Galveston – Ironman 70.3 Texas   8 comments

It’s been a while since I did a FULL-ON race report… Hell, I think the last one I published was for Ironman Boulder in 2016. So yeah… It’s been a while. Let’s start with WHY I was doing this race, 3 weeks before my second Ironman attempt. Why? Because my coach told me to. I guess she was right, because there were a few things I needed to practice for IMTX that I just can’t get in on training days. The two main things I was practicing was my on-the-bike nutrition and seeing if it would be feasible for me to run with my water belt (I tend to get dehydrated rated on race day, and I really need to avoid that.) Nutrition was a win, water belt was a giant annoying failure. More on that later.

Let’s start with the weather. I mean, doesn’t everyone always just want to talk about the weather? This is springtime, in Texas, which means the weather can be anywhere from cold and rainy to perfect to jesus-fucking-christ-it’s-100%-humidity-and-saunaesque-out-there. And typically, that weather can change in a matter of hours. Planning how you are going to execute a springtime race in Texas is basically an exercise in futility. You plan for one thing, and another happens. Such is the case for Galveston. I had spent all week looking at the forecast, which kept saying the winds would be 15-20 mph all Sunday. Yay. My fucking favorite. The closer we got to race day, the more the projected winds speeds died down. And the temps stayed pleasant. It was looking like it was going to be a nice day to race. What I failed to catch was the “it’s going to be in the 40s or low 50s in the morning” part of the forecast. I was not prepared for that.

Lemme be clear on something. While I hate the dead of summer when everything is fried, and the sun is blazing down, and the temps and humidity are soaring, there is a reason I still live in Texas. I’m not good at cold. I don’t handle it well at all. I have all kinds of cold-weather gear, but it was all in Austin (aka 4 hours away) and the only thing remotely “warm” that I had with me in the way of workout gear was a thin windbreaker that I usually run in when the temps drop below 50 degrees. I’ve never been so thankful for a windbreaker in my life. One of the women who I was staying with let me borrow a pair of running gloves to ride with, but they were not wind nor water proof, so hopes that my fingers would not be solid hunks of ice were pretty slim. All this is to say that I knew going into the race that weather was going to be a BIG factor to my success or failure.

Race day came, my alarm goes off at stupid-o’clock, per usual. I get up, and realize that yes… It’s fucking cold. Not just chilly, but fucking COLD. It’s about 48 degrees and 100% humidity. But at least the wind wasn’t terrible… yet. Get ready, get to race site, get to transition, get out of the car, promptly realize I will be spending the next who knows how many hours in a perpetual state of shivering. I set up transition, grab my goggles, cap, and wetsuit, and head out to the race start. (The wetsuit made walking around much more pleasant. Can I just wear a giant rubber suit during the entire winter? So warm! So so so warm!)

The Swim – pee water never felt so good.

My wave was the first of the age groupers and the first wave behind the pros. I thought this was awesome at the time, but throughout the day, realized this is pretty much the SHITTIEST place to be on race day. More on that later. We are standing around, waiting for the cannons to go off sending the pros out into Offat’s Bayou (a protected little bayou in Galveston Bay.) I haven’t had a chance to really look at the water because the start is at the end of a really long pier that we haven’t even stepped foot on yet. Cannons go off, and my age group is called onto the pier. That’s when I see the conditions. The wind out there was definitely picking up, and the water was getting choppy. It wasn’t “we are all going to die” choppy, but it certainly was choppier than I had hoped. We jumped in off the pier, one by one, like lemmings hopping off a cliff and everyone promptly peed in the water. (At least, that’s my assumption since I’ve never been in 70 degree water that felt THAT warm, even compared to the outside temps!) With just a few seconds to go, we all look around and give each other the normal pre-race good luck salutations (with a few “please don’t drown me” statements here and there.) And then BAM. I have been SPOILED by my races lately, and it’s been a good long while since I’ve been in a wave start; my local races have all turned to time trial starts. As soon as the starting horn blares, there were 150 women jockeying for position in a giant washing machine. Arms flying, legs thrashing, people swimming over each other. It’s scary, but THRILLING at the same time. As soon as I started getting into my swim, I notice the visibility is actually pretty good for Texas water at about 4.5 feet. That meant the likelihood of getting kicked in the face was slim as long as I paid attention to the bubbles in front of me. I would have sighed in relief, had I not been in the middle of a water-based moshed pit. We hit the first, then second buoy, and I notice that I’m still in the fray of others. I’m not a terrible swimmer, but I’m certainly not the fastest, and I’m used to getting dropped by the middle pack pretty quickly. That didn’t seem to happen. This just meant that I was going to have to be comfortable with the discomfort of having someone swimming near me the whole time. I could handle that. More buoys are going by, and I feel like I’m not really engaging my pull and I’m swimming a bit like a barge (with my face forward instead of down.) These are two issues that I have been focusing on in the pool for the last who-knows-how-long, so I started doing a form check. Hips up, abs engaged, face down, right hand entering the water wide (I cross over a lot on the right), etc etc etc. I start getting taken over by the fast people in the waves behind me. I decide to try a tactic that I’ve never successfully pulled off in the water: slide in behind a fast-as-fuck swimmer, and hold on to that draft for as long as I possibly can. These guys are passing me like I’M the buoy, so I am not able to stay on their feet for more than a few seconds each time, but they keep coming. So I keep dropping in behind them. Over and over.  Each time catching 15-30 seconds of a draft off a fast motherfucker. Do I feel like I’m actually getting any benefit? Not really, but it was a fun game that helped the time pass by. Slide in, check form, hold on, get dropped. Slide in, check form, hold on, get dropped. About 2/3 through the swim, when I pick my head up to site the next buoy, I see that there isn’t another green cap (my wave) in sight. I successfully got dropped by my whole wave. Even though I had been playing this little game, I just felt SLOW and like I wasn’t moving much at all. Engage, engage, pull pull, keep going, around the last turn, and on to the straightaway to the swim exit. Coming out of the water, I look at my watch and do a little freak out dance. I PR’D by 3 minutes! That gave me a little boost into transition, which is great, because the world was about to take a turn.

T1

I get out of my wetsuit in record time thanks to the strippers. For those that aren’t all triathlon-y, strippers are the people who stand inside the transition area and help athletes out of their wetsuits. It’s our job to get the suit down to the hips and lie down; it’s their job to grab it as we lift our legs and hips and sssssstttttttrrrrriiiiiiiiiip it right off in one quick pull. It’s magic. I get to my bike, and make the final decision to put on my wind breaker. Jacket on, gloves on (albeit wet), helmet on, shoes on, grab the bike, go. I’m already getting chilled, and I know it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

BIKE

The wind wasn’t howling, yet, but it was kicking up. It was still only about 50 degrees, and I was wet. I had the wind to my back for the first half. Like I mentioned before, this race was a dial in for my full in 3 weeks, and there were a few things I needed to practice. My biggest concern was being able to get in enough liquid on the bike. I had a plan to make a really strong “slurry” of sports drink, then I would squirt some into my aerobar bottle and dilute it with a bottle of water from the aid station. I sat down and talked this out with one of my friends the day before, but I had never actually tried it. Aid stations were every 15 ish miles, so I would have to start with an extra bottle on the bike. No problem.

That first half, I felt pretty good, but I was already getting passed by a lot of people and I never really caught anyone. I didn’t know where in my age group I got out of the water (there’s no real-time way to see that), so I figured I’d catch SOMEONE on the bike. I always do. But not today. This becomes important later. Over that first 28 miles, I felt strong, but didn’t push terribly hard because I could tell that the way back was going to be a struggle fest. I needed to conserve my strength a bit for that long haul into the wind. Wise? Probably not. But that’s where my head went.

I know that 50 degrees doesn’t SOUND that cold, but in a humid environment, on a bike, without proper clothing and protection for it, 50 degrees is BRUTAL. My toes were already starting to go numb by the first water stop. 45 minutes into a 3+ hour ride, and I was already cold to the bone. Before the race, I was really concerned about the temps, and everyone kept telling me, “oh don’t worry! You’ll warm up on the bike!” No. I won’t. I know my body and one thing I don’t do well is warm up on the bike. If I get chilled while riding, it’s really difficult for me to regulate body heat. Honestly, if the sun isn’t shining, it could be 85 degrees, and I’ll probably still have on sleeves! I don’t know why this is the case, but it has been for the last few years. On the run, I’m fine. But I FREEZE on the bike. So by mile 15, I was toast. Or the exact opposite of toast. Being toast would have been lovely because then I would have at least been warm!

I hit the turn around feeling strong-ish. But about 3 minutes later, the rain started. And the wind picked up even more. So now, I was cold, heading INTO a gnarly wind, and getting rained on. Great. My fucking FAVORITE. As you can imagine, this is about where the mental spiral started. My speed dropped from 19-20 easy peasy to oh-holy-shit-I-can-barely-crank-out-15-mph. The struggle bus had arrived, and I was securely on board for who knows how long. The tears started at around the 30 mile marker, and continued in various levels of severity for the remainder of the ride.

This is where shit gets fun. (And by fun, I mean, “I hope I never have to go through this again.”) You know how my plan was to take in a lot of liquid on the bike? Well, I nailed that part. The whole slurry/water-dilution method was working out perfectly, and I was hitting my 36 oz/hr target. That would have been AWESOME, had it been 80, 90, 100 degrees. Did I mention that it was FUCKING 50??? Which meant I wasn’t sweating like I would have normally been. Which meant my body had to go through other means of expelling the excess liquid I was taking in. At around mile 32, my bladder started screaming at me. And I mean SCREAMING. I have never had to pee so badly in my life. It came on like a fucking freight train, too. All of a sudden, I went from thinking, “this wind sucks. I’m cold. I’m wet. This blooooows,” to “OH MAH FUCKING GAWD MY BLADDER IS GOING TO EXPLODE AND THERE ISN”T A PORTAPOTTY FOR 10 MORE MILES!!!!” If I were riding for fun, I would have pulled over and peed in the grass, but Ironman is pretty strict about where you can and can’t pee. If you’re caught, you get a penalty. Plus, peeing on the side of a country road in the middle of a sorghum field just seems less sketchy than peeing in the front yard of someone’s beach house. The tears went from small boo-hoos to full on sobbing. Oh yes. I was sobbing. It was pathetic. I spent the next 10 miles trying to figure out how I was going to get out of my windbreaker (that was SOAKED) and gloves (also SOAKED) and my trikit. Did I mention that I was frozen? By this point, not only were my feet solid blocks of ice, but I could no longer feel my fingers. My hands were useless and manual dexterity was not going to happen. I was in a 1-piece kit (my usual for anything up to half ironman), which meant I had to take the jacket off to get my pants down. How long was it going to take to get it off? How was I going to turn it right side out again? How the HELL was I going to get my gloves off? By 3 miles out from the aid station, I was in dire straits. Pain like I’ve never felt. If you look at my pace, I averaged about 11 mph for those three miles. THAT’S how bad it was. I squeaked into the aid station, FINALLY, and just stopped in front of a portapotty and whimpered, “I need help.” Turns out, those were magical words, and a volunteer came over and helped me out of my jacket. I asked her if she could turn it right-side out for me while I was peeing. The door to a portapotty opened, and the president of the Austin Tri Club stepped out and looked at me and said, “I know I’m delirious, but I KNEW that was your voice, CC!” Thank you for the chuckle, Daniel. I needed it badly by that point! He failed to tell me that the damned thing was on a pretty severe slope, though, and I nearly tore my knees out when I stepped inside. My cleat from my bike slipped and my foot rammed into the base of the toilet seat, and I went hurtling a little too close to the opening. One thing that’s nice about being in the front of the pack, though? At least the portapotties are still clean. And had toilet paper.

I have never peed so long in my life. I think I peed for a solid 5 minutes. It was glorious. It was magnificent. It was so nice to be out of the fucking wind for a few minutes, too! Getting out was pretty funny… I couldn’t get my kit back up and my feet kept slipping. I felt like a drunk 4 year-old. When I was finally half-dressed and at least had my nether regions covered, I slip-slid my way back out into the cold. You would think the portapotty was a giant thing for how long it took me to extract myself from there. The volunteer was there to meet me with my jacket and gloves. She helped me get my kit back on, zipped up, and get all of my gear back together and ready to ride again. She was the most beautiful, kind, amazing woman I have ever met. A fucking angel in the middle of a cruel bike course, I tell you.

Feeling like, “Ok. I can do this,” I get back onto the bike and realize that, even though I don’t have to pee anymore, I still have 14 miles of “fuck this fucking wind” to go. I’m able to maintain about 15-16 mph at least, but my heart is slowly getting torn out of my body and my soul is getting ripped apart. Here’s where I need to take a bit of a digression and explain where my brain was firmly seated. And why it was so. fucking. hard to finish this ride.

Ah. Brains are so interesting with the messages they send us, aren’t they

I didn’t pass a SINGLE person the whole time I was out on the bike, which obviously meant that I was weak and did not deserve to even be out there on the course. I didn’t deserve to be in this race. I felt like I was shit. Like I had no business being out there. Like this whole Ironman thing was for other people, not for me. I didn’t deserve to be out there. I know, it sounds ridiculous. And mean. I don’t think of myself as a bully, but when I replay the loop that was running through my head, and kept running through my head for daaaaaaaays after the race, it’s obvious that I am a bully to myself!

A couple of miles after the stop, Meredith passed me. I know that my friend Courtney had passed me back in the early 30s of this ride, but I don’t remember where. But Meredith caught up to me around this point, and I was in a foul, foul head space. I had been ugly crying for a good hour and half at this point, and had really set into my incredibly negative head space. When she passed me, she said something like, “hey bitch!” (a common greeting between us), to which I replied with full force, “GO FUCK YOURSELF.” (NOT a common response to said greeting between us.) She knew something was wrong, and later said, “I thought you were going to cut me! I thought maybe I had pissed you off.” Nope. It wasn’t you. It was all the shit flying around in my fucking frozen brain that responded in my voice. Sorry, lady. It was not aimed at you.

My mantra for that last hour was “just get to the run. Just get to the run. Just get to the run.” Hell, if someone had offered me $5 for my bike, I would have given it to them. In a fucking heartbeat. I was done. Done done done done. I have rarely thought about dropping out of a race because I was miserable, but I was seriously considering it. Seriously. I’ve never been that close to throwing in the towel without having some kind of injury or concern about injury.


Coming off the main road and heading through back streets back into transition – usually a time of excitement and pride for getting through the ride – I was still firmly on the struggle bus. Every turn was painful. I felt like I was in a never-ending tunnel, and the more I rode, the further transition got. Apparently, my perception was frozen, too.

T2 – An Exercise in Futility

I got into T2 and immediately took off my shoes, even before getting to my rack space. My second toe on my left foot was so numb that I couldn’t tell if it was still there. I was afraid it was sitting at an odd angle in my shoe and if I were to run with it sitting that way, I’d break it unintentionally. Side note about perception: you remember me yammering on about where my brain was and how MEAN I was being to myself? Well, when I got INTO transition and saw that most of the bikes were still gone, I somehow managed to tell myself that this was because everyone had passed me and were already running. Yeah, my brain was not really attached to what was really happening in around me at this point. I’m not kidding when it too 3 miles of running on nearly empty streets before my brain clicked in, and I thought, “wait a minute… no bikes means everyone is still ON THE FUCKING BIKE COURSE.” Forehead slap… Anyway, back to transition. I get to my rack, rack my bike, fumble taking off my helmet, peel off the gloves (which are useless by now, anyway) and sit down. I spend (no joke) 3 minutes rubbing my feet TRYING to get them to warm up, even a little. I put on my socks, and I swear, it was the weirdest “feeling” ever. They were completely numb, but had weird… I dunno… sensations? I put the socks on, and it “feels” like the one on my left foot is bunched up. I keep looking at it, and I can SEE that it’s smooth and sitting correctly, but it feels like there are clumps of material everywhere. I decide that I was going to trust my eyes instead of my nerves and put on my shoes and go. If the socks LOOK smooth, then they probably actually are, and hopefully, that means I can make it through the next 13.1 miles without blistering the hell out of my feet. Another thing I was testing at this race was running with a water belt with my race bib attached to the front of it. I put it on and realized that I had magically lost an inch over night (yay bloating! It’s fucking real, folks!) , and needed to cinch the belt down more. Well, the bib was pinned in a way that I couldn’t cinch the belt down, which meant I had to use my finger nubs to unpin my fucking belt and somehow magically pin it to my kit. First of all, I HATE pinning shit to my kit. IT PUTS HOLES IN YOUR KIT. Secondly, did I mention that it was cold and my dexterity was GONE? Just imagine fucking around with safety pins with little frozen nubs of fingers and you’ll see just how not-very-awesome this was. After what feels like 3 hours, I FINALLY drag my ass out to the run. (It was “only” 5:43. Which for all the crap I was dealing with is a pretty fucking solid time. Honestly, I did not care how long I took.)

The RUN!

Oh the run! I had been telling myself for 2 hours, “Just get to the fucking run. You will warm up. Just get to the goddamn run!” And at LAST, I was here! Running! I came around the corner out of transition and ran past the Austin Triathlon Club team tent where one of my friends captured my feelings about this race perfectly in a photo.

I’m sure you can guess what I’m saying here… But if not, I’ll give you a hint. It starts with “F” and ends with “uck this race.”

During that first half mile, I wouldn’t have been surprised to have looked down and seen pegs for legs… My feet were so damned numb that they didn’t seem to be a part of my body. I just had to trust the fact that they were working, that the feeling would come back over the next few miles, and that my legs would know what to do, even though there was a MAJOR disconnect between my brain and my body. There was one point where I was sure that my socks had bunched up, and I felt it was prudent to take off my shoe and do ONE LAST sock check. I know, I know. I should have trusted what my eyeballs saw in transition in the first place, but blisters would have been really shitty… 30 seconds off my run time would be totally worth the peace of mind. About a mile into the run, my brain started coming back on line and working a little more logically. That’s when I realize that it’s pretty empty, which means the entire 1800 person field did not, in fact, pass me on the bike. That realization put a little spring in my step. That, and 55 degrees and cloudy is LOVELY weather for running (not so much for cycling.) Being so close to Austin, there were a LOT of familiar faces on the course! Every high five, every “good job,” every smile helped. I picked up my pace. I was banging out miles between 9:15 and 9:40 like they were NOTHING. I felt like a goddamn rock star (even though I still couldn’t feel my feet for 3 miles.)

Right around mile 3.5 ish, I run past some Austinites handing out Fireball. I passed it up on the first loop, because the last thing I needed to do was trip, fall on my face, and break myself 3 weeks out from my big race.

The run is a 3 loop course. I’m weird. I LOVE loop courses on the run. It breaks the run up into easily manageable chunks. It’s just three 4.4 mile repeats. Then it’s just 2 more loops of 4.5 miles. Then, it’s ONLY 4.4 miles! I mean, I can do ANYTHING for for 4.4 miles, right? I won’t bore you with a turn by turn of every mile (mostly because it’s now 3 weeks since the race, and I can’t remember shit anymore.) But I DID grab a shot of Fireball at mile 12.5ish from the Nuts at Big Pistachio Racing. I’m glad I had the foresight to NOT drink it on the first and second loops, cuz that one little shot (and it was a little one) fucked me up a bit. I was still woozy from being frozen on the bike. And I’m a fucking WUSS when it comes to booze now. Oh, to be 25 or even 35 again.

After the shot, I just had a little bit to go for the finish line – that I had run past twice already. Around the corner, through the chute, over the red carpet, and on down to that finish line, I knew that I had rocked the SHIT out of that run. After 6 hours and 17 minutes, I was finally finished with the coldest, most miserable half ironman I hope to ever have the pleasure of running.

Now the stats:

As you can probably tell, my brain was not terribly happy with my performance. This is one of the reasons that I love data gathered from these races. If I went on headspace alone, I would look back at this race as the worst performance in my modern racing history. But the numbers tell something VERY different.

I came out of the water at 40:52 official race time. That seated me at 41st out of 122 women in my age group. The reason I didn’t pass anyone on the bike? There were only professional triathletes and 40 age groupers ahead of me. FORTY. I don’t think I’ve EVER come out of the water in the top 1/3 of my AG before in anything longer than a sprint. Hell, even at sprints, I’m usually middle of the pack. THat’s HUGE for me.

My bike split was 3:22:37. That is a personal worst for a half ironman course by about 6 minutes. My second worst half iron bike split is from 2013 at OilMan in Conroe which was my first ever half distance. My time was 3:16:47. My best ever HIM was in 2014 on the same course as today’s race: 3:06:19. There was a crosswind that day, but it was warm and comfortable temp wise. Oh, and I wasn’t beating myself up the whole time. So when I say, “this was my worst half iron bike split EVER,” it’s not hyperbole. It really was the worst. Ever. But if my brain can try to break me and the wind can try to blow me over and the rain can try to wash me out to sea, and I can STILL finish in 3:22:37, I’m stronger than my brain wants me to think sometimes.

My best time for a half marathon at the end of a half ironman up to this day was 2:11:24 and my best standalone half marathon to date is 2:00:36 (fuck those 36 seconds.) Well, this day, I banged out a half marathon at the end of a half ironman in 2:03:51. And I never -not once – felt like I was racing this course.

So there you have it. The numbers tell me that my brain really likes to play tricks on me and wants me to believe that I am so much slower and weaker than I really am.

All of those brain demons tried to break me. But they failed.

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Posted April 27, 2018 by CC in Uncategorized

Things I had forgotten in the 4 months since I last rode my bike.    1 comment

In the four months since I last got onto a bike (the longest span that I have gone without riding in YEARS!), I had completely forgotten:

1) always keep an extra helmet in the car, just in case you forget yours. 
2) always have a little extra food and water

3) it is really important to keep your lady bits well groomed

4) anti-chafe stuff is really important. ESPECIALLY if you have forgotten #3

5) however many layers you have on when it’s cold and windy out, add one more. 

6) half of riding is really convincing yourself to keep going when you really want to stop.  

7) your butt bones are really sensitive on that saddle. 

8) Windproof gloves are worth every penny when the weather sucks. 

9) windburn hurts just as badly as sunburn

10) I really do LOVE LOVE LOVE riding my bike! 

Posted January 8, 2017 by CC in Uncategorized

Ironman Boulder – The Finisher’s Chute and post-race (pt 5 of 5)   4 comments

THE FINISHER’S CHUTE

The finisher’s chute is the stuff of legends. It’s a completely fenced off chute, carpeted (I’m assuming because people fucking fall over at this point), branded with Everything Ironman, and LINED with people. People are hanging over the sides of the chute slapping high fives, and there is some kind of crazy force that draws you toward the finish line. I wish I could explain to you how beautiful it is to turn a corner and see the chute that leads up to the scaffolding that IS the finish line. I can’t seem to make up my mind on whether I want to go slow and high five people, or if I just want to get to the end and be DONE with this thing. I don’t even notice that my insides are still completely liquid. Pain is gone. Chafing doesn’t sting anymore. All I see is hands reaching out, so I slap them.highfive

I hear Jenny yelling something at me (I think it was something like “enjoy the chute!!!”) I’m higher than cloud 9, I am a fucking triathlon GODDESS. The lights are so bright that it’s blinding (of course, I have been running in the dark with only a small shaft of headlamp light to guide my way for a while). The crowd is so loud, and then I hear it: Mike Reilly (the man who calls your name as you cross the finish line) says,

“CC Rowe! You are an IRONMAN!!!”

(Truth: he said my name and 2 others, BUT I DON”T CARE! This is how I’m remembering it, dammit.)

And I crossed that finish line, and I threw my arms in the air and SCREAMED as loud as I could. I couldn’t believe it. I had completed my fucking Ironman! I am pretty sure that I started crying immediately.

DONE

 

POST-RACE

My catcher (the person who meets you at the finish line and makes sure you don’t pass out or collapse or anything) was AMAZING. I walked a little ways down the little post-finish line area, and one of my buddies from the Athena Triathlete FB page runs up and says, “I’VE GOT YOUR MEDAL!!!!” So, I got to receive my medal from someone that I know (THANK YOU MEREDITH!!!) The tears started to flow; I was a bumbling mess.

I saw Bill and Tasha and yelled “HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THIS MEDAL” in the most excited and ungraceful manner that only 15 hours of racing could produce. I see Wanda and gave her a giant hug. She’s already taken my bike home, dropped off all of my gear, picked up my post race clothes. That, dear reader, is a great Sherpa. My life was 1000000 times easier, just knowing it was done and I didn’t have to fuck with my bike and gear.

I went and got my finisher’s photo (worst photo of me EVER). My catcher stood by me the whole time and made sure that I got my finisher’s shirt and cap. She led me by the elbow out of the finisher’s area and into the food tent. She said goodbye and went off to catch her next Ironman. I love this woman! She probably saved me from wandering around in a daze for an extra 30 minutes.

Finisher

HAHAHAHA! My face is swollen, the chub rub under my arm is just PRECIOUS, and I’m all teeth. This photo is certainly not the best ever of me, but it is the BEST EVER!!!!!

Once I got into the food tent, I figured out that my insides were seriously still fucked. There was a plethora of food, including pizza (my favorite post-race meal), but there was absolutely no fucking way that I was going to be able to eat it. My insides were still really sloshy, and I pretty much felt like I was going to implode. I tried to take a bite of pizza and ended up chucking it. Yes, you read that right. I THREW AWAY a piece of PIZZA. That’s when you KNOW I feel like shit. I grabbed a bottle of water to mix my post-race protein powder thing that Wanda had handed me after the race. I’m thankful I had the foresight to ask her to bring that to me, because food was NOT going into this belly. Hell, liquid wasn’t going to go into this belly either. I head out of the finisher’s area a whole lot quicker than I had expected and immediately head to the massage tent. I think I was the last person to get my name on the list for a massage. I stood around trying to talk to Bill and Tasha while I waited for my massage (I had lost track of Wanda). I couldn’t really hold any kind of conversation, all I could do was stand there and kind of stare off into space. Finally Bill is like, “uh, we have to go.” So I give them both giant sweaty nasty hugs and wait around for my massage and keep looking out for Wanda. (Sequence of event might have been in a different order, but I really don’t know. My brain was just as sloshy as my insides. Which were still sloshy.)

My post race massage is marvelous. MARVELOUS. She shakes my legs out, stretches me out some, presses into my feet. Nothing really deep or anything, just gets the blood flowing into places where the blood had most certainly stopped flowing. Just as I’m finishing my fluff and buff massage, Wanda appears. We decide where to go to dinner and head off to eat, drink, and be merry.

And thus ends my Ironman experience. My insides were completely screwed up for about 24 hours. I was pretty sure that my gut was never going to be normal again, and that I would never have functioning insides after that race. I vowed up down left right and center that I will NEVER EVER EVER do an Ironman again. Wanda asked me at dinner when my next one was, and all I could think was, “I never EVER want to feel like this again. If an Ironman make me feel like this much shit, then HELL NO.” Midday Monday, my gut started to relent and relax, and I finally got some relief from that horrible pain I had been dealing with for way too long. Not shocking, immediately following that relief, I started thinking, “You know… If I were at a lower altitude, and if the bike portion wasn’t so hilly, I bet I would do a whole hell of a lot better than I did this last time.”

Famous last words. Will I do another one? Probably. Will I be doing another one any time soon? Very unlikely. I think Ironman is like having a baby: You forget really quickly how much it hurts and your brain tricks you into signing up to do it again.

Posted August 21, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

Ironman Boulder Race Report Pt. 4 of 5 (the run)   1 comment

THE RUN.

Oh. The run. The magnificent, amazing, horrible, painful, super-fucking-long, run. The run that makes you think that it will be impossible for you to ever quit running. And I don’t mean in your lifetime, I mean on this day. You will never. finish. running. You will be running non-stop for the rest of your life. Running in your sleep. Running in the shower. Running when you eat. Never. Ending. Running. Yeah. That run. That was exactly the kind of run I had on race day.

Quick back-story. I have a tricky fucker of a calf. (See? I told you that the calf would come back into the story later. You just had to be patient.) I experience chronic inflammation in my calves, which means that when they get triggered, the muscle swells more than the fascia (think muscle sheath) can accommodate. Then, my calf seizes up, and I get a cramp that lasts for weeks. This inflammation was the root cause last year when I tore my calf muscle during a race and was out for the rest of the season. I run in constant fear that, when I start to feel that inflammation grow, I’m going to rupture my muscle again and will be out forever. Yes, I am the queen of catastrophizing. Anyway, I usually can keep the inflammation under control and keep the muscles all loosey goosey and shit with ibuprofen, using trigger point techniques, using suction cups (I did it before Phelps made it cool), and seeing myofascial release therapists regularly during a flare up. Leading up to race day, I was having a lot of problems with my left calf. About 4-5 weeks out, it started to seize up on the last mile of every long run. I was able to keep it at bay for the most part by throwing every technique I have in my arsenal at it. But still, every long run, that last mile was torture. I know that – when I’m in a flare up – run/walking exacerbates the issue, as does dehydration, descents, and concrete. I was already dehydrated and the marathon was entirely on concrete (the least forgiving of surfaces. NO shock absorption) with some short downhills. Since the longest run I did in training was 17 miles, I figured there was no way that I would be able to finish the marathon without having some kind of event that would force to (at best) walk the end miles. So I threw my race plan of running 4 minutes and walking 1 out the window and decided that I was on a race against my calf muscle. There was going to be a point where I wouldn’t be able to run anymore, and I wanted to get through as much distance as possible before I hit that mark. I decided that my new race plan was to run most of the marathon, walk the water stops and downhills. Was this the smartest decision I’ve ever made? Um, I’m going to go with no. OK, back to the story.

I started out feeling fucking magnificent. I’ve never been so happy to be off the bike before in my life. That first mile went really fast, and all of a sudden, I realize I’ve done my first mile at 11:16 pace. Now, for some people, that is a slow mile. Hell, for me, that’s a slow mile. For me during this ironman? That’s fucking LIGHTSPEED. But it felt GREAT! So why not keep that up? (Spoiler alert: Because I couldn’t. That’s why.) I come to the first water stop, and it’s a sight to behold. You hear people talk about Ironman being an all-day, fully catered buffet. That’s no joke. The water stop is longer than any water stop I’ve ever seen (100 yards or more), and has water, Gatorade, gels, oranges, grapes, pretzels, chips, oh god… what else? Um, I think there were some gummy bears and candy, and all kinds of other shit. As a master eater, I was like, “I HAVE DIED AND GONE TO MARATHON HEAVEN!!!!” The problem was that I didn’t want to eat anything. I had my gels, which is all that I ever trained with, so I think to myself, “stick with the gels… Don’t do anything stupid like make yourself sick on race day by trying to eat new food.” So I kept running. Miles 2-4 were pretty steady, averaging around 11:30, but I start to feel like I need to slow down. My calf is okay to my shock and almost horror… I mean, if my calf doesn’t explode, then I’ll be running the whole time, and I’m not prepared for that. The crowd is carrying me along, though. I’m in my BAWG uniform, and that always get a lot of attention, because it is fucking BADASS! (Side note: I almost went batshit on the thousands of people who said, “GO SUPERWOMAN!” Sheesh, people… I’m not even that into superheroes, and even I know what Wonder Woman looks like…)

runprogression

I see the photographer and smile. Then, I figure he’s not taking anymore pictures, and my true feelings come out. Pretty damned funny.

Then, it starts getting warm – 85-90 ish… Not bad, but warm. And there’s a section of the race around this point where there is no shade, and you’re still on concrete, and the sun was just bearing down. I’m sure it was about 124 degrees right there. I’m SURE of it. I saw my Team USA cohort again at mile I-don’t-fucking-know. YAY TEAM USA! High five and sweaty hugs! At mile 8 ish, I started getting a strange pain in my back. There are horror stories about people who end up with such lovely medical issues as rhabdomyolysis (look it up) during Ironman races, so the fact that my back was hurting was enough for me to give pause. Were my kidneys shutting down? I was dying, wasn’t I? I was pretty sure this pain was above the kidneys, but my brain was pure and total mush and I wasn’t positive. So at the next water stop, I asked for medical. The lady couldn’t find medical, but she asked what was wrong. I asked her to point to my kidneys. When she poked about 3 inches below where my pain was, I said, “GREAT! This isn’t my kidneys. I’m good!” And kept going. Brilliant, I tell you.

Just after this, I heard someone yell my name and saw my friend Jenny, who was also racing. My first thought was FUCK SHE WAS FAST, because she was on the sidelines and had obviously showered and changed. This was at about 11:30 of my race, so I was floored. That’s when she told me that she had been pulled off the bike course by medical, forcing her to DNF (did not finish, for the uninitiated.) That broke my heart to hear, but made a hell of a lot more sense. We hugged (I love sweaty midrace hugs!) and I continue on my long journey. Made me really sad that she didn’t finish her race. We worked so fucking hard to get there, but when your body rebels against you, you gotta stop (see above about things like rhabdo).

The course is set up like a “Y,” with each of the leg ends being a slight incline and the lowest part being in the middle. So, you run up one leg, then run back down. Then run up the next leg, then run down. Then, run up the part that would be the bottom stick of the “Y”, and run down. The bottom part is has the most incline of the course, and I swear, it feels like a fucking mountain. In all actuality, the gain is something like 500 feet over 5-6 miles, but damn. That seemed HUUUUUGE at the time. But I digress (and in a blog of – at this point, 6570 words – digression is a bad idea.) With the set up of this run course, I was able to see my brother and his girlfriend a few times. I think I saw them twice on the first loop, but I’m not sure. That first loop is a bit of a blur. Heading to the end of the third stick of the Y, and trying to not die going up the “hill” (everything is relative… I was fucking tired, okay?), and someone jumps out and starts cheering at me. It takes me a few minutes to realize that this was Nicole De Boom (of Ironman and SkirtSports fame) whom I had met a couple of days before. She snaps a photo, and I slap her a high five, then I keep going, bolstered by the burst of energy. Up the hill, to the turn around, then *wheeeeee* a nice little downhill stretch to the beginning of the loop again. OH! Before finishing the first loop, I decide to stop and pick up my special needs bag. When I run up, all the volunteers are looking at their phones. I yell my number (like we’re supposed to) and this girl of about 15 is smacking her gum and looks up from the screen like, “huuuuh? Oh, you want your bag or something?” This is the second time the volunteers failed at their job that day. It took me about 2.5 minutes to get my special needs bag – which was about 20 feet away – from this girl. I finally get it, tear into it, grab the little light that clips to my visor, throw away my stupid fucking fig newtons that weren’t in my stupid fucking bike special needs bag (can you tell that I’m still pissed about this?), grab a couple of gels, and go.

I’m about 13 miles in, and still feel pretty damned good. I let myself think, “well, shit! This isn’t THAT bad!” Oh dear… I had no idea. The wheels were about to fall OFF.

I start up the first part of the course again, and I start to hurt. I don’t mean like my-legs-are-tired-and-I-am-going-to-be-really-sore-tomorrow kind of hurt. This was weird. This was everything-hurts-and-death-couldn’t-come-soon-enough kind of hurt. I was really tired and I couldn’t keep my abs engaged anymore. My arm position was failing miserably. Every single ounce of fat was jiggling and felt like it was tearing my muscles off the bone. Not being able to engage my abs meant that my insides were jiggling and bouncing around in a most uncomfortable way. I started to feel like my organs were banging around up against each other and were probably starting to resemble bruised, overripe peaches. Coming into the next water stop, Tasha (my brother’s girlfriend) walked with me for a couple of minutes. I had just met her the day before, and I gotta say… my brother has done well; I like this woman. I have no idea what we talked about, but it was great to have someone to blather with for a spell. After a few minutes, I started running again. I had already started to slow down significantly, struggling to keep my miles under a 14-minute pace. The pain was starting to build. EVERYWHERE. Except for my calf, shockingly enough. Nope, the calf was still good. So I kept to my race plan of walking the water stops and downhills. I added “uphills” to this list, too. And “whenever I fucking feel like I’m dying.” SO I was walking more than I wanted to. But whatever, I was WELL over half way through the marathon part of my GODDAMN IRONMAN.

Up to the turn around, back down.

Not only is it convenient to see the spectators a thousand times on this course, you pass the same people over and over again, so we have little snippets of encouraging conversations. “GOOD JOB!” “Turn around is just ahead!” “Girl, you look great! Keep it up!” “Rock on, dude! You’re fucking badass!” “WE’RE DOING THIS!!!” It was awesome. It also is probably the only thing that kept me going through this part. It was getting dark, and the wind was picking up. The sunset (what little I caught of it, I was running the opposite direction) was spectacular.

But all I could think about was how much my insides hurt. I tried to take in a gel. FAIL. I got about a teaspoon in my mouth and almost vomited. Around this time, the chicken broth comes out at the aid stations. I’d heard about the life renewing powers of the chicken broth that Ironman serves after the sun goes down. I had no idea that chicken broth could be so magical. The first time I got to a water stop and they offered chicken broth, I slugged some back and was like, “HOLY SHIT! HOW CAN CHICKEN BROTH BE THIS AMAZING!????” Seriously. The chicken broth was pretty much the highlight of my day. Yeah, it’s that good. This was probably enhanced by the fact that my stomach was starting to rebel. The only thing I could get into my mouth without wanting to projectile vomit everywhere was that chicken broth. I tried gels a couple more times, and every time I gagged and my stomach cramped up again. I’ve NEVER had issues with my stomach like this. I have been using the same race day nutrition plan for years. I had it down to a fine art. Regular race day and Ironman race day are two VERY different things. Anyway, the chicken broth was my Jesus. It was my Personal Savior of that race. My guts are now no longer bruised, overripe peaches, but have become pureed. Liquefied. My organs were sloshing around worse than a martini in the hands of a drunk 80 year old with Parkinson’s. Every step felt like everything in my body was going to start leaking out of my pores. My lungs started to feel like they would never be able to take in oxygen again. The muscles IN BETWEEN my RIBS started to cramp. I felt like someone had put a vice on the lower part of my lungs and was slowly tightening it.

I saw my brother one last time and this time, he walked with me for a few minutes. “How are you feeling, sis?” “I fucking want to die.” “You look way better than most of the people out here.” “Jesus. If I look good, they must look like death.”

At least, I THINK that’s how the conversation went. I have no idea. Honestly.

I keep going, down that last stick of the Y, and it gets dark. Pitch black dark. Most everyone has little glow sticks around their necks so that they can be seen. That’s great and all, but sweet lord have mercy, this was the pitchest blackest darkest run course I’ve ever seen. A little glow stick around your neck isn’t going to help for shit in figuring out where to put your feet. I had that little headlamp on my visor, which was my saving grace. I was pretty shocked at how few people had headlamps on, but then again, not everyone has a couple of fabulous friends who had recently done their own Ironman to give you tips on what to do during your race. Of all the advice and tips and help that I got from friends who had just done their first IMs, this was probably the most useful and probably saved me from falling down and breaking my leg in a thousand pieces. As it was, I had to drop my pace significantly for safety. (Who am I kidding? I was struggling to stay at 14 min/miles… “Safety…” Right. We’ll stick with “safety.”)

As I come up on a bridge (the only place on the course that has lights at this point,) I see my Sherpa, Wanda. She tells me that the whole BAWG group is waiting to hear that she has seen me. This warms my tired and downtrodden heart. I give her a sweaty, nasty hug (YES! HUGS ARE THE BEST!) and continue off into the darkness. Going up that “mountain” again was completely surreal. This was the darkest of the dark areas on the trail. There were a few glow sticks on the ground (so you at least could see where the edges of the sidewalk were) and there were floating rings of glow stick interspersed everywhere around me. I turned off my headlamp for a few seconds just to see how totally fucking trippy this shit was. I was beyond exhausted, my brain was playing tricks on me, I’m pretty sure this whole scene was putting me into drug-like hallucinations. Honestly, it was beautiful. But way too dark for my liking, so back on went the headlamp. In the distance, you could kind of see a light through the trees, but just small flashes. The closer I got, the light started to take form and I realize that this is the turnaround.

The last turn around.

The most beautiful and amazing of sights, because it’s all downhill from here and it’s only about two and a half miles to the finish line. This is the elusive thing I have been chasing for 14 and a half hours, and here is the turn that will lead me home. I round that corner, and start back through the pitch-black park, but this time I don’t care. I start finding my legs again, and pick up the pace. At least it FEELS like I’m picking up the pace (looking at my mile splits on Garmin Connect right now tells another story. HAHAHA Perception was really fucked up at this point.) Going down that hill felt like flying. Within a matter of minutes (okay, 20), I reach the split off to head to the finish line. I seriously feel like I am fucking invincible at this point. A woman is in running right in my area, and I say something like, “HOLY SHIT I NEVER THOUGHT I’D ACTUALLY MAKE IT!!!!” She asks if this is my first, to which I almost burst into tears with a resounding “YES!!!!” She then says, “Enjoy the chute! I’ll hang back. Get your shot, girl!” (Meaning get the good finisher’s shot, unimpeded by someone else)

Posted August 21, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

Ironman Boulder Race Report Pt 3 of 5 – (T2)   Leave a comment

T2

No. Not the Terminator, although, that might have been more pleasant. Remember how smooth and awesome T1 was? Yeah, T2 was NOTHING like that. First off, we come into transition on the east side of Boulder High School, and have to run with our bike, in our cycling shoes (think running on a sidewalk in rigid plastic shoes with metal plates under the toes – not an easy task) for about ¼ mile. Coming into the stadium area, a volunteer grabs my bike, and *whoosh* it’s gone. I knew this was going to happen, but it was way faster than I expected. Still in my cycling shoes (the ground was HOT), I run down the track to my transition bags. They are all lined up neatly in a row, and I yell my number as I start down the correct row. A volunteer throws my nag at me, and I’m off to the changing tent. Good god, this is the LONGEST fucking transition ever, and I have *just* gotten to the changing tent. I think I’m at about 5-6 minutes by this point. This is where the whole transition just falls apart. A volunteer meets me at the entrance and grabs my bag from me. “YAY,” I think. “This is going to be super fast and easy, just like last transition!” HAHAHAHAHAH Nope. 1) I am changing clothes this transition. 2) I am WAY more tired during this transition. 3) My inability to form actual words made it about 3 times harder than it had to be, and I couldn’t figure out how to communicate to my volunteer how to help me streamline shit so that I could get through there quickly. It’s funny, I had been riding solo for a long time, and hadn’t had to communicate to anyone, so I didn’t know that I was mentally malfunctioning. But the minute I tried to actually USE my words, they failed me. FAILED. So here’s how it went:

Me: thbbbthewa bumble mumble gibberish (strips off clothes down to just a sports bra) I’m naked. thbdfsdfhkuhe. Fuck. What do I need? I need the things.

Volunteer: What things?

Me: The things. You know (mimes cleaning my arm pits). These things.

V: Wet wipes? (hands me wet wipes. Still in the zip lock baggie. Still sealed)

Me: Shit. (fumbles for what feels like EONS trying to open the zip lock bag, meanwhile, the volunteer is asking me what else I need) Duuuuuh. Fffffffuuuuuuuck…. Help? (See? words. I had none.) (Finally I get the baggie open. The volunteer is still trying to hand me other shit. In my head, I’m like, “BITCH CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I’m CLEANING MYSELF?” But of course, the words are not coming out.) Ohhhhhh god, that feels good. Too bad they’re hot. If these were cold, I’d be in heaven. (Again, this is what I think I said. It probably came out like “sdflkhh aslkjfbsidufh fuck ksjdnh shit lskjf; damn sdfh;sdj ice would be cool.” Finally done wiping pits and stuff) I need the green thing. In the pouch.

V: ???

Me: uhhhhhhhhhhh slippy shit?

V: (finds little packet with a SportShield wet wipe thingie in it… which is green) This? (Hands it to me… also unopened)

Me: YES! (tries to tear open the packet, can’t. Desperately looking to volunteer for help, because my fingers are swollen little sausages and have ZERO dexterity left in them. Volunteer just stares at me. I seriously start thinking hateful things about her at this point, because she’s supposed to be helping me, and she’s just NOT. I finally get it open, and – after a thousand years of fumbling – get the little wipe thingie out of the packet and start hitting all my chafey spots.) Done. Clothes. I need clothes. (Volunteer hands me skirt. GREAT! I step right into it. Then she hands me my shirt, still folded. WTF, dude. I’m dying over here. UNFOLD THE FUCKING THING. I know, I know, I’m asking a lot, but I’m 114 miles into a very long day. Is it too much to ask for the goddamn shirt to be unfolded? I unfold my shirt and as I’m throwing it on…)

V: Do you want me to untie the laces in your shoes?

Me: (Tangled in shirt) GOOD GOD FUCK NO!!!! (Wouldn’t I have untied them before putting them into the bag if I had wanted them untied? SHEESH!! CAN I GET A NEW VOLUNTEER OVER HERE, PLEASE???)

As soon as I get my shirt on, another volunteer looks over and says, “YOU!!!! You’re CC! I know you from that group!!!!” I am pretty sure it took me 450938 minutes to figure out which group. I’m a member of quite a few large groups on Facebook. This being a triathlon, I assume I know her from the Athena Triathlete group, but nope! She’s a Badass Warrior Goddess (HI CLAIRE!!!!!) Hooray for BAWGs being ubiquitous! And for our uniforms being pretty easy to recognize (Wonder Woman themed with BAWG across the chest) I give her a giant, sweaty, nasty hug, and secretly wish that she were my volunteer. A BAWG would NEVER hand me a folded up shirt or hand me my wet wipes still in their Ziploc. The beautiful thing though, is that this hug from a veritable stranger lifted my spirits tremendously! So much so that I was able to get through the rest of transition without neck punching my volunteer.

***Side note*** Yes. I know that the volunteers work harder than anyone during these races. And I fucking LOVE them for the work that they do. I was just tired, and pissy, and had been completely spoiled by my first transition.

After the BAWG hug power-up, I crammed the rest of my stuff from my bag into my pockets, sunscreened the shit out of myself, and took off. T2? 12:13. I know I shouldn’t, but I’m totally going to blame my volunteer. (In reality, the time I was in the tent was just about 6 minutes. The never-ending run from the street to the stadium took about 4:30, then I had to run out of the changing tent, and the timing mat was a ways away. Oh, and I totally walked until I hit that timing mat. But who needs logic when you can just use emotions and blame others. That’s totally healthy, right?)

Posted August 20, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

Ironman Race Report pt. 2 of 5- (Bike)   1 comment

A century ride is a daunting task. An Ironman consists of a 112 miles on the bike. And that’s just one leg of the damned thing. The first section is a 24-mile loop that heads east out of town, up and over a ridge, and through farmland. I don’t know about you, but when I think “Boulder, CO,” I don’t think farmland. Lesson learned. The few hills we hit are little short, sweet things, like a couple hundred foot steep climb over a mile and half or so. Short. The kind of thing I’m used to. There are some loooong rollers, and lost of easy-cruising-not-so-steep downhills that make for super fast mile times. But not so fast that you’re freaking out because you’re rocketing towards your death. No, these are fucking FUN. THIS is my kind of riding. I need to find a race where the entire 112 miles is THIS. (I’m pretty sure that Ironman doesn’t have a race like that, but a girl can dream, right?) I am holding a pretty comfortably fast pace through this first section, and chatting away with people who are riding around me. Not like “we are having intense conversations” (impossible in a tri; you can’t ride that close to people for very long), just playing leap frog and commenting on kits, bikes, helmets, riding styles, whatever. We’re out there for a while, so you might as well be friendly with those around you. It was fun! People were pretty cool, and because this is a mega-long-haul style race, no one was really being a dick and jockeying for position. Anyway, we cruise back into town, and start the 40-mile loop that we will take twice.

I start to buckle down and pay more attention to my riding style because I know what’s coming my way. Oh, I know. My goal is to survive this thing, and I have studied the elevation profile enough that I know EXACTLY what is coming at every turn. Just because I know it, doesn’t mean I’m necessarily ready for it, but I at least am not in for any kind of shock. There are others who have done this course who believe that it is easy. I think that’s cute. It might be easy for some, but long slow climbs are my nemesis, and they destroy me. I spent all summer riding the longest, slowest hills that I could find, just so that I didn’t hit these buggers and have my soul completely crushed. I’ve never been great at climbing, but I did improve a SHIT TON over the summer. Anyhooooo, heading into the first of the 2 40-mile loops, I put my head down and start focusing. The first climb is 400 feet over 3 miles. It’s not quite soul sucking, bit it’s close. It’s just long enough to piss me off.

As I crest, and start the sweet, sweet downhill, I see that there is a LOT of backed up traffic, and cyclists are slowing way down. Someone yells “RIDER DOWN” and I practically freeze. These are words you NEVER want to hear. NEVER. Se we all slow down, and we all go around the cyclist that is down.

***Don’t like to read about shitty shit? Skip the next couple of paragraphs.***

 

I make the mistake of looking over at the woman. What I saw will forever be etched on my brain. I freaked the fuck out. Mind you, I did not know what had happened to this woman. There was another woman kneeling by her head, just touching her hair and talking to her. And the cyclist was completely non-responsive. And the whole scene was bad. Bad bad bad bad horrifically, horrifyingly FUCKING BAD.  I didn’t know if she had been hit by a car or if she had just had a mechanical failure on her bike. Hell, for all I know, she just wobbled and lost control of her bike (did I mention this was on a super fast downhill stretch), and went down.

All I know is that the moment I passed her, my race changed. I burst into tears. I rode as far to the right as I could safely get, and rode the next 3 miles of downhill riding my brakes. I hyperventilated. I thought of ways that the doctors would be able to fix her. I thought about how she would have to go through therapy, but goddamn it, she would be okay. She was competing in a fucking Ironman, and nothing bad happens in an Ironman (these are words that I had to tell myself over and over and over again, even before the race. “Nothing bad happens ever at Ironman.”) I started riding a FUCK TON more conservatively, and just really was not comfortable letting everything fly on the downhills. What if it was a mechanical failure? Fuck, oh fuck, that could happen to ANYONE. It could happen to ME! It took me about an hour to get my brain back, and to focus on the task at hand again. Honestly, I’m not sure I ever did. But back to the actual ride.

 

 

***Welcome back! Here’s what you missed: shitty shit.***

After the downhill that I rode my brakes on, we go through a little valley, and some fun rollers (which I had been warned to not blow up on because The Hill From Hell was immediately following.) Then we turned west again, and started the hill that I had been dreading. Nelson is just under 6 miles long, 600 feet in climb. Again, it’s not that it’s a terribly steep climb, it’s just that it never. fucking. ends. Never. It just keeps going on and on and on. And you get to a rest stop, and THINK you’re at the top, but no. Oh no, that would be too easy. You still have a mile and half of climb to go. And then you get to the glorious top of that long slog, and *WHOOSH*, downhill. This course was a fucking roller coaster. Again, I was still holding back on the downhills (who am I???), so I wasn’t able to make up a ton of time. I did try to talk myself into going faster than I was currently comfortable with. I did a lot of convincing, like, “you know, a bike failure at 28 mph will be just as shitty as one at 38 mph. It’s all gonna hurt. You might as well open up and enjoy the ride.” The self-encouragement didn’t always help, but it did at least give me something to think about. And I was able to open up a few times. (By the way, 112 miles takes a long time. And by this point, I was pretty much by myself out there. So yeah, all those hours of riding by myself over the summer helped. I was quite used to riding out in the open country with nothing but my own thoughts and some occasional car traffic to keep me company. Paid off, that solo training did. Although, I’m pretty sure that I was having conversations aloud with myself. That might have taken it a little too far. Meh, whatever.)

The back half of the 40-mile loop was pretty uneventful. A nice long false flat downhill, then some long, sloggy, false flat up hills. Gorgeous views, some lakes, a weird cone like mini-mountain (I’m guessing dormant volcano), lots of tall, wavy grass. It was fucking gorgeous. Passing mile 50, I hear “GO CC!!! TEAM USA!!!!” And realize that my 2014 Duathlon TeamUSA teammate, Jennifer Borie, was out there. I knew she was volunteering as a sunscreener at the swim exit, but it was pretty cool to hear her yell at me out in the middle of nowhere. At that time, some idiot family decided to cross in front of me. Which is all fine and dandy, except they had a small kid (4, maybe? I don’t know these things) who was dawdling and LOOKING AT A FUCKING CELL PHONE while crossing the road. The family wasn’t paying attention, so I start yelling, “RIDER COMING! GET YOUR FUCKING KID OUT OF THE ROAD!!!!!” The parents got all offended and yelled something at me as I pass, but fuck them. Seriously, yo. If you’re crossing a road where cars are coming, you pay attention to your kids, right? THE SAME GOES FOR BIKES. Eye roll. That little burst of anger pushed me for a while, which was pretty nice.

Mile 60-some odd was the special needs bag pick up. So, during Ironman, you pack a bag that has things you might need in the middle of your race. Those things can be pretty much anything. A new spare tube and CO2 cartridge (in case you had a flat in the beginning of the ride), food, sports drink, a treat, Wet wipes, Advil, etc. etc. etc. I have heard of people who have subway sandwiches in their SN bags (ew. Those sit in the hot sun for hours. Gross!) For me, I was looking forward to only one thing I had stashed in my SN bag: Fig Newtons. I don’t know why, but midway through a long ride, I always crave Fig Newtons. And mid-run, I always want Oreos. So imagine my dismay and horror when the first thing the volunteer hands me are fucking Oreos. My first thought is “Oh sweet Jebus, I mixed up my bags!!!” Turns out no. I just mixed up the one treat that I had given myself for the middle of the long ride and long run. So no Fig Newtons. I did have sunscreen, I had wet wipes, I had all kinds of shit, but I really wanted those fig newtons. And Oreos just sounded horrible. (There’s a weird thing that happens when you run and ride. Some food works for cycling. Some for running. Sometimes, those are not the same thing. For me, they usually aren’t. For some reason, the idea of eating Oreos on the bike is just wrong.) All in all, special needs was quick and efficient. I gotta say, to this point, I’m nothing but CRAZY impressed with the volunteers. They are AH-MAZ-ING.

Fast forward to the beginning of the second of the 40 mile loops. On the southern end, we go up Jay road, then take a right onto Hwy 36, which is that 400 foot climb. I’m slogging up Jay, and I see my brother, Bill, and his girlfriend, Tasha, for the first time. Tasha takes 10000000 photos, and Bill yells and cheers, and I’m all happy bunnies to have seen them. I knew they were coming out to cheer for me, but I didn’t know when or where I’d see them. YAY!!!! That was a nice pick me up. I slog up Hwy 36 and crest the hill again, and start that same downhill where I had passed the downed rider before.

*** More shitty shit***

Only this time, there were a ton of sheriff cars. And there was tape in weird patterns on the ground. And we were slowed waaaaaaay down to weave through the mess. And sheriffs were measuring between points on the road. I knew right then that this had been a car v bike collision. Sheriffs don’t measure shit out if a bike had a mechanical failure and just crashed. I went into some weird jacked up PTSD bullshit and had some crazy flashbacks to MY encounter with a vehicle. And then the worst part of it hit me. Even though I had spent miles and miles and hours trying to convince myself otherwise. The cyclist didn’t make it. She couldn’t have. *Note: I would find out later that she had swung out into the lane where cars were passing (thus out of the safety of the race lane) while trying to pass two riders, and hit a truck. She made a grave mistake, and it cost her her life. For the love of all that is pure and holy, PLEASE… Don’t swing out of the race lane. Slow the fuck down, and wait for the cyclist you are trying to pass to get over to the left. The extra 5-second gain is not fucking worth it.

***Welcome back***

Again, this affected my ability to ride. That weight pressed so fucking hard on my heart. I didn’t know her name. I didn’t know her situation. I didn’t know her at all. I cried for about 30 minutes for this woman. I cried for myself and for anyone who has ever been hit by a car. I wept for those of us lucky ones who made it and those that didn’t. I grieved for her. She was any one of us. Whatever happened to her could have happened to any one of us. I felt rage at the world that this woman was out doing something fucking EPIC and she died doing it.  PTSD much? Yeah, I think so.

The back half of the ride was pretty uneventful. I saw Bill and Tasha again at the top-ish of Nelson, and they captured a marvelous video of me yelling something like, “20 MILES TO GOOOOOOOoooooooo!” Those were the longest 20 miles of my life. My undercarriage hurt. My pelvic bones were bruised. I couldn’t find a comfortable position. My shoulder was sore. I had aches and pains all over my fucking body. I stopped for more sunscreen at a rest stop, and realized that the back of my neck had chafed to all hell and back on the swim (oh god that hurt!) I realized that I was getting some MAGNIFICENT chafing in very uncomfortable places that pretty much told me that I had given up any kind of core strength and had spent the last 40miles basically laying on my bike instead of sitting on it. (Front pubic mound chafing. Seriously. What the fuck???) And it felt like the ride was never going to end. I wasn’t even trying to think about the fact that I still had a fucking MARATHON to run, AFTER this next 20 miles. Nope, nope nope… Not gonna think about that. I come back around to the road that had taken me out to the 40-mile loop twice, and finally, blissfully, miraculously, I get to slide into the left lane that is marked with an arrow that simply says, “to finish.” Oh good GAWD. I couldn’t believe it. I was on the home stretch. And that last bit was a little faster than I expected, and WHOOOOOOOSH! I was in downtown, and the high school is right there, and BAM! I was off the bike. And it just all kind of… happened, you know? But I have never been so damned happy to be off a bike in my life.

Posted August 20, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized

Ironman Boulder – Race Report pt 1 of 5 (Swim Thru T1)   4 comments

I hope y’all are prepared for a novel, because a journey like Ironman doesn’t easily get condensed. And it was a journey, with epic highs and epic lows. So, here you go for the good, the bad, and the very ugly.

The morning started early: 3:15 AM. Yup, you read that right. 3:15. In case you’re wondering, that’s really fucking early. I did what I do for all races and had everything laid out the night before. It helps to not have to think too much that early in the morning, because thinking just hurts at 3:15. The apartment that I was staying in was about a 15 minute walk to the high school where I needed to pick up the shuttle that would take me out to the Boulder Reservoir (the Rez), so I wanted to be out the door no later than 4. Walking to the high school, I had my first real jitters about the race. The funny thing was that my jitters were related to the wisdom of walking to the race site. Maybe I should call an Uber for the 0.9 mile walk… I mean, I really should save my legs, right? I did not Uber it… I didn’t have my phone with me, or I might have. OH! Speaking of not having my phone, let me tell you. It’s super surreal to be walking down the street, middle of the night, getting ready to embark on the longest race of my life, without anyone with me or no phone or anything. I had arranged for my Sherpa to take care of everything at the end of the race, and without my phone, I just had to have faith that this was all going to happen. But I had a glimmer of a thought that this was probably the stupidest thing a person could ever embark on.

I get to the high school, hop on a bus, and head to the Rez. On the way, people are chattering a little, but I was kinda out of it. I just realized that I forgot my coffee (WAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!) Sitting there, bumping along, I hear the two women who are sitting right next to me saying something about “I think I met her at the Real Ale Ride” which is a charity ride just outside of Austin. So, being the shy wallflower that I am, I lean over and say, “OH! You must be from Central Texas!” Turns out, they were from Austin, and they were looking at MY Facebook page because a mutual friend had tagged us wishing us luck. Did I mention that this day was really surreal? How fucked up is it that I’m sitting on a bus, almost 1000 miles away from home, and I just *happen* to be sitting next to 2 ladies from Austin who were Facebook stalking me. Fucking weird. Anyway, I had met one of the ladies, Vegas, at the Red Poppy Ride (not Real Ale). So strange! Getting to the Rez takes about 15 minutes, and then *poof* you’re dropped off in the hullabaloo of Race Day. I bid the other Austinites adieu, fill my water bottles on the bike, make sure that all of my nutrition is there, fill my morning water bottle, check on my transition bag, and just kind of mill about. The electricity in the air is palpable. Athletes are a little dazed, support teams were chattering, people were putting their wetsuits on… I just kind of walked around like, “well shit. I don’t know what to do with myself right now.” I begged a cup of coffee off the woman at the volunteer tent (precious, precious coffee, even though it was sludge) and went and sat down under the lights in the grass. I ran into someone that I know through a Facebook group for Athena triathletes and chatted with her and her husband (who was doing the race) a bit. Then, all of a sudden, it was time to get the wetsuit on and head to the beginning of the race. Wait, what?? HOW THE FUCK IS IT ALREADY TIME TO GO???? Didn’t I still have 6 months before doing my Ironman or something? I swear, time ROCKETED forward to that point. And at that point, my heart practically stopped. What the FUCK was I doing?

I get to the start chute, and am standing there freaking the fuck out because this shit is just CRAZY, when I catch a glimpse of the mountains. It had been foggy and misty all morning, but the fog was breaking and the sun was rising, and the mountains rose from the horizon in pure majesty. It was like a dream, and reinforced the feeling that this was not really happening, but that I was – in all actuality – in a dream and just imagining that I was about to do an Ironman. The mountains were purple and peach, and rose from the bottom fog then jutted up into the clouds. you couldn’t see the top or the bottom, just this strange middle stripe that was illuminated by a sun that we couldn’t see because the clouds over us were still too thick. Just another image of the morning that made it all so damned surreal. I chatted with a woman next to me from Panama, and ran into another woman I know from social media. She was kind enough to remind me that I needed to pull up my wetsuit before getting into the water (thanks, Amy!! That would have SUCKED). The national anthem was sung by a lovely tenor, and the starting horn went off. And that’s how it started. The longest day of my life just… Surreally started.

THE SWIM

Many of you who will read this already know the immediate back story to this race. But a quick synopsis for anyone who doesn’t know me. I had shoulder surgery in November and have spent MONTHS rehabbing that bitchy thing so that I could successfully complete this swim. Shockingly, my shoulder was NOT my biggest physical concern about this race this morning. It was my calf that had been acting up recently (more on that later), and I didn’t even really THINK about my shoulder that morning. If that’s not a testament to the surgeon and physical therapist that I spent all winter and spring working with, I don’t know what is. Anyway, Ironman has changed its starting format from a mass start to a rolling time trial start. Instead of 2500 of your closest friends all jumping into the water at the same time and then attempting to occupy the same water space while flailing and kicking, you go in a few at a time in more of a trickle of athletes. It’s still a washing machine, but it’s on delicate cycle instead of super mega wash. Other than that, the water was magnificently calm. It was like swimming in a giant, murky pool that had some water grass in it. I had expected to take about 1:45 for the 2.4-mile swim, so I seeded myself toward the back of the 1:30-1:45 wave. As soon as I got into the water, I found my rhythm and realized that I might have seeded myself poorly. I was passing people! Right and left! Passing passing passing! I started slow, let myself warm up, and just swam. For a long time. Every time I passed a buoy, I’d spot the next one and just swim for that. The thing about 2.4 mile swim is that it’s like eating an elephant: one bite at a time. I’d pass someone. Someone else would pass me, and we all just swam. I swam by one dude who was wearing a stars and stripes speedo. I swam through some weird water grass that made me so thankful that I have swum through miles and miles and miles of hydrilla (look it up. It’s sooooooooooo scary to swim through!) I turned past the first turn marker, and kept going. The buoys changed from yellow to orange, which marks the halfway point, and I kept going. I just swam. And it was oddly comfortable. I started feeling a little chafing on the back of my neck, and my shoulder got a little sore, but I kept going. Turning the second turn, I felt pretty strong. Then, some jerk face decided that he was going to try to take up the same space I was and started swimming over me. I tried to get away from him, I swung out from the main path, I swung inside the buoy, but I couldn’t shake him. It’s like it had become his personal goal to frustrate the shit out of me by not passing me or letting me pass him. (I’m sure this was all accidental, we were all already pretty stupid by this point in the race.) I finally get a surge of energy and break away from him and find my own little pocket of open water again. As I start to get closer to shore, I can hear the loudspeaker announcing… Something. I didn’t know what (I’d figure out later that it was just names of people coming out of the water). But it sounded a lot like the Peanuts teacher, and made me laugh. Don’t ever try to laugh when you are about 2 miles into a swim and you’re still IN THE FUCKING WATER. It doesn’t work, and kinda makes you feel like you’re drowning for a second. But just for a second. The shore gets closer, and I realize that I just did a really strong swim portion of this race! At that point, I was like, “HELL YES< I AM TOTALLY DOING THIS AGAIN! I FUCKING LOVE THIS!!!!” I come out of the water and check my watch. 1:32. Holy shit. ONE THIRTY FUCKING TWO! That’s a solid 13 minutes FASTER than I had expected.

T1

Coming out of the water, I unzip the wetsuit, and head up to where the wetsuit strippers are. The stripper peeled me out of my suit, another volunteer hands me my transition bag, and I run into the changing tent. I have done MANY MANY races, but never have I seen a changing tent. It’s like a giant circus tent filled with chairs, and as soon as you walk in, a volunteer grabs your bag and starts handing you stuff. For me, T1 was pretty simple. I wasn’t going to change clothes so that saved me lots of time. I wanted to dry off enough to get sunscreen on, I needed to grab my shoes, sunglasses, and helmet, shove some stuff into pockets, and go. The volunteer (love the volunteers! AMAZING) hands me things as I call for them, and it’s like we are a well-oiled machine getting me all dolled up and ready to go. Many of the other athletes put on their cycling shoes, but I HATE running in my cycling shoes, so I grabbed them and ran toward my bike. Ironman has sunscreen stations where you stop, and a volunteer SLATHERS you all over with sunscreen. Just one more tick in the SURREAL experience of this race. For some reason, I thought it was spray sunscreen… Nope. You run up, and all of a sudden, some stranger has their hands all greased up and is rubbing you all over your arms and back and neck. Good thing I don’t have any weirdness about being touched… But yeah, it was pretty weird. Still dripping with sunscreen, I got to my bike, slap on my shoes, and run to the bike exit. Glancing at my watch, I see that I fucking NAILED t1.. 6:20! Saaaa-weet!

swimexit

I’m half pink sausage, half seal. Swim Exit photos are never flattering.

 

 

Posted August 20, 2016 by CC in Uncategorized