Saturday, July 30, 2016

My Ironman Lake Placid 2016

It is simply amazing how a year ago, I signed up for Ironman Lake Placid, knowing that it was an iconic race and one of the more challenging Ironman’s in North America.  I wanted to race an Ironman with a non-flat bike course which is arguably my strongest of the three disciplines. So one year out, I was at my computer and signed up as soon as registration opened.  The year flew by and I accomplished many goals, surprising myself in the process, put in the training and arrived at race week as ready as I could be.

I had a flight time of 11am so that I could get in my morning workout before I left.  I have the Ruster Armored Hen House bike bag (one bag is for the bike and there is a second bag for the wheels) as I like to have my bike with me until the very last minute.  If a company existed that I did not need to drop off my bike until Sunday afternoon the week before, then I would book it.  But one doesn’t yet.  Anyways, so I get to IAH and the United representatives literally were arguing with me, not explaining professionally, that my bike bag was oversized and that I would have to pay the oversized bags fee.  Well, the lady took out her tape measurer and measured it diagonally, and it didn’t fit the regular bag fees and I had to pay for the oversized bag fee.  Which if you don’t know is $200 each way.  Ouch!  I have flown United hundreds of times, was a loyal customer, and this is the very first time of the at least 10 times that I have flown with the bike that I had to pay the oversized bags fees.  Oh well, I digress. 

I flew from IAH to ERW to BTV.  I realize this is not the quickest way to Lake Placid, but I had racked up airline miles to use and my flight cost me pennies.  My layover was supposed to be a quick 30 minutes, but damn flight was delayed by 2 hours.  Why?!? Because the plane of the previous flight was delayed.  So I was supposed to have a nice evening drive from Burlington, Vermont to Lake Placid, New York to watch the sunset and take in the scenery.  But that didn’t happen.  So I get to Burlington, and my second bag with my wheels didn’t make it.  At this point, it is 9pm at night and United reassures me that this bag will be delivered to me in Lake Placid (about 2 hours away) the next morning.  Uh huh.  I go to the rental car place and they “upgrade” me to a minivan – it was that or a small Ford focus and I was afraid the luggage wouldn’t fit.  And I have to say, the minivan was great!!

I drove up to the Plattsburg ferry which thankfully runs 24 hours (note: you need to take a ferry to cross Lake Champlain to get from Vermont to New York) and I have to say, even though it was dark out, I quite enjoyed the relaxing sound of water splashing the boat…very calming.  The rest of the drive in was uneventful and honestly I had no idea that driving in, I was driving on part of the bike course.  I was out of it. 

I stayed at the Best Western and I would HIGHLY recommend it.  I get there, I get a King bed corner suite! And my two balconies, one looked off on transition.  Literally, I could see my bike from my balcony.  And I could hear Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, say “YOU ARE AN I-R-O-N-M-A-N” over and over on Sunday after finishing.  There is a basic breakfast (plenty awesome options downtown if you are looking to spend more money) and there is a restaurant/bar, The Pickled Pig, that is just downstairs that does carry out, good for post-race food.  And the Lake Placid Brewery was right down the street, there is a back exit to go to Mirror Lake, and it is easy to just bike out since it is just on the edge of town onto the main road.  And just a few steps away from the main downtown area.  Here’s the bad thing, though, the hotels really jack up their rates.  Like a lot!  I paid $439+ a night.  And you have to book one year out to get this room, otherwise you are on a waiting list.  And they have you pre-pay for the rest of your stay two months out.  Which I forgot about and was  like, umm, where did this $1500 charge come from.  LOL. 

A few more things to note about the town and then I will get onto the race details.  Almost all of the local restaurants have “limited Ironman menus”.  Basically what they did was remove some items and jack up the prices because they know people will pay for it.  Oh well.  I tried a few of the popular joints leading up to race day.  Highly recommend eating at off peak times or before the normal rush times as this leads to less stress as there were some long lines!!

So Friday morning, thankfully in my one bag I had a tri suit (no wetsuit) and that day called for a race site swim and run.  I hopped into Mirror Lake which was a nice refreshing 73 degrees (I am from Houston and LOVED this cool water).  Am I the only person that wishes that wetsuit legal was 70 degrees or less?!? The lake is so clear, there is no boat traffic and there is the historic “yellow” cable line.  That is what most people love about this race; people claim that you do not have to site that often as you can just look down and like a black line in the pool, swim the line.  Which is pretty easy to see; it’s quite surprising.  Considering I am used to swimming in brown nasty water that you can’t see anything in.  And is gross.  Uck, Texas lakes.  Anyways, knocked out a nice 40 minutes swim and then put on my shoes and ran around the lake for 25 minutes.  The rest of the day was spent getting my packet, right across the road from the hotel, and then taking in a few sites.  Such a fricking beautiful town! So cute!! Met a few Wattie Ink teammates at the Lake Placid Brewery (no, I didn’t drink anything…) and then grabbed some pasta (I carb load two nights prior) at Nicola’s, like a block from the hotel, highly recommend, and ate my fill.  Then to bed. Oh and my bike wheels did in fact arrive on Friday but not until like 4:30pm, so put together my bike that afternoon also. 

Saturday, I was up at 6am and on the bike by 6:30pm.  Crazy fact: the sun is up at 5:30am in Lake Placid.  That’s crazy awesome for this early bird.  I biked the hill out of town that some people claim is one of the harder ones (lol) and did a quick 35 minutes ride.  Grabbed hotel breakfast, did some tweaks on the bike (hello tighten brakes) and chilled out for a while.  Another fun tip, always pack crazy glue.  You never know when you may need it.  My visor popped out on the flight, so I glued this in.  AND the crazy as F thing happened, my bike seat post stay/screw in broke.  As in snapped in half.  So, yes, I crazy glued that together and crazy glued my seat post where it was.  Said a prayer this wouldn’t be an issue on race day and put the wrench to tighten it, if needed, in my bento bike bag on my stem.  Eeeks! It held up thankfully…..but won’t be riding this bike until I get a new one!! Rest of Saturday was check the bike, soup for lunch, fish/rice for dinner and to bed by 7pm…no joke.

Race morning, the only time I get up at 3:30am and am excited about it.  HA! And then I realize how much it sucks to be a women.  This is maybe TMI for some people, so sorry, but this is the first time ever that I have had my period on race day.  And I almost always get bad cramps on the first day.  And I did this day. L Not much I could do about that at that point, though.  Breakfast on tap: 3 cups applesauce, 1.5 bananas, 1.5 cups of coffee with non-dairy cream, 2 scoops protein (Herbalife 24 rebuild strength) drink, 2 scoops sports drink (Herbalife 24 prepare) and well a gu right before the swim start. I get up this early as I like to give the food 3 hours to process and do the motions of setting up transition slowly.  I am not a fast person when it comes to setting up transition.  And if I get there earlier, it makes me less stressed.  The bike was already there, so I just had to add then some fluids (first aid station on bike is 8 miles in) and my nutrition.  Which if you are curious, I took my new hot pink Wattie Ink sports bottle and filled it up with 10 salted caramel gu’s and water.  The gear for your run is in one bag, the gear for your bike portion is in another bag.  At placid, this hangs from a rack. It is known for rain surprises in placid, so the racks may be needed some years.  They give you another bag for morning clothes and you have to hang it there.  Transition area is about .4 miles from the swim exit and it is up a hill and unfortunately you need to have to get rid of your stuff then and walk there.  A couple tips, use the port-o-potties by the lake early.  Not at transition.  Less lines.  Also, have your Sherpa ready to take your fluids bottle just before the swim or have a disposable water bottle so that you are still taking in fluids.  It could be an hour from the time you drop your morning clothes bag until you start and there isn’t a table there with fluids for you. I got in the water at 6am and did a quick little water splashing around and then walked over to the swim area.

The swim is a two loops rolling start where you seed yourself according to your swim ability.  I just did a 70.3 four weeks prior at just above my Ironman swim race intensities at 33 minutes, so I lined up at just passed the hour marker.  The women pros went off like 6:15am and then we went off at 6:40am.  I got in the water and freaked the F out.  It has been a long time since I have had anxiety issues at swim starts, but I just don’t like swimming with people next to me.  I seriously need to fix this if I want to continue to grow in triathlon.  So the first 3 minutes were spent on me trying to figure out how to breathe and swim.  Annoying.  And I got water up my nose a few times.  So frustrating.  So if anyone in Houston want to play open water swim starts with me, I am game.  I have improved swim times in the pool, but that doesn’t mean a thing if I can’t swim once I get in the open water.  Anyways, so I start to get to swimming eventually.  And realize I hate this course now.  Two loops swimming, in my opinion and we all have an opinion, is dumb and tough to rally yourself up to go swim another lap.  And well, everyone was trying to swim the cable line.  This was my first Ironman swim that was wetsuit legal and I swam slower than two of my previous non-wetsuit legal swims.  Anyways, so as I am trying to swim the line, I get water up my nose and elbowed too many times to remember.  Mostly by bike manly looking guys.  Whatever. I honestly prefer most other Ironman swims because everyone is more spread out as everyone is not trying to all swim in the same space.  And I am not that great, apparently, at navigating the water.  At the end of my one clockwise loop, I run on the dirt for a second (there is a table with water there) and then back in the water.  Time for another go.  Somehow, I swam slower my second loop! Boo!  I just told myself, just keep calm, keep the heart rate low and it is a long day.  Sorry non-triathletes, I made sure I peed towards the end of the first loop.  Swim time: 1:13:42.

Transition, as mentioned, is a longer one.  If I could give a suggestion to Lake Placid, it would be to get wider carpets.  Noted, it was nice they had them even at all, but they weren’t wide enough in most spots for me to pass people and still be on the carpet.  I run transitions, not jog like most people or walk like some, but run.  I finally get to my bag on the rack, grab it, run to the females’ tent and throw on the helmet, throw my base salt tube in the pocket, a couple gu’s, extra tube and go.  I swam in sports bra, cycling jersey and tri shorts.  This year, they allowed us to have the bike shoes already on the bike.  Looks like most people didn’t chose this option.  I did. Transition 1 time: 4:22.

The exit from transition is awesome and fairly sketch maybe.  All downhill with a sharp left.  I bet some people get scarred there, but I did Escape from Alcatraz with way worse turns and well, thankfully there were no hot shots trying to fly down it next to me.  Haha. So, you exit town and people are lined up for the first 3 or so miles and then you ride the good hill out of town and then it was pretty awesome.  There was a nice little bit of riding and then my favorite part of the entire course…the Keene descent.  Seriously, so awesome!  Being from Houston, there is nowhere to properly practice hills up or down like this so it was some big gear work on the trainer.  Good times.  But the downhills you can’t stimulate.  Well, somehow I ended up with 3rd on Strava and got up to 48.5 miles per hour! I wish the entire course was like that.  HAHAHA! Just kidding.  At the end of the descent, you make a left and then this part until the U-turn is the part where you can really put in the work and make up time.  False flats and some real flats and when on the first loop, plenty of people.  After turning around, it is back to town and a right and then a few decent rollers and then the second out and back and then a quick bit to turn back towards town.  The road back to town on the first loop is definitely do able and beautiful, cycling next to the Au Sable River.  And seeing the Olympic sites.  And then the climbs back into town.  One bad part, my power meter decided not to work on race day.  Good thing is that I was wearing a heart rate monitor and knew what my heart rate targets were so I did my best to keep in the range.  But unfortunately I did all of the training primarily on power.  Oh well.  Turning into town and knowing you had to go out for a second loop is kind of a point where you need to rally up and get ready for the next round. The second go ‘round, the wind picked up a little bit which that and maybe a little fatigue made it a little slower than the first loop, but not by much. Overall split: 5:41:02 (I have no idea how I pulled that off considering I only did one bike ride over 100 miles in my build up and it was a disaster!)

So, I get into T2 and those volunteers! Best ones yet.  I ran into the female tent and no one was in there!  That’s a first! So I run in there with my bag and I plop my butt on a chair and before I can process what’s going on, the bag was open, my socks were being put on my feet while they were putting my hat on my head, and putting on my race best and putting on my sunglasses while other girls were handing me water and sunscreen.  What a whirlwind! It felt like seconds but T2 was 2:23. Pretty good for an Ironman transition. J  Unfortunately, though, as I was going to put my sunglasses on, they 80% snapped in the middle.  Said a quick prayer for them to hopefully stay on my face because I always wear sunglasses!!
Photo Cred: Jon Miles
Off to the run.  That town was on fire! The cheers were amazing.  Felt like I was on fire.  And tried sooo hard not to run too fast.  That was hard as hell and I failed a little.  But I didn’t go too crazy fast. There’s a good downhill in the beginning and then it was mostly flat with a hill in there.  And wow was it desolate and not shady. It was like 77 degrees at that point.  Oh so lonely.  The only entertainment was the other racers, which it was thin on the first loop, and the thoughts in my head.  I made a point to take in as much fluids as possible and ice myself.  I love trucker hats for this.  Shub it towards the volunteers, they toss ice in there, I put some down the front and on the head and you don’t have to stop.  Well unfortunately, I just start to feel very off at mile 8.  Seriously could not convince myself to move like normal and I was slowing way down.  So I stopped at the next aid station, salt, coke and then back to the run.  And then did that on repeat mixing up coke with Gatorade and adding in gu here and there. It was a long run.  I saw a few girls but not that many the first loop and then more on the second loop.  But it was hard to tell who was in what age group.  So I had no idea where I was at then, but I did everything to keep on going between aid stations.

I heard the party at the finish line and give it the last little bit I got to get there and then I get to hear for the fourth time, Claudia Smith from Houston, You Are An IRONMAN!!  Run time was 3:55:51.  Final time was 10:57:20 A personal best by right around an hour.
Photo cred: Karin Langer
Head to the food and grab some Coke, Gatorade, pretzels and pizza.  Yum!  The volunteers at the finish line were the best….they basically waited on me. It was awesome!  Then went to get a massage.  And picked up my bike and walked across the road to the hotel.  I didn’t know what my exact time was so I looked it up and saw that I was 5th in my age group!  Yay!  I started dreaming of a Kona slot…knew it was a long shot.  Well, at breakfast/awards the next day, I unfortunately didn’t get the slot.  But has me now thinking that I need to really set my eyes on Kona qualification and find the perfect race for me.  Any suggestions??
Thanks to Team Wattie Ink and all of the sponsors for their continued support!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Boston Marathon 2016

Boston Marathon….the iconic race itself.  I ran 5 marathons before I decided that I wanted to try to qualify for the iconic race.  Technically on the fifth race, I qualified, aka “BQ” but my time was just under the cut-off and it wasn’t good enough to register (more on that later).  I registered for my 6th marathon with the entire goal of qualifying for Boston.  I aimed for the USA Fit Marathon in Sugarland, Texas and went out faster than I should’ve and built myself a cushion for when it got warmer out and I started to crash.  I surprised myself by winning first female and set a comfortable BQ.

You see, for those of you who do not follow everything running, there is a time that you have to meet to even be able to register for this race and even if you meet the cutoff, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get in the race.  Why, you ask? The demand to do this longest running marathon is so high that just meeting the cut off is not good enough.  This year you had to run more than 5 minutes under the qualifying time to get there.  I was just under 5 minutes below my 3 hours 35 minutes needed qualification time for a female 34 and under and so I had a comfortable time to get me in.

After receiving the official email saying I got in and paying the cheap registration fee, I was pumped!  I did my last triathlon (Tri Andy’s Tri) in October and then after that, it was time to take some time easy and then ramp back up the running mileage while not forgetting about my swimming and biking, but really making sure to get in the necessary time on my two feet.  My lead up was great.  I nailed workouts at above my goal pace of 7 minutes 30 seconds per mile and felt very comfortable doing it.  I set a goal of doing 3 hours and 20 minutes (which I told like everyone that was my goal, made me accountable) in Boston which was a 7 minutes 35 seconds per mile pace which allowed a little buffer in case weather or crowds were an issues. And the hills…

Arrived to Boston on Saturday (the race is on Monday) and well, I had a couple delayed flights due to mechanical issues, twice, and did not arrive until way later than I wanted.  BUT the good thing about it is that my Sherpa, Susan Benton, arrived near that same time as me, so we were able to navigate the bus and subway together.  Note to those not familiar with Boston, the bus and subway system are excellent.  And the people there are so friendly and totally willing to help get you pointed in the right direction.  And it is $2.10 - $2.65 each time you board versus a $40 cab ride each way to/from airport.

Sunday morning was a quick shake out run and then a huge breakfast.  And then the race expo.  Oh man, 30,000 runners with all of their race support – that makes for a lot of people at the expo.  OMG, that place was crazy packed.  I wanted the token race jacket and just getting that was a challenge.  I think if I do this again, I would arrive on Friday and pray that Saturday would not be as packed.  And arrive earlier in the day. Or just skip the expo part all together as there is an Adidas store right by the finish line, way less packed with the same good stuff.  Got my race packet and was ready to get out of there.  Just took it easy and got everything ready for the next day and was to bed early like a good racer.

Race morning, I was up, bright eyed and bushy tailed, raring to go at 6am. Slowly got ready with a couple cups of coffee, a banana, a mixture of unsweetened and sweetened applesauce – breakfast of champions.  There were 4 ways for the marathon and with a 3:30 and some change qualifying time (my personal best at the marathon distance), I was placed in the third wave.  The race is a point to point race, so I rode the subway to where the busses were and then joined the sea of people getting on the busses.  They have select times for each wave to get on the bus and my time window was from 7:45am to 8am and I walked up at 7:22am and they let me on the bus.  The ride to Hopkinton is around an hour, so I brought a Coke, Herbalife 24 Prepare, Herbalife 24 Rebuild Endurance, my gels, an unsweetened applesauce and a packet of almond butter.  My second breakfast.  I ended up sitting next to a girl from Ohio who also won the race that she qualified at and chatted and snacked on my items.

The busses us off at the school and there are people EVERYWHERE! People pulling off to the busses to do there “business” and the massive crowd of people going to one of the two tents to hang out.  The first wave went off at 10am and mine started staging at 10:20am and went off at 10:50am. Recommendations here: definitely bring a plastic bag to keep you warm and to sit on, maybe some cardboard.  I saw a couple guys with a couple of blow up rafts that you would use in the pool…so clever!! I went straight to the bathrooms line, sat around for a while and then back to the bathroom line.  Which the second time took 45+ minutes!!! I was in line when the area opened for my wave.  So when I was done, I walk/jogged to my corral which the starting line was about half a mile from the waiting tents area and got there just as the gun was going off.  Just in time! 

The guns goes off and it is like surreal just being there.  Everyone is screaming and cheering and SO EXCITED! Puts other race starts to shame!  And the first mile was so slow.  There was some weaving through people, but I told myself that I would just take it cool the first few miles and slowly settle into my goal pace.  And all I heard from people leading up to the race is that you need to take the first 10k of the race easy because if you don’t, you will be heart broke on the notorious “heartbreak” hill.  Which I didn’t want to happen.  So I finally tried to settle into the pace.  Which is a joke.  The hills in Boston are no joke.  No one told me the truth about these hills.  Everyone downplayed them too much.  Settling into a pace was a battle.  But you know what, I knew what the turnover felt like for my 7:30 pace and only allowed myself to look at my watch when it hit the mile splits to see how I was doing compared to my goal pace.  And I was pretty close for all of the miles.  Until towards the end….

The Boston marathon has spectators the ENTIRE way!  By far the best support from any community yet.  (New York is close but not the same.) Seriously made it easy to keep pushing the pace with hearing cheers the ENTIRE way!! There was a downhill portion around mile 16 and I could feel my quads seizing up.  My quads had never hurt so much before in my life.  Not even after one of my 3 ironmans I have done.  But I refused to slow up off of the pace.  I kept telling myself that it was a privilege to even be there and it would disrespectful to everyone that isn’t there to give it less than my best shot.  And who knows, maybe I will never get the chance to race it again. And I told everyone my goal, so there’s that too…. So I dug really deep and then deeper and deeper still and kept as close to the pace as possible.  There were some good hills out there and I told myself I was not walking no matter what (there was a lot of people walking the hillls!!) and I kept the turnover high.  A bit of advice, practice your aid stations with your left hands.  90 percent of the people were going to the aid stations on the right and no one was on the left.  Had my pick of Gatorade and water.  Being as it was around 60 degrees, I took a huge swig of Gatorade and then tossed a cup of water on my front and head at each aid station.  Which was almost at every mile.  And my awesome Sherpa was there just past mile 13 to hand me a Coke, my rocket fuel of choice.  And I took a Powerbar Gel each 40 minutes, with caffeine.  Unfortunately towards the end of the race, I just saw the aid stations on the right hand side of the road and the course was more congested, so in combination of the pain in the quads and the congestion and the need to get the fuel in, my pace slowed.  But I kept doing the math and knew I had the sub 3:20. 

The last mile is always the longest. But rounding the corner, knowing where I was due to watching the race many years, onto Boylston Street and seeing the finish line, I gunned it with what I had left, even though I wanted to cry with the pain in my quads, and I passed so many people to get to that finish line.  Crossed it with a tear or two in my eyes and raised my arms high in celebration of accomplishing a major goal.  A new PR and Boston finisher and another BQ. J  And then almost fell over.  LOL.  My quads caused some serious waddling.  And slowly waddled with the masses to get the medal, heat sheet, food and then met some of my Wattie Ink team members at Fire + Ice, just a couple blocks off the finish line.  I highly recommend anyone that does the race to stop there post-race.  BUT don’t plan on your Sherpa on a bike meeting you.  Unfortunately, Susan, who had my post-race gear as I didn’t check my bag, was not able to find anywhere to park the bike and didn’t get there until after I left.  Which I hung out there over an hour after I finished.  Everything was blocked off.  My awesome teammate bought me a beer and gave me money for the subway.  Thank you.  So I could get back to my hotel in Cambridge.  Which I highly recommend staying over there as I was told the wait times for the restaurants in Boston were just crazy.  We walked into a four star restaurants the day before and after the race with no wait in Cambridge.  And the subway/busses are very convenient and cheap!!

So, would I do Boston again? Sure. But not next year, I don’t think.  Maybe in 10 more years. J And next time, I will be sure to do more hill work.  Because right now, my quads hurt, I can barely walk. And it was so worth it.