a race you find something in you so you can finish strong—or at least finish running. I did run—but my Garmin read 9:45 minute pace, so clearly I was struggling even though the end was in my reach. But then the crowds were cheering and I just thought, Please don’t barf, Please don’t shit, Please God, Please Please Please.… and my arms were in the air and I was crossing that line! I clicked my watch and I was DONE! I have no idea what song was playing. I don’t remember that guy saying, Mary, you are an Ironman! I actually don’t remember much at all. I felt an arm come around me and a voice say, Are you okay? And then I felt my knees just go.

I heard the voice say, I need help here! And then I was being lifted and I was trying really hard not let my head roll back. And then I thought—Oh God, can they smell me? Oh God, let me go! I smell! I was laid on a cot, and someone was taking my pulse and wrapping a bracelet around my arm and asking me my name. I wanted to say—please—no questions. Can you please just get me a bucket? I think I must have said that actually, because a bucket appeared and I was gagging again—and it just would. not. stop. They covered me with those silver blankets and asked me my name again and when I last peed. I told them I hadn’t peed on the run, but I had on the bike, and that I had been able to produce in other ways… (and couldn’t they smell the evidence?)

I finally convinced one of them to help me to the bathroom. I simply had to go… it was my reward after all. There was a special glow around the porta-potty—really. My Heaven. A porta-potty has never, ever looked so damn good.

I spent the next hour in the porta-potty/med tent throwing up and then just lying there, feeling relief that I was done, I was done, I was done! And I had done okay! Sure, the end was a little-- well, ugly…. But from the looks of the tent around me, which was packed, it wasn’t just ugly for me. That is for sure. My family was outside the tent looking in, and this was a little disconcerting. I didn’t want my kids to know how fucked up I was. I worried it would be scary to them, and I kept trying to wave and smile so they would know I was really just fine.

It turns out it really only phased Jordan, anyway. When I finally got out of the tent she was so attentive it frightened me. Do you want my arm, Mommy? Can I hold that for you Mommy? Let me help you to that bench, Mommy. Can I get you a drink or something, Mommy? 

After Andy retrieved my stuff from transition we headed out to get pizza. I ordered a beer even though I knew being able to drink it was highly unlikely. My kids were so tired that Noah and Lara actually fell asleep at the table!  Finally we headed back to Hayden and our little lake cottage. I was still very sick, but boy did it feel good to be with my family and to know I could spend the next week just hanging with them. Just Awesome.

There are always a million people to thank after you do a race like this. Here is my list:
Jen--my biggest supporter and an incredible coach
Ange--for being the best biz partner and ear for all my tri excitement and woe
Alina--for being Aunt Alina and always caring for me and having my back
Kurt--for being a second coach to me out of pure generosity (and also b/c I wouldn't stop bugging him even when he began to drop hints that enough was enough... :)
Tri-Bike Transport. How did I get so lucky as to be on their team? They have been such a huge support to me. I'm proud to represent them.
My readers: I get a huge amount of support from you. Thank you.
My kids. They put up with a mom who doesn't quite behave like the other moms. Special thanks to Jordan, who tells me how proud she is and serves as inspiration to me in her own swimming pursuits.
Andy. It is perhaps very clear from my writing how much he must put up with from me--a woman obsessed and passionate with all things triathlon. Thank you for talking endlessly with me about what else, triathlon. Thanks for taking care of me. Thanks for dealing with my many, many triathlon splurges. Thanks for supporting me, even when you really would like to throw me out a window.  I love you.  xo

The end.
Until my next IM--which will likely happen sooner than it should if I have anything to say about it. ;)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Part II: The Bike--Holding Back and Keeping the Faith

When we left off, I had finished the swim. Here is a picture of the madness, stolen from Competitor’s site. Can you believe I am in there somewhere? Me either.... Also note--the men have red caps and the women white caps. Where are the women--that is the mystery.

(FYI, Competitor is where Marathon Mama, the most entertaining running/mommy blog ever) is housed.  

Anyway, from the picture the swim looks like a typical IM swim—but that water was so butt cold…


It was a relief to be on the bike. I had been so worried about getting the shit kicked out of me on the swim and I had--but it was over! Thank God! The first part of the CDA bike course goes along the lake. It is not totally flat, but it is not hard at all, either. I saw my women friend who had started on the front line with me for the swim right when I got out on the bike and we chatted briefly about how hard the swim had been. She had hoped to finish in an hour, and had gone close to 1:06. This made me feel better. She rode ahead, and then I just settled in and let everyone in the entire race pass me.

Mostly it was men.  Hordes of men. They zoomed past me in swarms as if I were standing still. I tried to stay calm, but it was hard. Their speed and intensity made me tense. It was like a bad dream, really: I am hardly moving while the rest of the race zooms ahead of me and I end up coming in last.

I am not so fast on the swim—certainly not like my uber swimmer friends—Ange, Alina, and Steve—but I am fast enough so I beat plenty of men out of the water who then kick my ass on the bike. I had to remind myself that it was these men who were passing me. I just had to get through the first 30-40 miles of the bike, and then I would be with my people—the people who would be riding at roughly my pace. Some of these men hammering past me would go on to finish in under 10 hours—and some would finish after me—having burned up all of their energy in the first loop of the bike. There was nothing I could do about it. I needed to just relaxxxxxx…..

About 10 miles in I passed a woman with long white blond hair. Her bib read Lisa. Is that my CA blogger friend Lisa, I wondered? And then she shouted Mary! So it was her! I shouted back! Hey, Lisa! Later I looked her up and found out she swam a 56 minute swim. I had predicted she would be the first amateur woman out of the water, and I . was. right! I bet Lisa could’ve gone close to 50 min. at LP. Really—the swims are that different.

About 25 miles into the bike a man rode up to me and informed me that my spare tire was about to fall off my bike. I looked. It was dangling precariously, ready to fly free. UGH! I got off my bike and tried to fix it. It should have been securely taped, but Andy and I had fixed it yesterday so that it was snugly adhered with Velcro underneath my seat. It had seemed so secure! Never trust Velcro… Anyway. I spent at least three minutes messing with it before I gave up and left the tire on the side of the road. The bad thing about this, in addition to the fact that I now had no spare, is that the tire was not mine. It was Ange’s. I’m sorry, Ange! I will get you three to make up for it, and have them glued and stretched! (She's just finding out about this now, all....) I did go back on the course after the race to try and find it, but it had been scooped up.

So, I was without a spare, and it was 25 miles into the bike. Fabulous! I still didn’t really regret the decision to leave the tire. I couldn’t attach it securely without tape, and I was wasting a ton of time trying to do so. It was yet another race and learn moment: always tape the shit out of your stuff on the bike. It will fall off if you trust any gizmo made to keep it attached.

Once I got started again my instinct was to begin hammering to make up for the time I’d lost on the side of the road, but I reined it in. Calm down, Mar. Calm down… This soon became my mantra for the whole first loop. A woman with a 42 on her calf zips by? Calm down, Mar, calm down. A clump of men moving at 24 mph zooms past me, swarming around me like bees? Calm down, Mar. Calm down. I notice if I continue to move this slowly I won’t get in under six hours? Calm down, Mar. Calm down.

This is me remaining calm:

After mile 25 the hills start coming. The course is described as rolling. What does that even mean? I think of rollers as little hills, and these were NOT little hills. Another shot from the Competitor site: 

The course is less rolling and more simply divided into two parts—the easy part and the hard part. 25 miles of each loop is flat and fast, and the last 30 miles of each loop is hilly—very hilly. It is an easier course than LP FOR SURE, but it’s not exactly an easy course. Anyway, I ate. I drank. I ate. I drank. I peed. I peed a lot. It wasn’t that hot for the first loop of the bike, and I think I just peed out what my body felt it didn’t need. I figured out that the best place to pee was when descending. I can’t pedal and pee simultaneously. I have to relax and stop moving, and the only time that ever happened was I when going so fast downhill I couldn’t pedal. I spent time wondering if those behind me could see the pee dripping down my legs and soaking into my cool Zebra socks that Andy got my for my birthday.

On the second loop I met up with Christine--the woman who ended up 5th in our AG, and who would later rub my back as I puked in the med tent. We passed back and forth a bit, but mostly I stayed behind her. This annoyed her to no end. At one point she turned around and screamed, Just pass me! I couldn’t hear her. What? I shouted back. Just fucking pass me!!! she screamed. This totally surprised me, since in my mind we were like long lost friends, riding together—two females in a sea of men. Clearly that’s not how she viewed me! Anyway, I wasn’t drafting her—I was just holding off, occasionally getting close and then backing off again. In hindsight, it would’ve annoyed me if someone had done this to me too. I knew if I passed her I’d have to try to stay in front, and I was really trying to keep my watts under control. As is I had increased my average power by two watts over the course of the last 20 miles and I was flirting with averaging higher than the plan called for. I know two watts doesn’t sound like much, but when you are only riding in the range of 135 watts average—it is. To pass her and stay out in front would’ve required a surge I simply wasn’t willing to make. The problem, she needed to understand, is that we were riding the same pace—and that was that.

Anyway, I couldn’t think of a good comeback and so I just muttered bitch under my breath. I had been riding with this guy Greg for most of the ride, and he laughed, having heard me. Take her down! he said. I got your back. You gonna fight her for me? I chided.  I thought of a bunch of fabulous comebacks as I rode, like, “You just have such a nice ass, I wanted to stay in view of it… “ or “But I can’t pass, you’re just too good!” But I didn’t say anything in the end, because after all, I was being annoying and also I don’t like to make enemies. Later, after the race and in the medical tent, Christine found me and we chatted. She was, of course, so nice. We said nothing of our previous exchange. Isn’t that the way of things? And, as I mentioned earlier, she also helped me out. I thought I was done puking, but as we spoke another wave of nausea came on. I turned white and muttered, Oh no, I need a bucket again. She helped me back to a cot, and got me one, rubbed my back and watched me puke. Okay… now we really were friends. Thanks, Christine!… I so appreciate it! We had both wanted Kona, and didn’t get it this time--but she was only one spot off, where I was four. She did do Kona last year after having qualified at AZ, and she suggested I try AZ to get there. I’m not sure why—but I suppose it’s because it falls after Kona, and so many who have done Kona are still recovering when it occurs. But then I looked up AZ times, and I'm now convinced that it is just as tough to qualify there as it is at any IM race! I did learn that every one of the women who beat me at CDA have qualified for Kona in the past, many more than once, and many women who finished after me have qualified in the past too. I was in great, competitive company at CDA, that is for sure. 

This is me trying to stay calm after getting called out by Christine: 
Gotta love my mug here. This is my pitbull look, I think.

On the second lap I also saw Andy and the kids for the first time. They were standing at the bottom of the hill that led to our cottage, which is just off the far end of the bike course. It was awesome to hear their little voices screaming, GO MOM! and from Andy, You look awesome, Mary! that I had been waiting for. Later Jordan told me she couldn’t believe how fast the bikers were—including me—and that I must’ve been the fastest mom there. Of course, I wasn’t (ummm, can you say Amy McGrath?), but her comment still made me proud.

The bike went surprisingly fast. I was so focused on keeping my watts under control and on eating and drinking that the time just whizzed by. At mile 100 I still felt totally fresh. It was awesome! (Thanks for the riding advice, KP!) Still, I had spent the whole ride in aero, and when I sat up for a moment and lifted my ass from the seat I felt it… the burn. Oh my GOD my crotch was on fire! I guess that happens when you stay in one position for close to six hours on a hard seat without moving….I was surprised there weren't flames coming from crotch... it was that bad.

I couldn’t believe it when we were going down the chute to finish the bike. It’s over? Already? Oh GOD! It’s time to run! In the past I have always looked forward to the run. It means I made it through the bike and mechanical failure is no longer the big fear. Unfortunately, I’ve learned enough to know that in IM the bigger fear should be of physical failure on the run as opposed to mechanical failure on the bike. Just look at the marathon splits of any IM and you can see it—the run is total carnage for like 75% of the people who start the race. Still, I was prepared for this run and I knew it—I just had to believe it. I tried really hard not to be scared that things would go wrong despite my careful riding, eating and drinking. I had to keep faith.

I couldn’t straighten up when I first got off the bike. I felt like I was frozen into bike position! I hobbled over to get my bag off the ground looking like an old woman with really well-developed arthritis.  By the time I got into the tent, though, I was pretty much standing in an erect position again. In T2 I opted not to change my nasty shorts, but I did change my pee-soaked socks—exchanging my zebras for my cat eyes. I slipped on my new K-Swiss shoes which I love (Thanks, Tri-Bike!) dawned my Tri-Bike visor, slipped on my Garmin, and it was time to face the music. This was it: I was going to run this marathon, God Damn it. It didn’t matter how slow my pace or how pathetic my shuffle—I was going to run every last fucking step.

Finish time: 5:56. Off the bike I was in 11th position in AG, and my split was 14th AG. Not awesome, but also not so bad!

Friday, July 2, 2010

CDA Race Report Part I: Swimming-- The First Battle

We rented a cottage here for the week and I write while looking out from our deck on Lake Hayden, a stunning lake framed by Mountain Hemlock and Lodgepole Pine. This place is amazing. There is a baby fawn who has been sleeping behind a tree just outside our door for the last few days, there is a gentle waterfall winding its way to the lake that lulls us to sleep at night, and there is a water trampoline to jump from into the icy lake. It’s so gorgeous here—words don’t really do it justice.

My instinct is to go way back and describe the trip here with three kids in a plane for eight hours, and then the days leading up the race during which I tried to relax but mostly just felt heavy from taper and totally stressed out. Such a description would likely be satisfying for me to write, but would definitely bore you to death. The short version is a big THANK GOD we had this lake cottage, and I was ab le to get away from the pre-race craziness in CDA. I played in the water with my kids, snuggled up to Andy to make me feel calm, took the bike out for a spin, read, and tried to absorb the beauty of this place without thinking too much of the 140.6 miles that stretched before me. Of course I registered and shopped in the IM tent and racked my bike and all that good stuff, but mostly I tried to stay away from the action.

I did sleep the night before the race, but I woke up at 3 am and that was it. I got up and had my coffee and tried to stay calm. It’s so hard to eat on race morning. I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin. The last thing I wanted was to eat, but I did get down most of a bagel with almond butter and a banana. It wasn’t all I had hoped to eat, but I wasn’t going to get down any more without getting sick—that was clear. I was that keyed up.

Andy and the kids drove me into town, and after hugs and kisses all around I hopped out of the car and got started with the pre-race peeing. I had decided not to use special needs (not for peeing, although that sort of help would have been useful later in the day) so that whole step of dropping off the bags was eliminated, which was nice. I just knew I wouldn’t use it. They have all you need on the course. What could I put in special needs that wasn’t already out there—available every 10 miles on the bike and every mile on the run? But I did the other pre-race necessities: pumped my tires with a borrowed pump, filled bottles, checked my transition bags, pissed a few billion times. The one thing I didn’t do was chat with others. Partially this is because I knew very few people (although this is generally not a problem since I have quite a developed extroverted gene), but mostly it was because I simply couldn’t deal with small talk. I was not freaking out, but I admit I was pretty damn close. I did note that Amy McGrath, who I thought would likely win our AG, was right next to me in transition. She was very little. I was able to look at her at eye level—which means she was my height or shorter, and she was definitely tinier than me. Anyway, she went on to do a 10:10 and she finished in the top 10 for women overall, including pros. I would be annoyed at that—why the hell is she not pro? BUT. This woman has four kids and she’s 40 and she’s a little person, just like me. I could be annoyed, but instead I’m just proud and in awe. There’s no way this woman can train all day and recover like a champ. She is my age and has four freaking kids! And look at her shit. 10-fucking-10. GO MIDDLE-AGED MOMS!

But I digress. The morning was cool, so I put on my wetsuit early just to get warm, and I headed to the waterfront to eat a gel and watch the pros go off. The water was not cool—it was cold. It was reported to be 61 degrees, which sounds about right to me. It was also quite rough for a lake. For those of you who live on the Atlantic, I will liken it to that. The waves were not overwhelming, but they were definitely a force to deal with, and the water was not kill-me-now cold, but it was absolutely on the uncomfortable side. I have spent so many summers swimming openwater in the ocean that I wasn’t worried that I couldn’t handle the temperature or the chop, but I knew that it wouldn’t be a fast swim. Lake Coeur d’Alene is no Mirror Lake, and unless a miracle happened I wouldn’t be swimming the same time I did at Lake Placid the year before, that was for sure.

I had spent a long time deciding where to position myself for the swim. CDA is a run start, which is, in a word, INSANE. I feared if I stood on the front line I would get pummeled by overly aggressive men trying to push their way to the front. The more I thought it through, though, I decided the front line might actually be the safest place to start. I would hammer for the first 500 yards, and hopefully get clear of a lot of the less competent male swimmers who would clobber me if I started three or four rows back. Yes, I would still have to deal with the men my speed or faster, but while those dudes are still aggressive, they are more agile and confident in the water and less likely to drown me in their panic to get out and ahead. It was a bold move, but it worked.

There were no females on the front line except for one. We chatted, and she confirmed that CDA is not a fast swim, and advised that I take the buoys wide. Other than Christine, I don’t think I saw more than one or two females in the whole swim. Where were they?? Plenty of men, though… plenty of men. Big men, little men, fighting and kicking and thrashing men. By the end of my swim I had had quite enough of them, I’ll say that. (An unusual statement coming from me, I know, but I can be temperamental that way. Just ask my husband.)

It’s funny what you think about when you’re racing. The thoughts are not necessarily coherent—but they are often repetitive. As I swam the song in my head was Pat Benatar’s Love is a Battlefield, but instead of the word Love I was singing the SWIM is a battlefield because it really was. It was really less of a swim and more of a slug-fest. I also kept thinking how strange it was that I would be quite clear of people for a bit, and then suddenly there would be a giant blob of men surrounding me and I’d have to start dog paddling to keep from drowning. The worst was the turn buoys. I meant to go wide, and I thought I had, but I was still too close and I paid for it in punches. By the time we got to the turn buoys we were in the middle of the lake, and the swells were huge and rough. The pattern was I’d get pawed and pushed down from the back, hard, then clocked in the head by a beefy, rubberized arm, then I’d try to breathe and get a mouthful of water from a swell. I kicked and fought my way around those buoys, but you could hardly label what I was doing at that point as swimming. It was chaos. I just needed to survive.

For most of the swim I was next to a guy I called (very creatively) Mr. X-Terra (because of his wetsuit, of course). We were stroke for stroke the entire way. At first I was annoyed and wanted him to just get away from me, but then I got comfortable with him there, and when he left my side for a bit I’d get sort of worried, and I’d search for him again. We must have finished at exactly the same time, but I will never know who he was. Makes me a little sad. He was my swim buddy.

I finished the swim in 1:05, which is even slower than the slow estimate I had given myself. DAMN! It was what it was, though. No use thinking about it now, I reasoned. Later I found out I was actually third out of the water in my AG, and 199 out of roughly 2400 overall. Okay—that’s not so bad…I was clearly not the only one who had had a slow swim!

I was cold coming out of the water, and I had a hard time finding my bag, untying it and getting ready for the bike. The bags were lined up on the ground as opposed to resting on racks. Racks are much easier to deal with, I think. I realized while in T1 that the swim had taken quite a bit out of me. We rarely count the swim in IM as anything that will suck you of your energy. It’s usually the bike that’s the concern. But the swim had been so rough and cold that I could feel I was already fatigued. I had fought both waves and hyper-aggressive rubbermen, and I’d swum harder than I planned just to stay warm, and the cumulative result was a big energy suck. My swim at LP was hard too, but I was able to conserve much more energy there, and I had a faster time by three minutes.

Part II when I get home from Idaho!