Impending Doom?

I am currently 20 days away from my second Ironman 70.3 and that familiar pre-race feeling of impending doom is started to set in.

There’s no way I can swim that far, especially if the race isn’t wetsuit legal.  I’m definitely going to get eaten by a shark.  I will be forever lost at sea.  I don’t even know if the mermaids will save me.

If I somehow survive swimming the high seas, then the bike portion will definitely do me in.  Our ride takes us out towards Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, which is Cajun for Bayou Savage- Training Center for Animals that Want to Kill Triathletes.   There are alligators and snakes and bears and bobcats.  And bears that throw snakes like spears while riding alligators.   And bandana-clad bobcats that leap out from behind bushes, mug you, and steal your bike.   It’s basically Jumangi- Triathlon Edition.

If I emerge from the wilds of the Louisiana Swamp alive, I then have tackle a 13.1 mile run through Suburbia.  This will likely be the most challenging portion of the race by far, as the route is littered with spectators, creatures of judgment and distraction.  Oh, you think you’re so cute don’t you Miss Middle-Class Housewife with your perfectly put together outfit and matching 2.5 children.  Sorry that I look like a half-drowned moose lumbering down you street, but I just fought a snake-wielding bear!  And what’s that to my left?  A PUPPY!?!  No, Heather, no, don’t look directly into its soft brown eyes, that’s how they suck you in.  And just when I think I’m safe, the finish line is a mere two miles away, I round the final bend and there they are- shirtless college boys handing out beer!  Oh the humanity!

Basically, there is no way for me to survive this race.  I should probably give up now, and spend my Sunday on the couch watching football like sensible people.  But, alas, I have already paid the money, so I might as well give it a go.  Plus, I’ve never seen a snake-spear in real life before!

August’s Training Schedule (on my wall)

I’m a visual person.  I like lists, I like calendars, I like being able to cross-off items,  and I love when things are color-coded.  I’ve made a few training schedules in the past, both on paper and electronically, and I’ve never really stuck to them.  So, I decided I needed to do something different while training for my upcoming 70.3 in October. 

I decided to go big! Literally…

I decided to paint a chalkboard on one of the walls by my side door, the door I use on a day-to-day basis, and put a massive training calendar on it.  It’s color-coded, it’s organized, I can check things off, it’s a Type A Triathlete’s dream!

So far I love it, and I feel like it’s large and central presence will be a big motivator for me.  And I guess if it doesn’t work, I’ll have room to make a very long grocery list 🤣

Race Report: Ironman 70.3 New Orleans

Before I start, I must admit this this race report is long, long overdue.  As in, it’s now August and I completed this race in April, but hey- better late then never!

This was my first 70.3 distance race, so I was definitely nervous beforehand, but I had my parents and The Marine there as my support crew all day to keep me motivated. I had set some goals for race day.  The first goal was to finish.  The second goal was to finish under 8 hours, but push it for under 7 hours if I was feeling good.  My third goal was to soak in the whole experience and try to have some fun.

It was definitely a high energy atmosphere when we arrived at the race start that morning.  Usually bikes are dropped off the day before for this race, but the weather was so bad (thunderstorms), that the race coordinators waived that rule and we were able to bring our bikes with us in the morning.  We got to transition around 6 am and I set up all of my stuff.  Everyone around me was so serious and they were starting to stress me out, so I wandered back out of transition and hung out with my parents and The Marine by the finish line.  I made sure to drink a ton of water and Nuun and tried to relax.

11144425_10152810824449135_5980291598638050370_n (1)

Dad and my by the finish line

11169179_10152810821789135_1800791872818572954_n

The Marine and I

11169801_10152810770929135_1956458473469549136_n (1)

Mom rocking her “IronMom” T-shirt

The traffic getting to the race was apparently pretty heavy that morning, so they delayed the race start by half an hour to give people time to arrive.  Uggghh- that meant more waiting! I was ready to just get going!

The Swim:

Finally it was time to head to the swim start.  I was really nervous about the swim because I had such a horrible swim during the New Orleans Olympic Triathlon and this Ironman 70.3 had the same swim course, just slightly longer.  It was wet suit legal, which made me feel a little better.  I’m not sure why, but the wet suit gives me an added sense of security in open water swims.  Luckily I had The Maine to help me into my wet suit, and of course my mother was there to document it all (as mothers do)!

11108219_10152810859304135_5846615775683601386_n

Tucking me in to the wet suit

11069945_10152810882084135_3797578004475563809_n

All ready to go

I found the rest of my people with the same colored swim cap as me and joined their group.  There were a lot of first-times in the group so we all nervously chatted as we got closer and closer to the dock.  At one point I started to get a little teary as I approached the dock, but I squashed it quickly.  Just take it easy, take your time, and just relax.  It’s an easy swim, I can do this.  I jumped into the water and waited for the panic to set in like it did during the previous race, but it didn’t.  The water was calmer than my last race and I felt really good in the water.  I made it round the first buoy, feeling good.  Rounded the second buoy, still feeling good.  Off to the last buoy and then I’m done!  Woo!  I got out of the water feeling great, not shaky and weak like last time.  I had no idea what my time was, but I wasn’t too concerned about it.  I trotted off towards transition, skipping the wet suit strippers because I knew I was going to take my time in transition anyway.  I saw my Mom and The Marine as I got into transition and waved.  The Marine tried to yell my time to me, and even though I couldn’t hear him, I was impressed he was keeping track!

20150807_135752

So I came in just under 35 minutes for the swim.  Considering I was trying to take it very easy and no push myself at all, I’ll take it!

After dousing myself in sunscreen and slathering my lady-parts in body glide I was off on the bike.

The Bike

I was feeling like a million bucks as I set off on the bike.  My swim was good, I was feeling energized and hydrated, and I was ready to tackle the next 56 miles.  I decided to wear my Camelbak for the bike portion of the race and I was glad I did.  I know it’s not the sleekest or most stylish triathlon accessory, but I was petrified of dehydrating so I felt better having it with me as well as my two bike water bottles filled with gatorade and nuun.  I also had lots of snacks- a peanut butter sandwich and a variety of gel flavors.

The weather was great for the first portion of the bike.  No wind, the sun wasn’t too hot, and the course was mostly flat.  I kept track of my pace for the first half of the bike course and I was flying!  (Well, for my standards I was flying!)  I was easily averaging 17 mph, which put me on track to come in well below a 7 hour race time.  In fact at the rate I was going, and with my great swim time, I was guessing I might be able to come in close to 6 hours if I pushed it hard on the run.  I was killing it!

Well, I was killing it until about mile 40 when my bike portion of the race kind of fell apart.  The last 16 miles of the race were terrible.  There was a lovely 18 mph head wind that had kicked up and I was quickly running out of energy to fight it.  My butt was killing me, and my shoulders were sore from leaning over the aerobars.  Basically, I hadn’t put in enough miles on the bike before the race and it was catching up with me.  Then, about two miles away from transition, my chain came off my bike while I was changing gears up a hill.  Are you freaking kidding me?!?  I was so close to getting off this damn bike and now I’m stranded on this beast of a hill trying to fix my stupid bike chain.  Uggghhh!  This is when the tears started again.  These were tears of pure frustration.  It had taken me almost an hour an a half to do the last 15 miles and I still hadn’t made it back.  But, again, I pulled myself together after a few minutes, fixed my chain, and made it the last 2 miles to transition where I could FINALLY get off the bike.  I don’t think I’d ever looked forward to running a half marathon so much in my life as I did at that moment.  Anything but a bike!

My parents and The Marine were waiting or me outside of transition.  “Did you get lost?!”  The Marine asked as I was getting off the bike.  “No, smart ass, but I had to stop and fix my chain.”  I pointed down to my hands and legs that were covered in chain grease and he seemed to accept that answer.

I knew my bike time was shit at this point, but at least this meant I could take my time on the half marathon and not run myself to exhaustion.  When I saw my stats afterwards I realized just how bad my bike time was.

20150807_135857

My pace ended up being 14.39 mph, which was slower than any of my training rides.  But whatever, it was over with, onto the run.

The Run

The run was great, because I knew there was no way I would make my 7 hour goal at this point, but I could walk at a snail’s pace and still make it under 8 hours.  So that’s pretty much what I did.  I enjoyed all of the snacks at the aide stations and made some friends as I walked along.  I did run a little bit, but I probably walked more than half of the 13.1 miles.

As I got to mile 12, the Marine was waiting for me.  “What are you doing?” I asked.  “I’ve come to run the last mile with you,” he said very matter-of-factly.  I wasn’t really sure if that was allowed, but I wasn’t going to argue with him.  Half way though my last mile I saw my friends who were just arriving to see me finish.  Unfortunately the official Ironman New Orleans website had the wrong finish location posted and they first went to the wrong place (grrrrrr!!!), but they made it in time to see me running and hang out with my afterwards.

I ran across the finish line feeling surprisingly not too worse for wear.  My “run” time was pretty rough, but like I said, I gave myself a pass after the horrific bike ride.

20150807_135920

14.25 min/miles isn’t the best, but I’ve seen much worse.

Overall it was an awesome experience.  I’m not going to lie, I did enjoy doing absolutely no exercise (other than walks with Pepper) for a good month or so after the race, but then I was ready to get back into it.  I’d like to do this race again next year  (with more bike training!) now that I know what I’m in for and set some good goals for myself.  I’ve also been kicking around the idea of doing the 140.6 in the Woodlands next May, but ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone yet- I haven’t totally decided 🙂

1471934_10152811858479135_6199801180140132554_n

All finished!

Total time 7:51:05.  I am officially a (half) Ironman 🙂

New Orleans Triathlon Race Recap (More of a Race Fail!)

How does the phrase go?  “Piss poor planning produces piss poor results?”  I think that might be the tag line for my race this past weekend.  It was the New Orleans Olympic Distance Triathlon– 1500 m open water swim, 40 K bike ride, 10 K run.  The swim location and part of the bike and run routes are the same as the upcoming New Orleans Ironman 70.3, so this was the perfect warm-up race before my first 70.3 in three weeks.

Except it wasn’t the perfect warm-up, it was pretty horrible.  Here is the nitty-gritty race breakdown:

Pre-race:

The problem with living in New Orleans is that there is always something going on.  This weekend was the big Hogs for the Cause BBQ competition and my friends’ team was participating this year (Peace. Love. Pig.- you should check them out) so I volunteered to help them out on competition day.  We all had such a great day hanging out, cooking, selling pork sandwiches and piggy pudding, listening to the bands, and checking out what all the other teams were cooking.  Unfortunately, I was having so much fun that I neglected to ever eat a proper meal that day, so my pre-race fueling was half a bag of pork cracklins, a few bites of piggy pudding, and a few pieces of the whole hog that had been smoking for 14 or so hours.  Not really the kind of nutrition that provides good race day energy. Poor planning. Not only did I neglect to eat, I also neglected to hydrate properly.  I drank water throughout the day, but the beer was steadily flowing also, so I probably caused a net hydration loss for the day. Poor planning.

I drank fluids when I got home that evening and figured I’d have plenty of time to hydrate and eat in the morning as well.  My friend Diane was picking me up at 5:20 am, so I packed my race bucket, set my alarm for 4:20 am, and settled down at 9 pm for a good night’s sleep.  Then, around 2 am, the pre-race nerves kicked in and I found myself wide awake.  I stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep for about 2 hours, and then I woke up to Diane calling me to let me know she was at my house ready to pick me up.  What!??!  I checked my phone and was indeed 5:20 and my alarm had failed me.  Thank goodness I’d packed the night before so I was able to brush my teeth, throw on my clothes, fill water bottles, and dash out the door in about 7 minutes.  In my haste, I did not have time to eat breakfast or get more fluids in me before I left the house.   Again, very poor planning.

image

Proof the alarm was originally set!

Swim:

I’ll spare you the details of my set-up once we arrived at the course, as everything went smoothly.  The swim was 1500 meters through the Southshore Habor and would be my first open water swim.  Eeekk!  I’ve always been a strong swimmer, so the swim portion usually never bothers me, but this was a little more intimidating than the pool swims I’m used to.  Diane walked over with me and showed me where to go (she was doing the Sprint so her swim started in a different spot) and once she left, I made friends with another girl who looked equally as nervous as me.  This was her first open water swim as well and she was also doing this race as a warm-up for the Ironman 70.3 in a few weeks.  It was comforting that someone else was in the same boat as me.  We discussed the path through the harbor- “So, wait, do we zig-zag-zig through those buoys or is it zag-zig-zag?” and reassured each other with the “yeah, we got this” line.

Then we were off.   I jumped in, popped my head above water, and started swimming Baywatch- style (head above water) so I could catch my bearings.  After about 10 seconds I felt myself starting to freak out.  I don’t know if it was my adrenaline or the cold water temperature, but I couldn’t seem to catch my breath.  I also couldn’t see.  The water was the iced- tea colored and I really couldn’t see more than an arm’s length in any direction, which was also a little disconcerting.

As I was making my way to the first buoy my imagination started to run wild- what exactly could be in this water?!  It’s a known fact that there are bull sharks in Lake Pontchartrain from time to time, there are also alligators occasionally, I’m sure some kind of venomous snake species, killer whales, carnivorous plants, Nessy, the list goes on and on and that’s before I even thought about the parasites and bacteria.  Clearly I was going to die on this swim.  I flipped over to kick on my back for a minute or two to catch my breath, just waiting for nature to take to my watery demise, but it never happened.  So, I decided to get my sh*t together and get on with things, because the water was cold and waiting for a shark attack wasn’t getting me out any faster.  After that, I was fine.  I found my groove, zig-zag-zigged around the orange buoys, made a bee-line to my favorite green buoy (the last buoy!) and got the hell out of that lake.  Phew, 1500 meter down in 32 minutes.  I’ll take it!

As I was left the swim exit I waved to Diane who was waiting to start her swim and trudged towards transition.  My legs were a little wobbly so I was happy to take it slow and let the blood redistribute itself in my body.  As I was nearing transition one of the volunteers caught my attention as he was yelling, “the strippers are up ahead.”  What?!  Damn, I thought, I know this is New Orleans, but that’s a little crazy even for us.  But still, I was intrigued, so onward I went looking for said strippers.

Turns out the strippers were two very nice middle aged-ladies who helped me take my wet-suit off.  I have to say, I was little relieved.  I wasn’t sure I could handle strippers after surviving what I can only assume was a very near miss with the whole shark-attack situation.

Swimming Wins:  My new wet suit was awesome, my time was faster than I expected, I swam (almost) the exact Ironman course, no shark attack.

Swimming Fails:  Having a mild panic attack, swallowing half of Lake Pontchartrain, need different goggles for buoy sighting purposes.

The Bike:

I took my time in transition, headed off on the bike, and everything was fine.  I was fairly confident that there weren’t any man-eating creatures hiding anywhere on this portion of the race, so I felt okay to eat an energy goo and drink some gatorate as I cruised along.

Then I hit “the hills”.   Now, we don’t have hills in New Orleans.  Our highest point in the city used to be Monkey Hill at the zoo, which was constructed so kids in New Orleans could learn what a hill was (no joke) and it can’t be more than 20 ft tall!  However, this bike course was riddled with overpasses and bridges, and I swear every other mile there was another damn bridge to go over.  Gah!  It wasn’t as bad when the wind was behind me, but on the way back pedaling uphill and into the strong wind got a little tiresome.

Then, to make matters worse, I got a flat tire. This wouldn’t have been that bad, except I used my last tube to change another tire last week and hadn’t replaced it yet.  Again, poor planning.  Luckily for me, after a while of walking my bike back towards the starting line, Dave the bike-tech guy pulled up in his handy van and changed my tire for me, quick as a flash!  (Thanks Dave, and I’m sorry I secretly cursed you for driving across the bike course about a half-hour earlier).

I hopped back on and finished my very underwhelming bike ride.  Average pace was around 13 mph, which is incredibly slow for me, but that did include the flat tire factor.  However, I did feel like I found my “cruising altitude” as I like to call it, where I have a comfy pace that I feel like I could maintain for hours.  This was what I really wanted to feel out on this race so I would have figured out before the Ironman.

Bike Wins:  I hydrated well, I found a comfortable “cruising altitude”, I didn’t fall off.

Bike Fails:  My pace was slow, I was not prepared for a flat tire, I handled hills (and wind) quite poorly.

Run:

The run was pretty horrific overall.  My lack nutrition (poor planning) hit me hard and I had no fuel left in my tank.  My hydration level was okay and I didn’t have any cramping, I just had no energy.  Out of the 6 miles, I probably ran half, and did find a good run-walk interval pace for myself for part of it.  We had to run the 3 mile loop twice and honestly I thought about cashing in at 3 miles, but I didn’t.  I figured it was better to complete than to cash out early, even if it meant walking a lot.  My pace ended up being 12:54 min/mile for the run, which is terrible for me, but I did it and I lived to tell the tale.

Run wins:  I did it

Run fails:  Everything else.

Here are my overall stats from the day:
image

Today I actually feel okay and not as stiff as I thought, but that’s probably because I was moving slow damn slowly through the race.  I’m going to go for a short jog today with Pepper and then stretch really, really well afterwards.  Tomorrow it’s back on the bike, hopefully for a 30- 40 miler.

I don’t have any shots from the race (thank God, because I’m not sure I want to remember it), but here is a pre-race selfie of Diane and I and a few that the Marine took of me on the route.

image

Ready to go!

image

image

Heading out on the run

image

Finally done (not an accurate time)

Bike Gadgets and My First Tire Change (Wooo!!)

One of the fun things about training for the Ironman 70.3 has been discovering all kinds of fun (and useful!) accessories.   My Amazon Prime subscription has been put to very good use over the last two months and the local UPS guy has become one of my new best friends. 

This week, my focus has been on bicycle accessories.  As I upped my mileage on the bike, I found that my upper body and hands were the source of my discomfort, as opposed to my legs (or butt) which is what I anticipated.  The pressure on my hands was prettty painful and would persist for a few days post-ride and my arms were very stiff from bracing myself against the handle bars.  So, I came up with two solutions- cycling gloves and aerobars. 

The cycling gloves are great and the gel padding really takes the pressure off the base of my thumbs.  Definitely worth the money, and I feel like they make me look kind of tough.

image

image

Now, the aerobars were a little more complicated.  Luckily, my friend Red, an experianced triathlete himself, was willing to loan me a set of aerobars for time being to make sure I liked them before I rushed off and bought a pair. I’ve dubbed Red my official Ironman Bike Guy, as he set my aerobars up for me and made me ride up and down the street a few times so he could tweak the angles and length and make sure the fit was just right.  He also hooked me up with another water bottle cage, which is great because you can never have too much water on the bike.   Red also has clip-in pedals (and his wife has shoes) for me, but he wisely suggested that switching to aerobars and clip-in pedals all at once might be a bit much for me.  He’s a wise man (plus he knows I’m clumsy). 

image

image

After the aerobar installation I headed out for a 30 mile bike ride.  The weather was gorgeous, I was feeling energized, and I had just enough time to test the new bars out before work.  I was on a roll for the first mile and half, and then I got my first flat tire.  Ugh!!! Luckily, Brian, my other bike guy, gave me an excellent tutorial on changing tires so I was able to perform my first successful tire change!  Woo hoo!!! Unfortunately, by the time I was finished, I realized that I didn’t have time to finish my ride before work, so I gave up for the day (training fail) and made a hamburger instead.  

Now I’m getting ready for my Ironman warm-up race this weekend, an Olympic distance triathlon that I’m doing with my friend Diane (Red’s wife). 

My bike ride may have been a fail, but I’ve had some good runs this week.  Here is a Pepper selfie after our (very hot!) 6 mile run on Tuesday. 

image

My First Wetsuit!! Hooray!

I was so nervous about buying my first triathlon wetsuit.  I didn’t have a hot clue where to start.  I did some research on different types of suits and realized there are long sleeved, short sleeved, sleeveless, long legged, short legged, different zipper styles, different thickness of neoprene…. Baaahh!!!  If that wasn’t enough, apparently certain sleeve lengths are only allowed in certain water temperatures, so that needed to be considered, and then there is the whole how-to-get-it-on-and-off situation.  Oh my!  I felt like I was a little out of my depth with this decision.  (Hah- see what I did there?!)

So I defaulted to my usual decision making process- pick one that’s on-sale online, guess the size, and pray it fits- and it worked!!  Ok, I did actually put a bit of thought into it and I read numerous reviews before I hit the “purchase” button, but it was indeed on-sale, I did guess the size, and I did pray.

It arrived yesterday and I was so nervous when I opened the box.  When I pulled it out, it looked really small and I had no idea how I was going to get it on, but I decided to give it a go.  I put some Body Glide on my feet, ankles, and wrists and went to work.  I’d heard horror stories of it taking 15 minutes for people to get into their wetsuits, but I had it on and zipped in just a couple of minutes.  The Marine (also initially skeptical) did help me with the zipper, but other than that I was good.

I felt like I resembled a redheaded sea lion, but I didn’t care. I had great mobility, it was comfortable, and I already felt more bouyant (in my living room).  It was perfect and there was much celebration!

image

Hooray!!

For those of you that know anything about wetsuits (unlike myself) here are some of the particulars of my suit.

image

70.3 Training Update and a HUGE Fundraising Announcement!!

This past week I’ve had some great training workouts.  I had an awesome swim, some good runs, and even ran a (freezing cold!) 10 K race Saturday morning to benefit the local SPCA. I finally feel like I’m rocking and rolling.

But enough about that.  My really, really exciting news is that I am announcing my fundraising cause for my Ironman 70.3 in April.  I had been mulling over the idea of using my Ironman race as an opportunity to fund raise ever since I signed up for the race, however I was having a hard time settling on a cause.  I knew I wanted to do something with pediatric medicine, but I couldn’t figure out how to narrow it down from there.

Then it happened.  It was too perfect.  My fundraising goal fell into my lap and it is awesome! 

Here is the back story:  Two of my good friends, Darrell and Jenn, have the most amazing 6-year old boy, Ethan, who was born prematurely and diagnosed with a form of Cerebral Palsy called Spastic Diplegia shortly after birth.  Spastic Diplegia affects the way Ethan’s brain communicates with his muscles, especially in his legs, and causes tightening and weakness that makes walking, standing, and general balance very, very difficult.  Ethan falls often and gets tired very easily, which is a huge hindrance for a kid that loves to run, play drums, reenact various World World II battles with his friends, and generally woo the ladies where ever he goes.  Ethan has been receiving painful Botox injections in his legs for many years now, which have helped to reduce the contraction in his leg muscles, but as he grows older they are proving to be less and less effective.  As the spasticity in his legs increases as he grows, it could result in calf lengthening surgeries or use of a walker.

So where does the fundraising come in?  Well, there is this bad ass surgery (and yes, “bad ass” is the technical medical term for this procedure) called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR).  Dr. T.S. Park at St. Louis Children’s hospital has determined that Ethan is an excellent candidate for this surgery that treats the muscle spasticity caused by Cerebral Palsy.  The surgery is intense and the recovery is a long.  The surgery itself involves accessing Ethan’s spinal cord and cutting or partially cutting nerves that are causing the spasticity in his leg muscles.  After surgery, Ethan will have to do physical therapy five days a week for 6 months to help him re-learn to walk, regain his strength and balance, and start to perform all of the running, jumping, and generally rambunctious actions that were too difficult for his muscle to do before.

Darrell and Jenn are raising money to help pay for the expenses of this life changing surgery for Ethan, and let’s face it-  neurosurgery isn’t cheap!  My goal is to raise $2000 towards the expenses of Ethan’s surgery so that I can see my little buddy grow up to do all of the awesome things he should be doing as a kid, without his body holding him back.  Ethan has been a great motivator for me during my training and has helped bring a purpose to my quest of swimming, biking, and running 70.3 miles on race day.  Right now, Ethan would never be able to complete in a race like the Ironman, but this surgery would allow him the opportunity to do so in future.

If you would like to sponsor me for the Half Ironman 70.3 in April and help me raise money for Ethan, please head over to Darrell and Jenn’s fundraising page to donate and read more about Ethan’s story.  Please put “Ironman” in the message portion of the donation, so I can keep track of my sponsorship (and give you a “thank you” shout out later on!!).  I will post fundraising updates every week with my training updates and, most importantly, thanks for helping change the life of a sweet little boy.

Ethan 2 Ethan drums

ethan 3