Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ironman Cozumel Race Report

IM Cozumel Race Report

On race morning I woke up at 4:30 and consumed ½ cup black coffee, Boost, wheat toast with peanut butter, and a ½ of a banana. I usually eat an oatmeal walnut Cliff Bar (my favorite), but my stomach was feeling a bit queasy and it did not appeal to me---I did all I could to get the toast down….. I was a bit worried as my client/friend Rebeca had some stomach issues a couple of days before the race and I was hoping that it was not my turn—we were very careful about our food consumption, especially the day before. We ate all of our meals in the condo and had pasta for dinner. After three trips to the bathroom, we headed out the door, fingers crossed….
We left the condo for the race-site, Chankanaab Park at 5:30 (about 4 miles away). It was warm already with a light breeze, the calmest it had been all week. We dropped off our special needs bags (bike—two bottles of frozen Infinit Nutrition, 300 cals. in a soft cooler, granola bar and a 5-hour energy and run—3 espresso love Gus and a 5-hour energy) and then did a quick check on the bike and review of the transition exit route. While I was moving around, I was sipping on a bottle of water. We headed to the pier for the start and were entertained with a dolphin show and the singing of the Mexican National Anthem. Ten minutes before the start, I drank a 12 oz. bottle of Lemonade Cliff Drink and was relaxed and ready to go—I love ocean swims!!!
The swim was an in-water start and one big loop in crystal clear warm water (about 84 degrees!!). The course was a big rectangle that ran along the coast, then turned left for approximately 200 yards, another left and you were moving parallel to the coast again, past the start, left for approximately 200 yards, another left and then with the current all the way to the exit. I positioned myself to the inside of the rectangle and found clear water after a couple of hundred yards. The first turn was really crowded and pretty much full-body contact swimming—fought my way through this (just got kicked a couple of times )and then it was smooth swimming the rest of the way. The longest stretch had you swimming with the current—very fast! The water was wonderful—fish, sand dollars, fields of star fish, a barracuda (yikes!—he spotted me for a minute and my pace really picked up!) and periodic cold spots to cool you down. Divers were in the water, holding the buoys and were waving and giving the swimmers the thumbs up—very nice.
The exit of the swim was up a few wooden steps (swim time 1:03, 6th in my AG—very pleased) to a carpeted board walk that led to the T1 bag pick-up and changing tent. The run was lined with spectators, yelling in Spanish (VAMOS—I heard that all-day-long) and English. I quickly changed into my cycling shoes (no socks), glasses and helmet and I was quickly off to grab my bike—the sun was fully up and it looked to be a party cloudy day with the breeze picking up slightly. There were lots of cheering spectators as you headed out of the park. Then a period of open road (the entire course was closed to traffic!!!) and then a stretch where our condo (Residence Reef) and other hotels/condos were, where there were lots of people cheering (my crew was positioned here for the bike).
The back side of the course was beautiful and isolated, along the beach and through mangroves. Every once in a while you would go past a beach that had a bar/restaurant and a handful of spectators—but this stretch was pretty quiet. The wind picked up a bit here and the roads were fairly smooth. Aid stations were every 10 miles and well maintained. They had water, Gatorade, Power Bars and Gels—they said that there would be bananas, but there were none…. At every aid station, I grabbed a bottle of water, drank some and poured some on my back to cool down.
The course was a bit crowed the one the first loop, but with the entire road open, it was not a problem. After cutting across the island, a nine-mile section, you came to the “local” part of town. The fan support from the locals was unbelievable---they lined the streets cheering everyone that passed. The course was very spectator friendly for all, with the loops on the bike (and run) and it was great to have my crew (husband, daughter, son and RR’s family cheering each time I passed).
My first lap on the bike was spot-on, ~1:50 (I was shooting for a sub 6 bike and that had me right on target) and I was feeling very strong—the course was terrific and it was a beautiful day. The second loop was a bit more difficult as the wind really started to pick-up and was either hitting head-on or cross. I just stayed aero and kept my RPM’s up. I stopped at the aid station that had the special needs bags (almost missed it as it was not well marked) and it took a bit of time to find my bag. I grabbed two bottles of Infinit and was on my way—they were still cold and went down well. I started to feel a bit hungry so, I ate one fig Newton and that seemed to quell my hunger.
My pace on the second lap was a bit slower, but I was still feeling good, passing riders and not having anyone in my age-group pass me…. On the third lap the wind was really blowing, and my sub-six went out the window and I came into T2 with a 6:08 (18.26 MPH and now in 1st in the AG) split. All-in-all I did prefer the wind to a blazing hot day—the temperature hovered around 87 degrees and the sun was in and out all day.
A quick transition, after a volunteer took my bike, had me on the run course at 7:15. It felt good to be off the bike and I knew that the run was going to be my biggest challenge. I had a few set-backs with my running leading into the race and unfortunately missed several key long runs. So, off I went prepared for a mentally tough marathon.
The run was three loops and headed off in the opposite direction of the bike course. As with the bike, there was great spectator support as you headed out of town along the water. The road here in town was a decorative concrete and it drizzled a bit on the first lap making the footing fairly slippery. While the brief shower felt good, I was glad it stopped as I did not feel comfortable on the slippery road. There were aid stations every ‘K’, with Gatorade, water, ice, Power Bars & Gels, coke, bananas and on the last lap crackers (more about these later).
After you passed through the down-town stretch, the road continued along the coast toward the airport and another hotel area—solid spectator support here also. There were street lights along most of the run which was helpful as the sun set around 5:00. While the early sunset did cool things off just a bit, the darkness also brought mosquitoes---whoa, this was something that I never dealt with during an IM. I waited as long as I could before getting doused with repellent (aid stations and spectators were prepared) and when I stopped to get sprayed, I was swarmed!!!!! After a quick application on my arms legs and neck I was off—but they kept biting me now, through my suit!!! The next couple of aid stations were out and the attack continued, but I found a generous spectator to stop my blood loss and was bug-free for the rest of the run. I got into a pattern of taking in a bit of gel and then water and ice at every other aid station and then coke and water at the others. This went well—no stomach issues but I did need something to chew on and I never thought a saltine cracker could look so good. It was like a little piece of heaven especially when chased with an ice-cold swig of coke---ahh the simple pleasures…..
My first 10K was about 5 minutes slower than I was hoping (still in 1st place, so feeling pleased) and on the second loop I began to struggle a bit and had 2 women in my AG pass me. Heading out of town, the wind was in your face, so you had a bit of a cooling effect. But then, on the way back into town the wind was now at your back and it was like running in a vacuum—not a breath of air and hot. So the run/walk began and after being passed, I knew that my IM slot was out of reach. I re-adjusted my goal time and went from aid-station to aid station trying to stay positive. I found my special needs bag on the second lap and grabbed another 2 gels and a 5-hour energy and just kept putting on foot in front of the other. Back through town for the last lap and I was recharged a bit from the crowds and my cheering section. As I approached town on the final stretch, I could hear the finish line announcer and that put some spring back in my step. I forged on and was able to run the final 2 miles through town. The crowds were still cheering loudly (it was just a big party in town) and I knew my crew was waiting for me at the finish. I crossed the line (my 8th IM finish) at 12:45:46 and 6th in the AG (my second best AG finish) feeling good about my effort and already thinking about my next IM, where I WILL nail the run….

Here is my total calorie intake for the day:
½ cup coffee (0)
Boost (240)
Wheat toast with peanut butter (50 + 100)
½ of a banana (55)
12 ounce of Lemonade Cliff Drink (80) and water
3 ½ bottles Infinite Nutrition Drink (1150)
1 fig bar (100)
3 + bottles of water
5-hour energy (4)
3 Espresso Gus (300)
Water at every aid station
5-hour energy (4)
2 saltines (60)
½ of a banana (55)
Cola at every other aid station (120)
Total Calories—2318

Thursday, November 5, 2009

On September 26th I participated in the Duathlon World Championships in Concord, NC. The race was a B-race for me with IM Cozumel coming up in late November. My goal for the race was to really get after the bike, shooting to average 20+ MPH.
Here is the race review:

ITU Duathlon World Championships—10k run, 40k bike, 5k run
Lowes Motor Speedway Concord, NC
September 26, 2009

Entry fee: $200 (must have qualified for the event)
Hotels: Lots available within 5-10 minutes of the race site. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express right off the Interstate—great breakfast bar and very friendly staff.
Restaurants: Plenty of chain and fast food restaurants available. Concord Mall is close by with a food court.
Race Packet: Dry Fit T-shirt
First Run—a challenging 2 loop course that went through the infield of the track, out a tunnel, over 2 pedestrian bridges and on access road around the track. No mile markers…
Bike—a fast course on a mix of flats, rollers and steep climbs with a few technical areas. 2 loops that brought you onto the track twice for a loop around the speedway—very cool!
Run—one loop of the first run with the finish down the straight-away on the track.
Aid Stations: There was not a water bottle hand-off on the bike. There was an aid station as you were leaving the transition area and then 3 more on the loop--water and sports drink.
Volunteers: Friendly, helpful volunteers.
Expo: Small at the race hotel and at the race on race-day.
T-shirt: Very cool Carolina blue with checkered flag theme.
Timing: Chip timing
Awards: ? Did not attend the ceremony…
Award ceremony: Brunch the day after the race.
Post Race Food: Good choice of drinks, fruit and the usual bagels, pretzels etc.-under cover in one of the garages on the infield (Very welcoming with the rain pouring down).
Parking: Plenty of parking at the track.
Porta Potties: Real bathrooms at the track.
Transition Area: Pavement-well designed, easy in and out-had to rack your bike the night before, numbered racks and spots. Mechcanics were available for help.
Waves: Juniors and Elites went off in the morning with the age-groupers in the afternoon. There were 6 waves for the AG’s.

Unfortunately the rain rolled in the evening before race-day…. The temperature was okay, low 70’s, but a driving rain during the bike made the course a bit dicey.
The tough conditions made my 21 MPH ride that much more satisfying! I saw one really bad crash at the bottom of a hill… Even with the rain it was a fast and fun course. The loops brought you into the track several times, so it was very spectator friendly. The race crew produced a top-notch event even with the unfortunate weather. I hope that they are able to hold more duathlons at this venue.

Rating: 4 CRANKS

1 CRANK = Don't even think about doing this race...
2 CRANKS = Hmmmmm, a last resort...
3 CRANKS = Not bad, you get what you pay for...
4 CRANKS = Solid event all around...
5 CRANKS = Can't miss, a must-do race...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cardinal Harbour 1/2 IM, Prospect, KY

This past weekend I participated in my second half of the season, the Cardinal Harbour 1/2. My goal for this race was to break 2 hours on the run (which I had not done in quite a while) and I hit a 1:49. All of the therapy (electric stim, ice, exercises, sessions with an Active Release Therapist and patience with my running paid off---My goal for this race was to break 2 hours on the run (which I had not done in quite a while) and I hit a 1:49. The ankle held up, but it is still not a 100%. This race was a great confidence builder as I focus on building speed for the upcoming Duathlon World Championships in September and muscular endurance for IM Cozumel in November. More on this balancing act in future posts....
Here is the race review of the CH 1/2 IM:

Cardinal Harbour ½ IM
Prospect, KY
July 18, 2009

Entry fee: $100 early, $120 late
Hotels: Lots available within 20 minutes of the race site. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express—great breakfast bar.
Restaurants: Plenty of chain and fast food restaurants available. We lucked out and found “Corbet’s, An American Place” after the race. There were also lots up super markets in the area.
Race Packet: Bare bones with T-shirt, endurolytes and a packet of Heed
Swim—a warm murky swim (77 degrees) in the Ohio River upstream and then back, current was not much. Three waves were 5 minutes apart. I did not wear a wetsuit and was very glad—it was warm!
Bike—a challenging course with a great mix of rollers and flats. It was a bit dicey on one portion on highway 42 with lots of traffic. The course was well marked, but had a couple of intersections un-manned. Mileage was marked on the road every 5 miles or so. No bike support and no USAT officials. Saw several people riding and running with head phones.
Run—a good mix of hills and flats. Three laps on one section. There were lots of trees, so if the sun was out it looks like there would be some coverage. The finish was one mile along the river in tall grass—fairly uneven surface. No mile markers on the course.
Aid Stations: 2 bottle hand-offs on the bike with water (water was really cold!) and Heed. On the run you passed two aid stations multiple times and then one close to the finish—water, heed, gels, coke, bananas. Not much at the end of the race—the water cooler was empty when I crossed and had to wait till I walked back to the club house were the food and awards were.
Volunteers: Friendly, helpful volunteers.
T-shirt: Colorful
Timing: Chip timing
Awards: Overall winners—trophy and towel. Age group winners—towel
Award ceremony: “Self-serve” on the honor system—check the results and then go get your award—definitely no frills
Post Race Food: Variety of home-style goodies….
Parking: Ample at the neighborhood swim club—5 minute walk to the race start.
Party Potties: Lacking—only 3 at the start and none on the course
Transition Area: Grassy (really long), tight racks with no numbers—a “free-for-all.”
Pre-race meeting: Great rendition of the National Anthem, followed by a “non-miked” talk from the race-director---could not hear a thing.

Overall, a great training day—the weather was perfect with a low of 62 and a high
76, breezy and overcast. It was a fun, challenging course, a great prep if you are doing IM Louisville. The race director limits the number of participants to 300, so it was not too crowded. If you like a race with a down-home, no frills feel, then this is the race for you.

Rating: 3 CRANKS

1 CRANK = Don't even think about doing this race...
2 CRANKS = Hmmmmm, a last resort...
3 CRANKS = Not bad, you get what you pay for...
4 CRANKS = Solid event all around...
5 CRANKS = Can't miss, a must-do race...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ankle test two, White Lake 1/2 IM

This Saturday I competed in and finished the White Lake 1/2 IM (more on that suffer-fest in another post), the second big test for my recovering ankle. I signed up for the race two days after my injury--having the goal of finishing that race, four months out, provided extra motivation for my recovery.
After two days of staying off my feet, icing and elevating my ankle I decided to get up and get moving. Even though I could not run for six weeks I was determined to make the best of the situation, focusing on other aspects of my fitness. First stop was the pool where I swam easy with a pull buoy for 20 minutes--the water was very therapeutic for my ankle and I was feeling better already.
I was on crutches with my ankle immobilized (with two completely torn ligaments this was to allow scar tissue to form to stabilize the joint) as I still could not put any weight on the ankle. The boot provided solid support and protection so I headed to the weight room. Upper body and core exercises were no problem and I was able to do some single leg exercises with my right leg (curls, extensions and calf raises). My goal for the next several weeks was to work on my swim (had to slowly build duration since I pulled all the workouts) and build strength.
After a week of this, I was able to ditch the crutches and walk in the boot. I then hit the pool for deep water running. As with the swimming (pulling) I eased into these sessions, starting with 20 minutes easy and building to one hour for my "long run." Other key workouts included 30/30's where I would warm-up easy and then go 30 seconds hard and 30 seconds easy, building up to 20 repeats. Another workout that I did once per week was 20/10's. I would warm-up and then go 20 seconds hard and 10 seconds easy for a total of 8 repeats. After 10 minutes easy I would repeats the set and then warm-down. This mix of easy endurance building workouts and interval training kept up my "run fitness."
The Deep Water Running was my savior--with planned workouts and a water-proof MP3 player the sessions went by very quickly--I still hit the pool at least once per week for a recovery run. Check out this article for more information on DWR:
After two weeks in the pool, I saw a huge reduction in the swelling of my ankle--it was still very sore but improving. The start of the third week I saw the doctor again and he said that I could begin therapy in a couple of days. He gave me a different ankle brace to begin using around the house, but out and about, I still needed to wear the boot. He said that once the therapist saw and evaluated me, I would have a much better idea on when I could begin any weight bearing activities (cycling, elliptical etc).
I was ready to start working with the therapist and moving on to the next stage of my recovery.
Following doctor's orders, staying active (focus on what you can do and don't bum-out about what you cannot do), listen to your body (if it causes discomfort or pain, stop!) are all key when dealing with and recovering from an injury. There is light at the end of the tunnel....

Monday, May 4, 2009

A long successful recovery

Last weekend I competed at the Short Course Duathlon National Championships in Richmond, VA. My goal for the race was to secure a spot to compete at the upcoming World Duathlon Short Course Championships this September in Concord, NC. The race was a success and I qualified for the team, finishing in 10th place in my age-group (45-49). More of a victory for me was the fact that I was just able to start and finish the race--on January 14th I rolled my ankle on a trail run and completely tore 2 ankle ligaments, partically tore the third and bruised my talus bone. In a boot and unable to walk without crutches for two weeks just being able to run again was my only thought....
Often an injury of this nature can completely derail a season; but, if handled correctly, both physically and mentally, athletes can recover and be better for it in the end.
In my next couple of posts I will talk about how I handled this set-back and turned it into a positive experience.