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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

IRONMAN UK- RACE REPORT




Wake up: 3:55 AM. Walked downstairs, chip on my left ankle, ready to go make me my oatmeal in the microwave I had set out the night before. I also downed some coffee- made it extra strong. We have been having Maxwell House Instant Coffee Crystals everyday since I have been here and been becoming very accustomed  Franchesca elected to get up and take me to the castle for the race, so she got up at 4:30 and we were off to the race by 4:45.

The weather looked dry- at least so far. Of course it was cool, but it was still dark so it was difficult to see if there were any clouds in the sky. I walked into the transition area and first got body marked. I had a “B” on my leg- which signified my age group- 25-29. Then, I walked through to my bike and double checked the tire pressure, my brakes, and made some quick jokes with the guys next to me. I always love cracking jokes race morning as everyone has deer-in-headlights looks and (more or less) want to be left alone- until I start making jokes, then people start laughing and smiling…

I threw on my wetsuit next to a girl who kind of looked like me- blonde hair, blue eyes. Just sitting by the side watching me and everyone around her. Her name was Lindsay and she was from California- 24 years old. This was her first full Ironman- so I was excited to talk to her and help calm her down- even though she didn’t need it. She was really collected and cool. We actually started talking about lots of other things besides the race, which was perfect. As it got closer to start time (6am), we started walking toward the entrance to the water. However, we were delayed. Some people had parked on the run course and they needed to move their cars before we could start the race. So, needless to say, we were all standing there in nervous anticipation (I had already peed 4xs in my wetsuit by that point) and were waiting for the escort- then, by 6:20, they allowed us to go down to the water. We actually had to get in the water (really really cold), swim out 200 Meters to the start buoys, then wait for the whistle.

I swam out with Lindsay and then we got to the buoy. We were waiting literally in a sea of light blue capped heads…bobbing up and down. I asked the guy next to me, “hey, want to make out?” just as a joke of course- but, he said, “yes”, so I wasn’t sure what to do. It was pretty funny actually because he didn’t hesitate- and I don’t think he spoke very good English (like 50% of the participants there). It was pretty crazy how many countries were represented- but, to find Lindsay in transition was really remarkable. Not that many people there at the race were from the US. Met a few Canadians….but, lots of people from Europe. It was actually really cool to be so involved in this event- regardless of the race.

I was feeling great. Ready to go. Better than I did at Santa Barbara 2 weeks ago. They started the swim- and off we went. The swim involved 2 laps- out and back around a far end buoy. The buoys actually made a funny wide-L shape and if you were smart, you swam in a straight line- to the end buoy and back. But, so many people were all over the place…I felt sorry for them. So, I wasn’t following them, that was for sure. I had some good wacks in the head and ended up on the feet of this guy who was absolutely a horrendous swimmer form-wise, but had a fantastic kick that I embraced as he pulled me along for at least 70% of the swim. At the turn of the 2nd buoy, I knew he wasn’t going to go the right way, as you had to vere off to the left a bit away from the previous turn buoy, so I took it upon myself to get off his feet and head left and swim right in. Only 2 other people figured this out, and then, with about 700 Meters left of so, the guy found me again and swam right next to me. I slowed a bit, and let the spaz pull me in. It worked out great. I am thanking him for the great pull, but I am sure he is happy that I directed traffic in to the left rather than right. I came out of the water, and forgot about the cold (for then) and looked at my watch. 59 minutes, and 20 secs… Wow, I thought, either short swim or just a really good swim for me. I was pretty excited- always good to get off to a good start.

I ran into transition to get ready for the bike. By now, still no sun. Still about 50 degrees or so. But, the weather said, “light showers, warmer” today, so I wasn’t about to be hassled by a jacket on the bike. I thought I would be ok with my Lucky Charms Jersey and comfy bike shorts. I put my lube on, remembered my socks before I stuck my shoes on, grabbed some extra nutrition, and ran to my bike. I just prayed today- I just want a safe bike. No rain, safe roads. I was excited. Still feeling good. A bit cold, but good. I would eventually warm up….wouldn’t I? 

The bike course was 3 laps. So, I would get a good look on the first lap and see how I was to pace myself. Of course, my plan is always to negative split everything. Every lap, last one faster than the first. But, go easy on the first lap. That is what I told myself. And, glad I did. Each lap was about 38 miles or so. The extra miles made up in the ride out of town and then in after the 3rd lap. The ride took you out into the country. Not just “rolling” hills, but some pretty long climbs, with a few steep out-of-the-saddle climbs. I was pretty smart in getting up once in a while to stretch it out, which really helped my legs and my left glute/piriformis which is always a pain in the ass- literally. So, the first lap felt really good. I only got passed by 1 other B at this point, and unsure about how many other Bs got out the water before me. This didn’t concern me really- but this chick went by me pretty good- I thought, damn, can she keep this up. I started my 2nd lap and was still cold. The sky- still gray. And the wind, still howling. The 2nd part of each lap was a mo-fo. That is, it was terrible. I honestly thought I wanted to quit. C’mon, I really don’t need to do this---- I have Kona in a month, right? No way. I changed my attitude to one of “I am going to conquer” this sonufabiatch. Rachel and I have done some rides when preparing for Oceanside in some FANTASTIC weather just like this, so I just sucked it up. Plus, passing all these guys on the course was actually a very empowering experience. By mile 66, I was warming up a bit. The drizzle was on and off, but at least I was warming.

Not too many bike problems on the course. Over 112 miles, I only had 2 misfortunes. Chain fell off one on a hill, but was my fault. And, then because I have such funky rear brakes, I had jammed one to the side after the chain fell off and so I had to manually adjust it back b/c it was now making my left tire not move. That only took me 3 mins to figure out. Then, I had a problem downshifting in time for this little steep climb that practically bucked me off of my bike because of my delay, so had to do some fancy “off and then on the bike” on the hill moves, and luckily didn’t fall off having clipped in successfully. All of this before mile 80 or so. My nutrition was going well at this point. My tummy felt great and I had great energy. Probably from the chicken meal the night before with fresh veggies and fresh fruit. Erica had cut up every kind of fruit you could imagine and put them in a salad for me. So awesome.

Met some interesting people on the bike. Met a South African guy who, like me, was just as cold. He was a white guy, with this awesome South African accent. I just slowed up for a little while just to let him talk to me. I thought he was going to stay with me for the last 10 miles, but he couldn’t. He was pretty much done at this point. I said, we still have 26 miles to run! He said he wasn’t looking forward to it. He didn’t like running. Oops…

Well, I finally finished the bike and rode into T2. I AM SO THANKFUL TO HAVE FINISHED THAT BIKE. LITERALLY THE HARDEST THING I HAVE YET TO COMPLETE IN A RACE. SWIM/BIKE/ANDOR RUN. THE HARDEST CONDITIONS AND ON THAT COURSE- 3 TIMES. CRAZY!

T2. Got in, they took my bike, and at first, didn’t feel my legs. Was out of sorts…definitely in my zone. Got changed fast (well, not fast), but got my new socks on, my shoes, changed my shorts. Took a long sleeve capilene with me- tied it around my waist. Took my sunglasses (WHY? I AM NOT SURE) and then my cap. I was freezing, but knew I would warm up on the run. Didn’t know what to expect except 3 laps again. I wanted to do each lap in about 1 hour, 20 mins. That would put me at 4 hours or so for the marathon. I heard it was hilly, so I figured I could do it. And, half of each lap was going to be ‘off-road”, which was perfect for your legs.

I got going and at the aid stations, they had Pepsi, bananas, water, Gatorade, pretzels, bars, and Gels. I was already in good time. I had done the bike in 6:30- which was slower than I would have wanted to do 112 miles in perfect conditions, but the fact was- that was hard/tough/IM conditions, so I was going to settle with the time as it was right now. I actually came out of T2 at about 7:40 or so…so, I was hoping for a race under 12 hours for sure. 11:30 if I was really lucky and flew on the run. But, miles 1-3 of the run, I was wishing I had stopped again…Man, the first 1-2 miles was out into the country, up a hill or two for the first mile, and then, up a gradual uphill, which you didn’t know was an uphill until the guys running down besides you were saying, don’t worry, this is an uphill…I was still wearing my Lucky Charms jersey because it is funny and appeals to the crowd, so to be a bit selfish- they all cheer for me and say, Go Lucky Charms- whether or not they know me at all. The Irish seemed to really really really like me. .In fact, I had many fans by the end of the race because they remembered me and my bright red Lucky Charms Jersey.

Whenever I wanted to stop because it was getting tough, I thought of a few things. I mostly thought about Barbara Warren who died at the Santa Barbara Triathlon on the bike course in a crash. I thought, she would give anything right now to be alive and doing this- crappy weather/conditions/pain, whatever. I was lucky to be alive and doing this. So, I thought of her. And, then I would think of Taylor, my sister. She has been having some bad knee pain lately and is in her 3rd year of college basketball at University of Oregon. I have never seen anyone work as hard as she does, and selflessly. She really works so hard and never shows weakness. And, I also thought of Monty. Why? Because he would never have complained about this weather. He would do anything right now to be racing and I can’t have a negative thought like I would not want to be racing right now..he would kill me. And, then he would remind me that he can’t race. And, then I would feel bad. So, this one was for you too, Snake. Oh yeah, and of course, I thought of Rachel and the rides we did together out to Canyon Country in head winds that we would just be cursing. Unreal weather sometimes. And, we managed to get through those days.

So, by mile 4 of the run, I started getting into a groove. I was afraid I was running too fast for the current time, but was starting to see that the 2nd part of the lap was around the town and there were people at least cheering for you. That was really nice to see. That is where I saw my Irish friends.

Some of things people would shout out:
“Hey, Lucky Charms!”
“You look good Lucky Charms!”
“Good Going Lucky Charms!!”
“Somebody’s Always After Me Lucky Charms!!”
“I want to see your Lucky Charms!”
“Why are you wearing that shirt around your waist- take it off so I can see your best part, Lucky Charms!”
“What are you doing after the race, Lucky Charms?”

That was all very motivating, you see. So, why anyone would want an Ipod on a run course is beyond me. As I watching the other runners, I was making up stories in my head about what they must have been feeling/thinking at that point in time. Some people looked like they were good. Most looked like they were never going to do this again. And, some looked just happy to be there. I saw several people out there smiling as they were running and you knew it was their first one. The lead woman, Bella Comerford, ran in about 10 hours- just under 10, actually. Which meant it was a bit of a slow course. I also heard that the lead man was over 9 hours, also validating that fact. I got to mile 13 and my legs were feeling it now. Just a bit tight in the quads. But, feet good, and tummy good. So, my routine of Pepsi/Gatorade/ and then maybe a half of a banana now and then was working perfectly.

I knew that my next mental “goal” was mile 20. That was after that first hill of the last lap. Didn’t particularly like that part of the course. I ran up that hill for the last time, visited the cute old Rotary Club men at the aid station at the top (mile 19 or so) and was happy to be moving my way down. I was in fact ahead of a lot of guys that had passed me on the bike. Not sure that they were happy they went that fast on the bike now.

I had only 1 girl pass me on the run that was a B. One other girl on the bike had passed me that was a B. So, let’s just say that if I was 1st out of the water in my AG, I would be 4th right now. No girls behind me that I could see in my AG, so I think I was safe. No girls to chase…just a few behind me on their 2nd lap (me on my 3rd) that I was pretending were so that I had something to race against. Actually, I was racing against a few of the guys on the course that I didn’t want to overtake me. A thing about this race- 1650 total entrants- and 150 or so were women. The rest men. That just shows how dominant IM still is with the male population. So, not many women to see on the course. Lots of guys walking to the side to pee and do other stuff- right in the middle of the course- in plain sight. They didn’t care that we (women or other men) saw them..but, I must have seen close to 20 or 30 men during the day with their pants to the side, so-to-speak. Oh, and 1 female pro squatting in the bushes.

So, I ran up one last time to about the mile 23 turn around and I see Julie and Sean! They had made their way to Sherbourne just to catch me race, and sure enough- had walked right out of a pub and saw me at that very moment- at the turnaround. It was fate, really, I was hoping they would be at the finish. So great to see them to give me that extra push I needed. mile 24 was there. I saw the sign, and of course, started to dig in. Wanted to run my last 2 miles at 6 min-mile-pace, so I really kicked it into high gear. Yeah, right. Anyway, kicked it in, which meant maybe 8:30s for the last mile or two. I had a gentleman behind me that I had been running with (him right behind me) for the last mile or so. He must have been a D or so for the males. And, as I was running into the finish, the crowd was so loud and they all had those balloon bangy-thingies you see at baseball games. They were all banging them together and kids had whistles and I looked up- 11 hours, 45 mins, and 30 seconds. I had received my medal and was overtaken with emotion. Because that was really hard. That was all I kept saying, “That was REALLY hard!”. The gentleman that was right behind me and finished stopped me and wanted to say, in his attractive British accent, that I was marvelous and helped him to finish. He was right on my heels and trying to keep up. In fact, he said I was extraordinary.” Wasn’t sure exactly what I did, but he was grateful for it, so it made me feel good.

I saw Julie and Sean at the finish and had Julie come in and take my IM photo with me. Sean got one too. I was looking for Franchesca and Erica, but didn’t see them yet. I grabbed my clothes, did a quick change in the tent they have set up for IM finishers, and grabbed some food (curry and some Beer). The beer was marvelous, but honestly- didn’t feel like eating anything just yet. I ran into Paul (my Czech friend) at the finish and his dad was also there. He had taken lots of photos, so couldn’t wait to see them. I invited them over for a beer at the house later, and once I saw Chesca, she was fine with that. So, Julie, Sean and I went to dinner in Sherbourne and then dropped me off by 9 or so at home. Paul and his dad, and then Paul’s friend from Sweden, came by and we all had some beers and sparkling wine to celebrate. Paul had raced a 10:20 race, which was awesome. He finished 3rd in his AG (40-44 yrs) and his Swedish friend, same AG, finished in 10:55 or so. I figured I finished 4th, and I did. I ended up 4th and then 18th overall Female (pros included). What I thought was cool was that I was 1st out of the swim in my AG and 3rd on the bike. Only passed 1 time on the run. Not sure what 5th place raced, but nonetheless- had a great race and feel pretty good today (the day after). I am not going to lie- I am very very sore. Mostly in my quads. My feet feel good. My neck a bit sore, but because we were in the aeros by spent some time out of the saddle, it worked out to be pretty good on the body to stretch and stuff. Overall, very happy with the result and I am looking forward to Kona!!! Getting back the heat will be fantastic! We shall see…

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ironman UK...Sherborne Days 2 & 3





(The pics above are the aerial view of the storm set to hit Sherborne the morning of the race...get your rain/wind/cold jackets on!)

Woke up yesterday morning and, after a long sleep in, WOKE UP TO WIND AND RAIN, and had a great breakfast again. Every morning, I have had cereal with milk straight from their farm, 2 cups of coffee, and some toast. Then, I have usually gone back and had a little nap again, especially since it has been raining here so much over the last 2 days. I knew that I had to register today (Thursday), so I drove over with Francesca to the Castle (where the tri headquarters are) to get all of my stuff, in addition to looking to see where the bike course was going to start. I wanted to ride a bit of it- but not too much. Just to get a feel for the roads, etc…, that is all I wanted.

Erica, Francesca’s mom, was going to meet me to drive me around the 40 mile or so, inside loop of the route. So, I first hopped on my bike and went about 5 miles in, then 5 miles back. There is a long, gradual climb for the first 2 miles right at the start, which is like the climb out of Wildflower triathlon, but 2 times as long and as gradual- maybe not as steep. Which is fine..but, that is what the entire course is like out here. Erica picked me up 1 hour or so later (raining again) and we were on our way to travel around the loop. There are some pretty good climbs on this course, but with pretty fast descents, which should cancel them out. So, if I ride this course with some decent strategy, I can make it a fast course without putting my legs in too much jeopardy for the run (which is also very rolling). I would say that the bike course is similar to that of Wisconsin’s course, yet there is nothing here I haven’t yet experienced back home in CA riding. I am looking forward to a fun ride- but, could deal without the rain or wind. The roads here are slightly rough- that vibrating rough if you know what I mean. So, tush could be definitely sore after 5-6 hours on this stuff. I believe the bike measures out to be somewhere 113 miles or so…

As Erica and I drove around the bike course, we stopped in Cerne Abbas, which is the home of Giant’s Hill- a huge Herculean type figure carved out into the side of a hill, with his manhood laid out in great detail- very “large” detail. Giant’s Hill is said to be a good place to go when wishing for healthy fertility- to go sit on, touch, or even just have a glance at Giant’s “Giant” can make one lucky to have an abundance of children. I stayed away...  Then, Erica and I had some tea at a tearoom in Cerne Abbas and had a look at the town- some buildings of which are definitely more than Centuries old.

Last night, Erica and her husband Ron took me to a pub for 2 ½ pints of some English beer. I reckon the beers here are pretty good- and not as strong as I thought they would be. Or, perhaps since I have had a beer or two every night since I have been here with the family, I could be getting used to it. Don’t worry- still have the race in mind, so I have been well behaved. Health wise, I feel strong and good. I have noticed a bit of a sore throat here and there, but think it is because of the damp, cold weather and just acclimatizing still. I have been sleeping very well, as it has been cool, and I also have been eating quite well. Erica is an amazing cook- so, needless to say, I have had my share of some type of meat, veggies, and bread at every night’s meal- in addition to some treat.

We had 2 surprise visitors last night in Paul and his dad, from the Czech Republic, who had to stay with us for the night because Paul’s home stay could not be reached when they came in from their 16 hour drive. Yes- 16 hours to drive here for this Ironman from the Czech Republic. Paul (not his Czech pronunciation by the way) spoke O.K. English, and his dad, none. Paul (not his dad) was doing the race. Both of them had dinner with us last night and shared with us some Czech beer and some really really really strong fire water, as Ron called it. Fire water- 50% alcohol, to be used as an after-dinner drink. (My hosts here think I am a very “fun” triathlete because I have the occasional drink- as many who have stayed here before don’t drink at all- at all. So, me having just 1 beer is seen as being very laid-back and fun- a sip of the fire water was all I could do, however). Oh, did I mention that Erica made homemade Apple Pie last night? Well, she did. It was just “alright.”  Went to bed fairly early after speaking with a new friend of mine in London (hi Rob), which helped set my mind at ease and sweet dreams…did not have any dreams about the race (i.e. getting a flat tire, being late for the swim, etc…, so that was good).

This morning (Friday) I woke up and it had stormed all night long. Can you believe there are triathletes staying outdoors- on a farm, in a tent, during this race? I think that is crazy. But, there are. They wanted to save about $40/night doing it, and perhaps that works for them, but the weather here has been no where near what you would want it to be for decent camping, it is not worth the savings in $. Plus, you can’t put a $ value on the feeling you get when staying with the Denings. They really have made me feel right at home. They will have a hard time kicking me out!

I was going to have a swim in the lake this morning from 9-10, but it was storming fierce and I decided against it. Will have a chance to do the same tomorrow morning, so I will wait for that. I did go to the boys school again today (Erica brought me) so I could swim there for ½ hour. I did about 2000 meters in the pool for 30 minutes, which was good enough for me. I had brought my hand paddles with me, so it helps to break up the monotony of the laps. I would really like to get out and run, but tell myself that I will have plenty of running on Sunday. I thought about it- and, roughly about 1 whole week’s training in 1 day- that is crazy. After swim, Erica and I (we have really become quite good friends- Erica is in her 70s, but has the energy of most 50-year-olds I know, and is quite an active and funny lady. So we have had fun together going around the city of Sherborne when we can). I had bought a Sherborne Boys School beanie, so I put it on to keep my wet head warm as we walked around in the RAIN AGAIN. It really has been raining just so much…I am preparing for the worst, expecting the best! Erica and I had some coffee in town and then went home- had some vegetable soup, and now, I am writing in my blog to you guys… Tonight I will have the pleasure of finalizing what to wear for the race as it could change come race morning. I definitely have a rain jacket to bring with me on the bike ride, which will keep me warm, even if I don’t wear long sleeves on a jersey. Erica likes my Lucky Charms jersey, which is the same one I wore in Wisconsin. I also have my bright green Penn Cycle jersey, which might also suit me well in this race, as it has some great pockets in the back. My bike has been riding quite well lately since my tune up in Santa Barbara (thanks to the great tech there that sorted out my miscued derailleur cable). So, I feel good that way- might give it one last look tomorrow when I go for my swim in the lake.

Tonight, we are having Shepherds Pie for dinner, with some bananas cooked in butter and brandy..I suppose you are jealous?

Oh, and yes...did a few things today that I haven't done in a while. #1: Used an umbrella, #2: Went to Starbucks, and #3: Got nervous thinking about the race...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ironman UK...1st Day in Sherbourne



I am in Sherbourne now and went for a swim this morning with the mom (Erica) of the house I am staying at. It is absolutely beautiful here. Very pretty country. Reminds me of Minnesota a bit. Went by the castle to see where the transition area is, so that is cool. My bike came here in one piece and I put it together last night. I am actually staying at the house of the headquarters of the homestay- that is, I am the only triathlete here, and the daughter of Erica (Francesca) is the director of accommodation for the race. So, she knows everything there is to know about the race and when/where things are...when I need to be there...etc... She is pretty "switched" on, so that is cool.

Just arrived in the UK 2 days ago. Spent 2 amazing days and nights in London, and regretfully had to leave the city to go to my race :) Looking forward to it, though...don't get me wrong. But, loved the city and plan on visiting again. Got my bike case, my bag, and myself on the train to the country and arrived in Sherbourne yesterday afternoon.



The weather is slightly cool. Went out for a 20 min run yesterday, and got POURED on. It was actually a nice rain, but I think that it is going to be cool on race day. Perfect racing weather. You should see this lake we are swimming in- it is man made and a bit small. I think we are going to do 5 laps or something...Could also be a bit windy for the ride, and possibly rainy and hilly for the run. Very good racing weather, though. Might have to plan on some warm-weather clothes on...rain jacket for the bike and maybe for the run as well.

Anyway, things are going very well. I have 2 dogs here to keep me company as well. Jack Russell terriers- Russell and Bailey. The Denings (Erica, Francesca, and Ronald- the dad) live on 500 acres here. So, we had all veggies from their farm last night for dinner, and real milk from their cows. I am getting a great experience- not even sure I would need to race at this point :) Don't get my daily Starbucks fix, but perhaps that is good for me. They eat really healthy around here, so that is a good thing. I have taken a liking to their pudding here with real whipped cream. Great pre-race food I am sure of it.

Well, hope to talk to you more soon. I will try to blog as much as I can in order keep all of you whom I can't call readily updated.

Have a great day,
Erika

Clancy, Mike and I

Clancy, Mike and I
SB Tri Finishers- Nice Tiles!