Thursday, November 29, 2012

An Escape to Paradise! Ironman Cozumel!

As I arrived in Cozumel my stress of the last few weeks started to disappear!  I still wanted to race as I had put the training in....even if the focus had not been there. I had felt my run improving and my bike and swim seemed solid.

With every beautiful sunset or sunrise I felt thankful and blessed!

I was staying with the QT2 system pro girls and they really motivated me and got me excited to race.

Trying to get a little tan before the race!
Cozumel is beautiful and the swimming in the turquoise ocean amazing. I felt so lucky to be there!

Coach Jesse had warned me that nothing about this course was going to be  easy...and to add to that, last minute, about 15 amazing girls had signed up on top of the already stellar field of girls. Every girl on the list seemed to have an IM title to her name! This was certainly not the ideal race to be racing when your head is not in the game.

But I felt so lucky to be there...doing what I love...with hot sun and beautiful sunsets, clear water and friendly people.   I can do this...

 I posted this picture and quote the night before the race..
"What would life be like if we did not have the courage to attempt anything?" Van Gogh

I was feeling very unsure...but as usual Coach Jesse reassured me I was fit and ready!!

Jessie Donovan and Stephanie Jones race morning!
Race morning I am always quite confident but I was feeling a little uneasy as my stomach was upset. All week we had been a bit paranoid about drinking the water and getting sick! I was not sure if it was nerves or if I was in fact getting sick! 
The wind was blowing as I knew it would and I was still a little concerned about my deep dish front wheel as it seemed to be blowing heavy off shore which meant strong crosswinds! Oh well there was no changing it now.

 Before we knew it we all headed down to the start. The ocean swim was meant to be into a current, then a long stretch fast section with the current at my back and then back into the current to finish.
The gun went off and I sprinted hard. I was with the group and I had feet to swim on. I was swimming hard and felt strong. I kept saying just push until the turn around buoy then you can settle down with the current at my back. But it never happened. The group turned and the girl in front of me stopped to sight. That was enough to lose the group and I surged by her trying to catch up but I could not. The water was still rough and it  was immediatly apparent there was no current behind me. Instead it was an offshore current that was pushing me ashore. The result was a slow long swim as you fought against the constant current to get around each buoy. As there had been no pro meeting I was unsure whether we had to go around the buoys or not. So to play it safe I constantly headed around every buoy probably swimming 2.8 miles. This was extremely annoying.  The last stretch back into the current took forever. I decided just to swim on the the girl behind me's feet and save myself for the bike. This would mean I would not have to site as much and swallow as much salt water.  I had already swallowed a gallon and the salt was burning my throat. I came out in a 1.07 which I thought was terrible until I saw after the race that over 300 people did not even finish the swim. 

Onto the bike. It was apparent right away that my stomach was bloated and felt upset but I tried to eat half a Powerbar and settle it down. Within 5 miles I could see three girls up ahead. They were biking in a line. I pushed hard to catch up to them as I knew it would be easier if I could have girls around me by the time we hit the super windy section.  But when I reached the girls it felt comfortable so I pushed to the front.  But they would keep passing so it became a bit of a game. It made the time pass quick but it was getting a bit frustrating after a while. It seemed that this race had no officials and the ones that came by did nothing. A pro girl came by fast directly on another guys wheel. Her blatant drafting was incredible. They were flying.  I did not realize that a group of about 6 girls were now like a big train behind me. On the second loop teammate Jessie Donovan passed me and told me and I knew I had to try breakaway from the group.   Another guy and pro girl were riding right on Jessies wheel and probably stayed that way the whole day. I could not stay with them for long but instead I kept pushing hard and when I turned to see if the girls were still there I could not even see them. I was now biking totally solo for the last loop. I was convinced they would catch me as the last loop was the windiest and toughest but I managed to keep a 3-4 minute gap by the end of the ride.  I was happy with my 5.11 and 8th fastest bike split considering how much time I seem to waste.

Things I will remember for next year if I do this race!
1)The bike is tough!!! Spend as much time as you can in the aero bars in training as this is how you will be for 112 miles. By the third loop I was uncomfortable  and constantly stretching my legs!

2) Peeing on a flat course is not easy!!! I always felt like I needed to pee and I kept trying to stand and ride but it would not happen so eventually I would have to just coast. This is not good for your avg power.

3) I don't usually take salt tabs as I don't have a high sweat rate. This race I carried mine in a Nuun bottle. Not a good idea as they all came flying out as I flipped the lid on the bike. I was left with 2 and my plan was to take one with every bottle as they only serve Gatorade on the course. On the next loop I saw a guy stopped picking them all up. Hah..those were mine!!!

4) The gatorade bottles are super thin and the first time I grabbed one and put it in my cage it slipped out and almost caused me to fly over my bars as it got caught in my wheel. From then on I could only grab one bottle and fill my aero bottle at each stop. Once again alot of time wasted in this process!

5) The course is spectacular along the windiest section..

One of the shrines you see on the run course

Onto the run...Coach Jesse had told me to go out stomach was bloated so that was a good idea.  I decided not to take my watch out  of my back pocket until the first turn around which was mile 4.  But when I got there I decided I would just run on feel (Another example of how I was not focused)  My stomach was acting up and I could not find a porto john so eventually I had to stop behind a wall. After that stop around mile 7 I started to feel a little better and could take in more fluids. The run is a 3 loop course that takes you along the waterfront area. It is very spectator friendly. As you head into town it becomes louder and louder and it really is an exciting mile.  The wind would be in your face going out which actually felt good and then it would get really hot in sections on the way back.  The craziest thing about the run was the aid stations would only have one person and one table handing out gatorade. In each cup was one sip so by the time it hit your mouth it was gone. This meant I would have to drink alot of water which was not great!  I heard there were some pro's who's coaches were handing them bottles of sports drink.....mmmm Unbelievable!  A lot of rule breaking going on!

By the second loop I did not feel bad but I just could not get out of the steady pace I was running.  I passed a few girls and a few passed me. Somehow I slipped from 9th place to 15th by the end of the day.  I would have liked to make top 10 but I did not put up a fight and for that I am disappointed in myself. Instead I just enjoyed and finished the race.  

I was happy to see a 9hr 55 min split as I finished as I had no idea what I was running. Last year that would have put me in 6th place but the field was so strong and deep with over 35 girls and a lot of solid runners.

Post race fun!

Post race Brunch and Pina coladas

Cozumel was a great fun race to end the season off! I definitely recommend it!

Big thanks as always to Coach Jesse from QT2 systems! I am always proud to represent Rev 3! Pearl Izumi,  Powerbar, Kestrel,  LG and too all those that help me along the way!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rev 3 Florida Blows into Venice Beach

My last race leading up to IM Cozumel!

My few weeks leading up to Ironman were hectic to say the least.

I had finished up a series of 3 half Iron distance races in 4 weeks. The last one of the three being Rev 3 Florida! As this was right around the time that Hurricane Sandy hit I came back to devastation back home and I never actually got to write my race report.
As this race was the last of the Rev 3 series and really quite a gem I simply need to share my experience there before I can move onto IM COZ!

I arrived in Venice Beach FL on the Friday of race week. Sadly my bike did not arrive with me. This was the start of an unforseen 3 weeks of trying times and stress!

 Without a bike I continued to go ahead and proceed with race preparations.   I drove though the charming town seaside town to swim but the ocean at the beach was really kicking up some waves as hurricane Sandy was approaching and I knew the possibility of a cancelled swim race day was high. Instead I found a nice YMCA right by the highway a few minutes from where I was staying. It was wonderful to get an outdoor swim  after the cooler temps back home! 

Thankfully after many calls to United I found my bike in Las Vegas Sat morning and I urged them to get it on a plane as fast as possible. It arrived just before bedtime the night before the race!

Race morning they made the very smart call to cancel the pro swim as the currents were way to strong. I was relieved as I was not looking forward to the mosh pit of angry waves but with the new run/bike/run course I knew it was going to change the race a bit. 

The girls went out very fast. 5.15/5.30 pace and I was working hard. Thankfully it was only 1.5 miles and soon enough we were rushing into T1. I was 15 sec off the back of a main group of girls. I pushed hard on the bike. It was going to be a very windy 56 mile loop.

I managed to quickly catch and pass a few of the girls. With a strong tailwind and a pancake flat course we were flying and averaging 26/27 miles an hour. Somehow about 25 miles in we all ended up in a group  but the stagger rule kept things fair. Unfortunately the road was not closed to traffic and on a turn I followed a car not realizing that it was a U turn not a left turn.  I went left and followed the car and everyone behind made the turn. I had gone into a one lane one way road and had to follow it until I could turn around. But that point I had lost the pack of girls and about 1 minute.  So I headed back into the wind pushing really hard trying to catch back up. 
I finished the bike off in 11th close to the girls but I had put down my biggest power of the year and paid for it on the run. My run had been improving every race and I was hoping to run strong off the bike. But the heat and wind and fatigue made me feel like I had lead in my legs. So I just  put my head down and got the race done! I got a 40 min post race run in which was a good quality effort in my build for IM COZ.

Highlight of the race were the Rev 3 crew. As it was just pre Halloween they were all in costume cheering loudly and really cracked me up on the course.  Their is no greater race series for feel good fun than with this group.  I am always proud to be representing them!!

After the race, the reality hit that I would not be getting home for a few more days as all flights were being cancelled. This was really tough as the eye of Hurricane Sandy was going to  be hitting the Jersey Shore and I would  not be there with my family. Our house is surrounded by water and they called for a mandatory evacuation. All I could do was watch from afar and wait for the storm to pass to see what kind of devastation was left behind. I stayed glued to the tv really quite sick to my stomach.

Our boardwalks all broken up!

When I finally got home it was like a war zone. The Jersey Shore was destroyed. Our home was spared but many friends and neighbors lost there homes. I just could not validate training when so many people needed help. So Coach Jesse gave me some time off to help friends and even when I went back to training I felt guilt and a lack of energy. With no power the pools were closed, roads blocked, trees down, power lines all over the roads.  Biking and running was not easy.
 In the mean time my daughter had got pneumonia, my husband was sick, the schools were closed... people were getting sick from all the dampness around and I was feeling really run down.
The remainder of my rides would be on the trainer going into Coz.
I contemplated just not even racing Ironman and calling it a season. The desire was not there.

I was overwhelmed by the support from all        over the world who were concerned for myself and my family during this time. Thank you!!
Sydney looking at the dock now missing!