Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ironman Boulder - the run

I had made it through the bike (not very cheerily) and it was now time to run.  I stuck with the same tri top and tri shorts (my favourite tri shorts from Coeur Sports), but I decided to add on a blue Sparkle Athletics skirt to my race ensemble for fun.

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That might have been one of my best decisions of the day!  As soon as I get out on the course I hear the fellow behind me say, “nice skirt!”  It was my teammate Phil who was now on his second lap of the run.  Phil and I chatted and ran together a tiny bit, but then I let him pull ahead so I could start out at my own pace.

I had my Garmin set to beep for 5:1 intervals.  I was hoping that this would give me a walk break about half way between aid stations and another walk break just in time for the aid stations.  I started grabbing Coke and water at each aid station.

A couple of miles in I came upon my cheer squad!


My mom and dad, Neil, and my friends Kelly’s and Shannon’s husbands.


My first thought when I saw them was I had no idea what my time was in the race.  I hadn’t looked to see what time I had gotten in the water at and my Garmin had been set to auto pause on the bike.  I didn’t know how much time I had lost to stopping and I wasn’t sure if the total time on my watch included those stops or not.  Luckily Neil had my tracking information handy so he was able to tell me my bike split but I still wasn’t sure what the total time on my watch meant.


Oh well, I had to keep moving!

I was having a very difficult time catching my breath while I was running.  I was really surprised as I hadn’t expected the altitude to affect me that much.  After all, Calgary is fairly high up too.  I soon left the shady part of the course by the creek and was out in the open a bit more and it was still a pretty hot day.  I had mentioned the number of people I saw lying in the ditch on the bike…it was pretty bad on the run too.  Lots of people being ill on the side of the path.  One person laying down on a big rock and having a nap.  Golf carts giving people a ride to the finish line because their day was over.  

I had to make a quick stop at a porta-potty at mile 6 and there was a girl standing outside.  She told me to watch my step because she had just been sick on the ground right in front of the toilet.  I tried to get in and out as quickly as possible but the heat in there and the sick outside was making me feel dizzy.  From there I started to feel awful.  I was still having a hard time catching my breath, I was feeling dizzy and my stomach was starting to feel like it was going to be sick.  I started walking.

At the next aid station I tried grabbing Coke and water again but it was not sitting well and I had to throw it out.  This was going to be a long race if I was going to have issues keeping nutrition down.

I saw my family around mile 9.  I managed a smile for my dad...


…but as soon as I got to Neil I broke down crying which very swiftly turned to hyperventilating.  Neil told me to keep walking and he walked a few steps with me.  I told him about the shortness of breath, the dizziness, the unhappy tummy and that I was really worried that I would have to pull out of the race.  He told me I had plenty of time to finish even if I walked.  I still had no idea what my time was in the race so I didn’t truly believe him on that, and I knew that it would be a really long night if I kept walking from here on out.

Just as Neil was trying to give me a pep talk Kelly saw me for the first time!  That poor girl…she is always so excited to see me on the run course at Ironman and I’m always having a melt down when I see her!  The same thing happened in 2012.  Both Neil and Kelly told me to get on my way so I kept on walking.

I told myself that I needed to fix this problem.  I needed to find something at the next aid station that I could stomach so I could keep fuelling.  I was initially thinking pretzels but as soon as I saw grapes I grabbed those.  They were like little bursts of heaven in my mouth.  Those, plus some more water and Coke and my stomach was feeling okay.

My number one goal for the run at Boulder was to not walk the marathon so I knew I needed to try running again.  I figured it didn’t matter how much, but any amount of running would help me get to the finish line faster than if I was just walking.  I switched up my Garmin to beep 1:1 intervals…1 minute of walking, 1 minute of running.  Okay, I could do this.  I spotted my friend Shannon running towards me.  The last time I had seen her she was in a similar boat..unhappy tummy, not feeling well and she was going to start walking.  Seeing Shannon running was my motivation that if she could turn it around so could I.

I heard someone yell my name and it was my Oiselle teammate Bret!  She ran up beside me and told me that I was looking great!  I told her I wasn’t feeling so hot, but she kept telling me that I looked awesome.  Seeing her was a huge boost!  I mean…if I looked awesome maybe I should be awesome too?

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I thanked her for the cheers and kept going.  The 1:1s were doing the trick.  My stomach was settling down and I wasn’t feeling so dizzy and lightheaded anymore.  I passed by special needs.  I had stashed some chips, a way too big shirt from Great White North from last year and my headlamp.  I grabbed my headlamp but left the rest behind.  I wasn’t too worried about it cooling off too much later in the evening.

I hit the halfway point at 3:09:53.

My teammate Evan caught up with me on a walk break just before he made his turn off to the finish.  We ran together for a little bit before his turn.  This was his first Ironman so I told him to enjoy the moment running to the finish line…one of the best feelings in the world!  One of my favourite things about the run course at Boulder was that I was able to see all of my teammates except for Angie and I was able to run with Phil, Chris and Evan for a short bit.  I loved having those moments out on the race course with them!

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The sun was starting to set now and that made a huge difference in how I was feeling.  I decided to change my intervals up to 2 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking.  Anything to keep me moving forward a little bit faster!  I didn’t really notice it to begin with, but the majority of people around me were all walking now.  Just as I approached a turn around at mile 16 I passed a lady.  She commented that I’d been passing her all day and that I needed to keep it up, stay in front of her and start picking off the people in front of me.  From there to the finish I passed a lot of folks but I think maybe only three people passed me?  I couldn’t believe that I was still running while everyone around me was walking.  I heard from people after the race about how they saw more people walking and from really early on than they had noticed in other races.  I think it is a testament to how tough of a day it was out there for many people.

I kept up with my 2:1 intervals and just kept moving.  I also kept grabbing Coke and ice water at every aid station, plus grapes here and there.  Once the chicken broth came out I alternated between that and Coke.  Once it got dark out and they started to hand out the glowing necklaces I put my headlamp on.  It got really dark out on the pathway so I was glad I had thought of putting my headlamp in special needs!  I was also feeling a lot of love out there on the course for my Sparkle Skirt!  I got a lot of comments from fellow racers and so many cheers from spectators.  It really helped to put a smile on my face!

I kept looking at my watch, trying to think if I would be able to make it in under 16 hours.  I estimated that if I had started at 6:30 and if I kept up the pace I was at I should be able to do it.  Finally I made the turn off course and towards the finish line.  People were cheering, yelling congratulations and that we would soon be an Ironman.  I could hear Mike Reilly announcing people in at the finish line and the emotions were catching up with me.

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The final few meters along the red carpet to the finish line were so sweet.

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I had wanted to make Boulder my best day ever.  I went from thinking I may have to pull out on the run to running a negative split on the marathon.  I had mentioned my first half of the marathon was 3:09:53.  I ran that second half in 2:55:47!  Run all done in 6:05:40.

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And I even managed to make my goal and come in under 16 hours.  15:42:23!!!

I’m proud of my race and that I was able to turn things around on that run course.  It was not an easy day out there and I feel like I really earned that finish line.  Thank you to every single one of my friends, family and team members.  Their little words of encouragement meant so much and helped pull me up when things were getting tough.  And thank you to everyone who was tracking online, tweeted me or has cheered me along on my journey to Boulder.

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And to my best teammates Kelly and Shannon, thank you for all of your love and support on this journey to another Ironman.  I’m so lucky to have you as friends!  (PS Tara…thank you for being such a great training partner and friend…I missed you in Boulder!)


The finish line…the best feeling in the world...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ironman Boulder - the bike

It was out of the water and off to find my swim to bike bag.


In my bag I had my bike shoes, socks, helmet, gloves and sunglasses.  I also had a towel to wipe down my feet and a small tube of sunscreen.  


I figured I should be pretty efficient in transition as I wasn’t planning any costume changes.  We had so far to run to get our bags, go through the change tents, then to grab our bikes and get to the ride out though.


Luckily finding my bike was easy as there weren’t many left in transition.  


I ran my bike out to the line which saved me maybe 15 seconds over walking??

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Time to get on my bike and ride!  I gave Neil and my parents a hello and then headed on my way.


Thanks to the rolling swim start the bike course didn’t feel as crowded as I expected it to, at least until we got to the short out and back on St. Vrain.

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There the crowds coming towards us were quite a bit larger as some folks crossed the yellow line to jockey for position.  As we rode down the hill to the turn around there were all kinds of signs on the road urging us to slow down and exercise caution which took away some of the fun of riding downhill.

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I loved the first half of the bike course.  It was so pretty and I loved the mix of rolly hills.  I was eating and drinking every 15 minutes just like my plan.  I had a small pain in my stomach though that I was hoping was going to go away though.  When I hit special needs at the halfway pointed I decided to get off my bike and see if a stop at the porta-potty would help that small annoying pain go away.

I had some frozen bottles of EFS, a bottle of EFS Liquid Shot and some chips in my special needs bag.  My frozen bottles were actually still somewhat cool, which was nice!  I tried munching on some of the chips but they felt like sawdust in my mouth.  Luckily after the potty stop my stomach was feeling better, but things were about to get rough out there.

One of the fellows at the aid stations told us that it was 90F out there.  I definitely felt like it was cooking out there.  I started to notice a lot of people on the side of the road, lying in the ditch with race staff hovering over them.  My feet started to cramp in my shoes (not unusual on hot days) and my right hamstring started to cramp too.  I kept having to pull over to the side of the road to stretch and to try to get my feet to loosen up.  

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I knew I needed to keep drinking or my day would turn disastrous.  Thank goodness for the aid stations that had ice to cool my warm EFS down and ice cold bottles of water.  That ice cold water was like heaven.  I saw more people laying in the ditch, people complaining of feeling dizzy at the aid stations, people taking naps on lawns with their bikes laying by a tree.

I was entering a dark place.  The false flats seemed endless and the distance was slowly ticking by.  I kept having to stop and get off my bike to deal with the cramps.  I wanted to be done and off my bike so badly.  I tried every trick in the book to turn my attitude around but it wasn’t working.  I was almost happy to see the Three Sisters climb around mile 100 just to be doing something other than riding false flats.  Riding the three climbs felt good, but on the flats between the climbs was the very first time I felt the altitude.  It was getting hard to catch my breath.

As I rode in to town I started to cry when I recognized one of the street names we turned on to.  Thankfully the bike ride was over and I had made it.  I felt pretty darn lucky to make it through the bike but I lost nearly half an hour from having to stop and stretch on the second half of the ride.

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We had a silly long way to go between the dismount line and when we actually handed our bikes off to volunteers.  I stopped to take my shoes off so I could walk in socks instead of clomping along in bike shoes.  I noticed rows of cardboard boxes where special needs bags used to be.  


My brain wasn’t comprehending why they were there but after running on the track for a few seconds I decided to run along the cardboard.  No doubt between that cardboard and my socks I saved my feet from getting burned on the track that day as that black rubber was smoking hot.

Once again, it was one long, long transition...

T2 - 9:24

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ironman Boulder - the swim

I had my alarm set for 3 am or so.  I was up as soon as my alarm went off, then showered and took my time getting ready.  Neil, my parents and I were all out the door before 4 am to head towards Boulder High School.  We had scoped out a parking lot near the race finish at Walnut Street and 11th.  It would only be a couple of blocks to walk from the finish line so it seemed perfect.  I dropped off my special needs bags as we made our way towards the shuttles that would take us from the high school to the Boulder Reservoir.

The shuttles were super well organized.  We were loaded on a bus and on our way in no time.


As soon as the bus started rolling it was time for me to chow down on breakfast.  I had soaked oats overnight in milk along with some dried fruit, cinnamon and coconut.  Even though I wasn’t that hungry I shovelled that oatmeal in my face as I knew I needed to get those calories in me!  Once we got to the reservoir I made a beeline for my friend Molly who was body marking.  After that I started puttering around T1…putting bottles on my bike, checking my swim to bike bag, getting in the porta-potty line time and time again.  I had plenty of time before the race…maybe a bit too much time as I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself!  I did manage to scarf down a banana and a gel in the meantime!

Around 6 or so my friends and I started to congregate and get our wetsuits on.


With a few minutes left to go Kelly and I got in the water to test out our goggles in the designated warm up area.  We had about 5 minutes to paddle around and then it was time to line up for the swim start.  Ironman Boulder was a rolling start swim where we were supposed to self seed.  I tried to go near the back of the 1:15 to 1:30 group.  I gave Kelly and Shannon hugs and wished them a great day.  As we slowly walked towards the water I could feel myself tearing up behind my goggles.  I had thought for so long about this day and it was here.  It was time to push those emotions down and use them for fuel on the swim!


We walked down a boat ramp and into the water.  I started swimming nearly right away.  Because of the rolling start it was not super crowded to begin with.  There was the usual jostling as everyone sorted themselves out.  I really liked the start of the swim.

I hadn’t paid enough attention at the athlete meeting so I wasn’t sure how long each of the legs on the swim were supposed to be.  I knew the buoys were supposed to be every 100 m though and when I started to pay attention that seemed to line up with what I was reading on my Garmin.  I felt great on the swim.  It felt like it was going by really quickly and I was doing a good job of sticking close to the buoys.  There was one point just after the first turn where I got pushed off course a touch by a woman who had lost her goggles.  Oh that would have sucked!  I corrected fairly quickly though.

I did some math when I hit 2000 m on my watch and thought I may be on pace to swim a PR.  However as I swam on I realized we were still really far away from the swim exit.  There wasn’t much I could do about that though so I still kept swimming.  At the end of the day I measured the course at 4.18 km (way off of the 3.8 km official distance).    From reports I’ve been reading a lot of folks measure the swim course long.  While I didn’t swim a PR that day…it was just a few seconds shy of IMC 2010…if the course was really long I had a banner swim that day.  Plenty to be happy about!

Swim - 1:34:27

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Ironman Boulder - Pre-Race


I woke up before the sun was up on Thursday morning so I could squeeze in an open water swim with the Boulder Aquatic Masters at the Boulder Reservoir.

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It was $15 to swim (versus $20 for the scheduled swims through Ironman), there were swim buoys set up and plenty of support on the water.  It was worth the early morning because I was able to meet up with long time internet friends Molly and Tea at the swim!

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I wiggled in to my wetsuit and swam through the short 650 m course.  The water was a lovely temperature, my wetsuit felt comfy and I didn’t notice an effect from the altitude on my breathing.  I headed home to shower and change, then made my way to Ironman Village in time for athlete check in.

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The line up wasn’t very long at 9 am on Thursday (which was right when check in opened).  The pick up process was a bit confusing to start with though.  We had to get our bib number...

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…our waiver...

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…then sign our waiver, drop it off, then get in line to get our swim caps and packets.


People initially weren’t sure where to line up so it was a bit of a shmozzle but eventually I got all of my stuff!


We got backpacks and a bike tool as part of our registration pack.  I also really appreciated that our shirt size that we registered for was on our bib.  Hopefully this would mean that I would get a shirt that actually fit me this time!

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After exploring the expo and doing a bit of shopping I drove the bike course with Molly’s aunt.  I was excited by the bike course as it was quite pretty and I didn’t spot any massive climbs like in Penticton.  I thought the course would suit my strengths really well.


I got together with my Team Tri Life friends and we rode the bike course.  Our rental house was right on the run course which was perfect!  I also loved how beautiful the run course was.  Plenty of opportunity for shade and I knew the course would be spectator friendly.

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We also popped by the mandatory athlete meeting after our ride.  The meeting pretty well reiterated everything I had read in the athlete guide, but I did get the information that we’d be able to park our car in a city parkade on Sunday for no charge.  That was nice to know!



It was bag and bike drop off day!  Holy smokes, was it really Ironman day tomorrow??  I took my time getting my stuff together on Saturday morning, then headed to bike drop off just around lunch time.



We had security photos taken of our bike before entering T1.  I then spent a good amount of time scoping out  the ins and outs of transition and looking at where my bike was on the racks.


Transition was huge!


After leaving my swim to bike bag in its proper spot I ran into a few of my Team Tri Life friends and my coach Angie.


Impressive guns on my friends!  It was great to get a few last minute words of encouragement from everyone!  Then off to T2 to drop off my bike to run bag.


T1 and T2 were in different places, making for an extra place to go for bag drop off.  I wasn’t too stressed about the two different transitions though since Great White North is similar.

I didn’t really take note of it at the time but that black track would wreak havoc on many Ironman Boulder participants the next day…  It was then time to head back to the house and put my feet up.  We watched Naked Gun, which was the perfect silly and cheesy movie to take my mind off the big day.  I chowed down on cedar planked salmon and grilled veggies for dinner that my family had cooked up.  This is what I’ve been eating before the majority of my long workouts instead of the usual pasta and sauce from before, so I figured I should stick with what works.

I tried to go to bed early but my mind was racing.  It took forever to fall asleep and when I did sleep it was fitfully.  Tomorrow I would be racing my third Ironman...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ironman Boulder - the short story

Well my friends, Ironman #3 is officially in the books.  It was a tough day out there with heat and elevation playing a factor in my day.  I felt lucky to finish the bike and the run got tough for me pretty early on.  They say that Ironman is a day of problem solving and luckily I managed to sort my problems out…going from thinking I may have to pull out of the race, to running a negative split on the marathon.

I finally broke the 16 hour mark and finished in 15:42:23…a nice 25 minute or so PR over 140.6 miles.

I have the best husband and parents who cheered me on and supported me through this whole crazy Ironman journey.


I also have the best friends and training partners a girl could ask for!


Congratulations to all Ironman Boulder racers!