Favorite Wall in Austin for Blog 2

The Past is Still Recorded Online

This blog is out of use and out of date. I am now posting on mercedesorten.blogspot.com

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Longhorn 70.3 Half Ironman Race Report

I did it. I traveled 70.3 miles in less than 6 hours. 5:48 to be exact. A less than 6 hour time was my "secret goal" so to speak. Not so secret but I never thought I'd hit it. And I did. Curious, because time was never on my mind throughout the race, though. Gratefulness and peace were on my mind. My friends and family that comprised my incredible support team were on my mind. The strength of my body was on my mind. I just did it. And finishing that thing, every minute of it, was one of the most incredible experiences of my entire life.

PRE-RACE FUN: Packet Pickup was one big flurry of organizing and hugging people. The instant I stepped into the indoor arena where we would be finishing, a wave of calm swept over me. That calm never left, even when my race was threatened by important forgotten items. I walked into the area and gaped at the finish line with the treasured M-dot Ironman logo and flags. I popped myself back on track and headed over to check in. The volunteers were angels and were ready to help with any issue. I got my transition bags and T-shirt and then headed down to the expo. The expo was small but wonderful nonetheless. I got a massage from Dr. Sparks of Koala, and that eased any leftover tension that was in my body out, for good. She even gave me a free pair of Koala socks! How sweet. From there, I headed to get an extra tube from the J&A tent, and bought some extra goo and clif blocks.

After expo-ing, we went to prepare for Transition 1 (T1) and Transition 2 (T2). The transitions were in different places. This was new to me but I was able to adapt fairly quickly to the idea. I was worried about Fizgig all week, wondering if my back tire would give me issues as it did in Burnet. The tune up from Jack and Adam's just two weeks before the race proved to be very helpful and Fizgig was ready as I brought her into T1 on Saturday. I got Fizgig checked out one last time by the awesome Mavic mechanics and then I went down to look at the swim course.

I stared out at the water with the orange buoys. I counted them and stared out at them some more. I started visualizing. And I started talking and thinking about the distance in manageable terms. "It's only two 900 m, right dad? I can do that in my sleep!" and my dad and I talked about where to push on the swim course and where to relax. This conversation proved very helpful the next day. I said to myself before walking away from the waters of Decker Lake "the instant you get into that water, you're going to feel calm, cool, prepared, and collected and READY TO RACE!" and I was.

Transition was set. Bikes were ready. We then took off to eat pasta at Mandola's. More carbs couldn't hurt, right? Maybe I do this triathlon thing just so I have an excuse to eat pasta...haha...nah.

I slept well the night before the race. My mom made some delicious chicken noodle soup for a late dinner that evening and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Chicken noodle soup has been my secret pre-marathon power meal so I decided to try it before this 1/2 Ironman. I had two bowls and was ready to settle down into bed. It was nice knowing that everything was already at the race site, I didn't have to worry about getting anything together the next morning.

RACE-DAY/PRE-RACE: 5:00 a.m. my alarm bleeps off. I wake up, but I instantly want to sleep more. Surprisingly, there was no-excited-crazy-hop-out-of-bed action this race morning. Very different for me, but I rolled with it. I slept a little longer. Bad choice, but I did it. Got up, forced down the steel cut oatmeal and black tea, grabbed my water bottles and packet and hopped in the car with my beloved family.

Traffic backed up on MLK, we were running late. Somehow--I honestly don't know how--I remained calm.

Once we finally got to the race sight, parking was a breeze. In our haste leaving the car and getting to the buses that would bus us to the start, I forgot my packet, which had my timing chip in it. We got on the buses that took us to the race start. It was about a 5 minute bus ride, but it felt like forever.

I did not realize that I had forgotten my timing chip (one of the most important items in a tri) until we got to the race start and were about to get body-marked. I called my dad instantly. I was sure they had picked up the packet out of the car. My heart sunk when I found out that they had not. It was back at the car. Calmly, I asked my mom to go back on the bus and get it for me. For some weird insane reason, I wasn't worried. I knew everything would be fine.

I set up transition hastily. A few nearby folks ask to borrow my amazing Joe Blow pump. I slap on sunscreen quickly and hang tight to my wet suit. I cling desperately to my cell phone. Becky comes up and gives me and Liz and big hug. It felt good to see friends like Becky and Jessica A before the start. Race officials cleared out transition area and my parents still hadn't called. I waited in line for the porta-potty with Becky. I was still eerily calm, waiting for my parents to bring me my chip. Minutes later, my dad calls, they are looking for me. They are worried that they won't find me in time. I turn around in the porta-potty line and my mom comes running up, tears in her eyes. She hands me the chip. She's shaking because she's so nervous. I say "Mom, I love you, THANK YOU so much" and she's still shaking "don't worry mom it will be ok." My mom cuts through my thank yous to say "get that damn thing on your leg!" I bent down and put it on, and instantly my mom felt better. I kissed her and hugged her and she seemed finally relaxed. I was amazed that we still had 25 minutes until the start. It was a close call with the chip, but thanks to my incredible support team of my mom and my dad, I did not have to worry. Happily, the dude that was in back of me in the porta-potty line lets me get back in line ahead of him. How nice.

I get out of the porta-potty and head over to where Liz, Joe and Corrie are waiting before the start. For some reason when I see Corrie I just loose it. I think I was thinking back on the Quarter Ironman and what an amazing support she was during that race. She's been there through a lot of my training. I start crying. She's like "its ok, you're ready, you're going to do great" and I stopped crying. I paused and opened the adorable pre-race good luck gift that magically appeared on my bike in transition this morning from my dear friend Jodi. I smiled as I read the card she wrote me and her advice for me to "bump it" on the bike.

I slowly pull on my wet suit, taking deep breathes. I wave goodbye to my training buddies and I head down to the lake with my parents to try to find Jen P. Everyone looks the same with their seal-like black bodies and red caps. Somehow I manage to pick out Jennifer. I push through the crowd to the front where she is and hug her. She's shaking a bit and so I am I. We turn around and my dad snaps a few great photos of us. Then its time to get into the water.

THE RACE BEGINS: We hop in and the water is cooler than I expected. Thanks to the wet suit my body quickly adjusts.

The swim was incredible. At the start of it, I could literally FEEL my friends who were not there hoping and pushing me forward. I felt their presence and support deep in my heart. It was like their love was cradling me in the water. I started off and it was like I had so much space to move and go fast. I felt great. I was passing people like crazy and drafting off of my favorite swimming buddy Jennifer. I felt good, I stayed relaxed. It was easy when there wasn't a ton of people vying for position. I think I was in the front because I looked back and saw a huge pack of red caps behind me at one point. There were intense waves from the previous groups moving us. I rolled with them and was even able to get on top of those waves and allow them to propel me forward. There was never a time in this swim when I thought "when is this going to be over?" I enjoyed every second of it. Don't get me wrong, it felt long, but I felt so good. My taper seemed to have put me in a great place.

I head up the hill to T1 and I hear my friends calling my name. One of them yells "WE LOVE YOU MERCEDES" and hearing that gave me a sudden burst of energy into T1.

I struggled to get my "Fueled by Beef" tri top on in Transition. Note to self, putting on tight clothing while wet with my big shoulders is not a good idea. I will never do that again. I got my tri top on FINALLY after over 2 minutes of struggling with it and headed out of T1. My parents were waiting for me at the edge of T1 and I cried when I saw them. I couldn't believe it was happening. I was getting on my bike to enjoy 56 miles of bliss! I choked back the tears and concentrated on not going out too fast. I settled in to a comfortable pace, letting people pass me.

The bike went by wonderfully. I knew where all the cracks were thanks to an excellent course preview from my friend Mark C. I knew where the hills were as well. The first 12 miles of the course were hilly but I knew I had those in the bag -- I had rode that course almost weekly all summer. When I got to the halfway point of the bike I felt a huge wave of peace flow over me. It was then that I decided to try to push. I had a bit of gastric distress when I pushed and so I settled back in a little bit. I stuck with my 40 minute fueling and drinking rule - alternating between sports drink and water as often as I could muster. I ate 1/2 of my PBJ and had several goos. I chugged Gatorade at several of the hand off spots, which on second thought may have contributed to my distress. I was thankfully able to push through it all. I even had the energy to take in the rolling farmland and the beautiful rolling green hills. I never once thought "when is this going to be over?" I just stayed in the moment and took in this incredible experience. I had Rhianna's Rihanna - Disturbia stuck in my head most of the ride, which was slightly annoying. I wish I would have had something awesome stuck in my head like Queen-We Will Rock You but I didn't.

I deliberately held back on the bike. I watched my bike computer closely to make sure I never exceeded 18 mph. I know my abilities on the bike. I know I could do 18.5-19 on many of those stretches but I played it safe and stayed at 17 mph a lot of the time. Later, during the run, I was very glad that I did this.

The last 15 miles of the bike were a challenge for me. We got back onto this long, slightly uphill grade that led back to the lake. It was at that point that I began chanting in my head. I started with going through everyone that I knew who wanted me to push. In my head I said "Moe wants you to push, Mom wants you to push, Jen wants you to push, Jodi wants you to push, Joe wants you to push, Steph wants you to push, Daddy wants you to push" and I distracted myself from the pain a bit at that point. After I went through that list several times, I suddenly began chanting "Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare." Every time I went through a bit of the chant I felt a surge of energy pulse through me. Those last 10-15 gradual uphill miles on MLK/969 started to fly by. It was really pretty powerful. I began passing people again. I found out after the tri that the mantra I was chanting is actually designed to help those that chant it achieve goals. I'm thrilled that it came to me. According to Agni Purana, "[w]hoever chants this mantra, even neglectfully, will attain the supreme goal of life. Of this there is no doubt."


I was a bit disoriented going into T2. I wracked my bike, pulled off my bike shorts (wow that felt good!) and grabbed a few goos. I slapped my Jack and Adam's visor on and felt ready to run. I began to sprint out of transition but I didn't know which way to go! I got turned around. Luckily, I heard my friend Oscar cheering me on and I followed his voice to the transition exit. As usual, the first thing going through my mind at this point in this tri was "this is your time, baby, DO IT!" The run is my baby. And I really rocked this run. I was so ready to go. I ran that first loop incredibly fast, but I didn't really slow down much on the last two loops. I took a goo on every loop, and I took Endurolytes. I wish I would have taken them earlier. I took heart in the fact that I was passing a lot of guys. That is usual for me. It's what I do on the run. As I said before, the run is my baby. I passed Padre and got cheered on by the awesome T3 run coach Logan. I saw Jess, I saw Joe and Liz coming in on the bike as I was going on my 2nd loop. I started to really feel the hills and the hard pavement on the 2nd loop. I noticed myself going to the negative several times on those hills, but whenever I did I counteracted that negativity with overwhelming positivity. I started talking to myself, out loud. I don't care if the guys I was passing thought I was crazy. We're all crazy! I started telling myself how good I felt, how I could go on for hours. Fortunately for me, I didn't have to. I ran one of my fastest 1/2 marathons to date. I think I was only 7 minutes away from my 1/2 marathon PR at the end of it. On every loop, I really fed off the energy near the finish, where my parents were staged. My dad ran alongside me and took video. My mom screamed her head off and every time I heard her scream I felt myself going faster. I really think it was my cheer squad that kept me consistent on pacing. My legs felt like they were really moving. I didn't know or ever check my pace but I knew I jsut wanted to have fun and feel good. That was the goal.

The pain that I felt on the last loop of the run was immense. I fed off of seeing friends like Liz, Joe, Jen and Becky. With both Jen and Becky I grabbed their hands as I passed them and asked them to run with me. It was great to see them out there. I kept chanting "one more baby" and "you do 10 milers every weekend, what's the difference with this one?" and stuff like that. I kept pushing, I knew I could keep going, I knew I could hold the pace, and I did. I didn't let myself slow down on the hills. I approached the expo center where I knew the finish line was. I cranked my speed up a notch, and instantly felt my left leg cramp. I kept running fast, I didn't let it stop me. I had about 200 m to go. As I was entering the finishing chute, I saw 1 girl and 2 guys in front of me. I heard someone in the crowd yell "that's right Beef, chick that guy, CHICK HIM!!" and I did. Tears streamed down my face as I crossed the finish line. I had just did it!

I heaved through the sobs, got my medal and water. A volunteer came up to me to see if I was alright. I think I said something like "I'm just emotional!" I was so happy. I could barely walk, but I was so happy. I felt good.

I saw my parents coming down the stairs to find me. Tears were in my eyes, I hugged them and I said something goofy like "I did it, Daddy."

I looked down at my watch. It read 5 hours 40-something minutes. I balked at my time. I never though I could do it! I hit my goal!

After finding a coke to drink in the med area and icing my cramped leg, I emerged back toward the finishing chute to find Rand and Jen. Jen and I hugged the second we saw each other and basked in our achievement. Tears started streaming down my face and I don't remember what we said but I'll remember that intensely strong feeling of accomplishment that I shared with Jen in that moment. I'll remember that feeling it forever and let it feed me through the training for the full Ironman. I think more than once we exclaimed "we're half Ironmans!!!" and laughed because that sounded funny. Honestly, that hug from Jennifer alone made the whole 70.3 journey worthwhile and it was probably one of my favorite moments in the entire triathlon.

Seeing Becky, Liz and Joe subsequently cross the finish line was icing on the cake. Hugging them at the finish line also felt amazing. This was the best damn things I've ever done.

I already want to do another one.

(Pictures to come!)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Belated Race Report - From September 20, 2009

Just last month, I did the Burnet TRI Hard Challenge at Inks Lake in Burnet, TX. Last year, I had a blast at this triathlon camping the night before with a few of my favorite racing buddies. This year, we were unable to secure a camping spot and thus had to stay at a local bed and breakfast. The B&B was nice, albiet a bit creepy as we were the only ones staying there. The restuarants in Burnet were empty and much of the historic downtown was deserted and blighted. It was quite sad. To make matters worse, after the tri as we were leaving the B&B, the B&B owner's female bulldog attacked and bit our mini schnauzer several times, drawing blood in a few places. He recovered and I took care of his cuts in the following weeks, but needless to say it was a pretty traumatic trip. Hence, this update is quite late.

I planned to train through this race, and so I did a long run on Saturday morning with my favorite running buddies. The run was tough for me, I felt very tired until about 5 miles in. This 5 mile-feel-better rule happens to me sporadically when I've been training hard. I usually take rest and I feel better on the next long one when this happens. I had the tri on Sunday, though, so rest really wasn't an option. We got to Burnet, took a visit to Inks Lake to pick up our packets and check out the water. The water was like glass, and it was nice and cool. Inks Lake, in my opinion, is one of the best lakes to stage a triathlon swim. It remains to be one of my favorite lakes in which to compete. The out and back course is easy to navigate because the water is fairly flat and the temperature is cool but not too cold. If only Decker Lake would be so cool and easy to navigate.

Anyway, so we get in to the B&B and then proceed to try to find a relatively healthy place to eat in Burnet, TX. The small town offered Tex-Mex, a southern buffet, and Tex-Mex. We went for the southern buffet, as we figured it would be better for finding carbs and easier on the tummy. That restuarant was an experience all its own, and for the first time in my life I found myself being a tad bit picky. Usually I eat everything, but I took it easy at this buffet. My stomach thanked me for it later.

Sleep was hard to come by the night before the tri, and I woke up before the alarm. I was plauged with premonition-type dreams of flat tires and bike maintence issues. That morning, we warmed up oatmeal in the B&B's kitchen and ate quickly. Then we drove off toward Inks Lake. I did not carefully inspect my bike before loading it, and I realized that my back tire was flat. I'm no stranger to flats, and so I attempted to change it, only to find that my brakes were rubbing. I solicted help from a fellow triathlete and went on my way prepping transition. Somehow, I knew that my bike issues would not be few on that day. I turned out to be right.

The swim went smooth. Smooth as glass. I loved and enjoyed every second. I came up to transition, took some water and got on my bike. Not 5 miles into the bike course, I hear a disheartening "PSSSSSSSSH" of my bake tire deflating. I stop and begin to change it. I blew through my first CO2 cartridge and was working on the second. I began to have thoughts of stopping. I figured my bike split was shot. Then Liz bikes up and offers moral support and help. I get rolling and somehow I find it in me to try to pass everyone that passed me while I was messing with my back tire for 15 minutes. It was a fun game I played and I really felt like I pushed the rest of the bike harder than I ever had in a tri as a result of that flat. My time, of course, does not reflect that, but I know it and that is what matters. I keep focusing on the mantra "You are an athlete that doesn't give up" and it worked well. I was very excited for the run, although my legs were more tired than they normally are going into it. I sped through like only a fast girl can and was only passed once. The guy that passed me was doing more training, he had already finished. I hung with him for a while, and we chatted. He said I was "baking it on the run" and I told him about the tire issue and how I channeled Chrissie Wellington. He said nice job and then dropped me. I ran behind him, keeping him in sight for the second half of the 5K and ended up with a great run split.

Overall the tri was a success because I went from wanting to quit to finding strength in myself and my athlecticism. I ended up still placing 2nd in my age group, though we did not wait around for awards because I figured I was out of the running. The post-race baked potato was the BOMB and I thank the wonderful folks at the Burnet Chamber of Commerce for putting on yet another small, local, extremely fun race.

Current book I'm reading: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Labels: , , , ,

I am a marathoner. That means I have a tummy that could sieze a spider.