Sunday, September 25, 2016

Augusta 70.3 Race Report

Augusta 70.3
by Marsha O'Mara Henry


I’ve been trying to knock items off my bucket list for the last 10 years or so.  It all started when I wanted to complete a marathon the year I turned 30.  And you know what’s been happening since then.  Running has become my true love (behind God and now my husband) 😀.  But I went to be a spectator at a friend’s triathlon, and I was like, I’m adding something new to the bucket list.  I’m going to do a triathlon. 

I had no idea what participating in a triathlon entailed.  I was so new to the sport.  So a year or two later, I started taking swim lessons and my swim coach mentioned he was participating in an Ironman race.  I was like, OK.  So what’s that?  Then he starting "talmbout" he would swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles (what?), and THEN after all of that, run 26.2 miles.  Now I wasn’t new to marathons so I know how beat up you can get doing them.  How on earth do you run a marathon after swimming and riding that long distance?  So I knew I wasn’t doing that.  But I then heard they have what they call Half Ironmans.  That means half of all of those distances.  And I said, “I can do that.”  I’m going to put a Half Ironman on my bucket list for when I turn 40.  I tried to do one last year when I really turned 40 but the race I wanted got canceled and there was no other race to sign up for that I wanted to do.  So I deferred to this year and that’s how I ended up doing the Augusta Half Ironman.

The Swim

Everyone knows if you know me in the least, that I’m scared of open water swimming.  I mean, I just can’t…  But in order to finish the race, you have to get through the swim.  So I did open water practice swims down at the National Harbor.  I really never went around the big loop though.  I just stayed near the dock and went around in small circles.  But a teammate of mine (Laura) offered to go around with me one time and so I actually went around one time and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  But I never did it again!  But going around that one time gave me the confidence I needed to complete the open water swim at the race.  Plus, the race is usually wetsuit legal.  I had never worn a wetsuit before, but I tried it out one time at the Harbor and would you know, it kept me afloat without me even trying.  So I was like, “I got this.”  We get to race day and the first thing I hear when I get to transition is, “The water temperature is too hot and the race is not wetsuit legal.”  What in the world????  How on earth is this happening to me?  I was all sorts of freaked out.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to complete the swim now.  But they were offering a wetsuit wave as the last wave.  So I was thinking I would go in that wave and still wear my suit.  Our triathlon coach (disclaimer – this is also my husband) told us not to wear the wetsuit and just swim in our wave.  We could do the distance.  But I was like, you’re not the one swimming and you have no fear.  So I had made up my mind to wear the wetsuit.  But when I got to the swim start with wetsuit in hand, he came over and once again told us not to wear it.  I had to make a decision – (1) don’t wear the wetsuit and risk panicking in the water and not finishing, or (2) wear the wetsuit and have him looking at me funny all the way home.  I decided to risk the panicking to keep a happy home.  So I decided not to wear the wetsuit.  It wasn’t too bad without it.  There is a very strong current in the river where we swam so I made it to the finish of the swim way faster than my normal swim times.  I started at the back of my wave to give myself space from people.  Others coming up behind me ran into me sometimes, but for the most part, I wasn’t bothered by anyone.  I spent a lot of time on my back which is something I really need to work on, but hey, I got out of the water in one piece and without swallowing too much water, so I’m very happy with the swim.

Swim time - 47:06

The Bike

I got out of the swim not really being able to see out of my left eye.  I assumed I lost a contact lens.  I bring extra contact lenses and solution to races for this very reason.  But another athlete was in transition and her bike had an issue so she was no longer racing.  She looked in my eye and could see the lens stuck in the corner.  I put some solution in there and the contact moved back into place.  So I was good to go.  Then I looked for my bike gloves to get going and could only find one glove.  I know I had two that morning.  So I’m still thinking someone has my other glove.  I made like Michael Jackson and rode with only one glove.  The ride had some long climbs so I’m glad I had trained on some hills for my long rides.  Also, it was hot as blazes out there, so my drinks had turned into hot tea.  I had to refuel with cold water and Gatorade at the aid stations.  Also, my chain kept popping off when I changed from my small ring to my big ring.  I’m not sure why it does that.  I had to put it back on about 4 times.  Other times, I was able to ride it back on.  After it wouldn’t go to the big ring around mile 50, I just decided to ride in my small ring for the last 6 miles.  Then my right foot started hurting so I had to get off my bike and stretch a few times.  Also, not sure what is going on there, but it did that in training too so it didn’t come as a surprise.

Bike time – 4:06:09

The Run

Well, this is usually my favorite part.  Thought it would be a breeze.  But when I got off the bike, it was probably 90 degrees outside.  I started running out of transition, but I could barely make it a tenth of a mile before I had to walk.  There were plenty people walking so at least I wasn’t alone.  The problem is Ironman has very strict time cutoffs.  I knew what my times were swimming and biking, but I wasn’t sure how long I had spent in transitions so I didn’t really know how long I had for the run.  Thank goodness I had a great math teacher in high school because to take my mind off the heat, I started doing calculations in my head of how long I had to finish the race.  I was like, well, my swim was 47 minutes, bike was 4 hours…I estimated I had about 3 hours to complete my run, but I initially didn’t think I would take that long.  I thought maybe 2:30.  But when I got halfway, I knew it was going to be more like 3 hours.  So I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t make my cutoff.  I ended up finishing in 8:15 and had 8:30 for the cutoff so I did cut it very close, but looks like my long division wasn’t too far off the mark.  I just wish it wasn’t so hot out there, because my legs felt great and I think I could have run the half marathon in 2:15 if the weather was good.  I usually muster up enough speed to sprint to the finish line at my races so with about 0.4 miles to go, I took off.  I saw my triathlon team near the finish line cheering and that gave me the boost I needed to get across the finish line.

Run time – 3:00:52

Overall Finish time – 8:14:09


I’m just so happy that I got a chance to complete this race.  I have to thank my cycling coach, Robert Clarence, for giving me some great training plans that tested my abilities.  I had never trained that much on the bike like I did for this race, and I really could tell the difference due to the training.  Also, of course, I thank my triathlon coach for the training program and the encouragement.  He didn’t make it easy on me but I’m very sure that’s why I was able to finish the race.  Thanks also to my triathlon training team who trained with me and thanks to any other running/biking partners who came out as well when I didn’t want to wake up early on the weekends.  My support team is awesome!!!!  #OnPointFitness





Sunday, August 28, 2016

Luray Triathlon 2016

Luray Triathlon
By Mylah Garlington


Luray 2016

Training
My training for this race kind of started in October when I joined UMD Master’s swim team.  I used to let the swimming slide and focus on the weaknesses.  This year I thought it would be good to work on my swimming so I could complete the same time/distance with even less effort.  Plus, swim meets are fun.  I had oodles of laps under my belt by the time I got to Luray.  I signed up for a June ½ marathon to make sure I came into the training season with something of a base.  By race day, I had 24 weeks of pretty consistent running under my belt.  I was also doing some of the injury prevention and strength training that I needed to do to make it to the start line limp-free.  My bike goal was just to try to not to go backward while focusing on the other two.  I’d already looked at past Luray times so my expectation was that I’d be near last.  I just wanted to have a good race.

Swim- 33:09
I watched as each wave went out and noticed that there were very few stragglers in each group.  Everyone was staying pretty tight which meant everyone was fast.  One game I like to play during the swim is to catch anyone I see from the wave in front of me.  That wasn’t going to work in this race.  The previous wave wouldn’t be in sight.  I went to the back of my wave, looked at the people in front of me and told myself, “I have 1500 meters to pass all them.”  The horn blew and I went to work.  So, this was a mistake.  The tightly packed group was like swimming in a can of sardines.  Everyone was all over each other and it took about 2 bouys to clear up.  I had to “stand my ground” against a few people and vice versa.  The Luray visibility was the best I’ve experienced and I could see well in front of me.  I came out of the water with 1545m recorded on the Garmin.  I can’t complain about that given my history of previous sighting issues.  I was 16/35 out of the water.  Can’t complain about that either.  I came out of the water feeling good.  Luray has a looooong flight of steps between the Swim Out and T1, but the steps are shallow and easy to climb.  At some point during the swim, I remembered that I racked my bike without putting the chain back on.

T1- 4:16
I really wanted to have a good solid bike so I didn’t go huffing and puffing to rush out of T1. Starting the bike already out of breath has been an issue in the past.   I took my time getting out of T1.  I should have taken the time to manually put my chain back.

Bike 2:02:40
While I didn’t put my chain back on by hand, I have “ridden” it back on many, many times.  I just pedal and shift up and it clicks onto the gears.  I usually closely supervise this, in no particular hurry, before a group ride.  But, this was not a group ride.  This was a race.  I wasn’t looking down and didn’t realize that the chain overshot the big chain ring and fell off to the outside.  Because I didn’t recognize this soon enough, the chain got wedged between the big chain ring and the crank arm.  Metal wedged between metal is no bueno.  I got off the bike, pulled a few times.  No luck.  I had to move out of the lane for incoming bikes.  An awesome Luray volunteer came to assist.  I pulled.  He pulled.  No luck.  A third, equally awesome, Luray volunteer came and we worked together.  I held the derailleur down so that it would stop moving every time we pulled.  Volunteer #3 held the slack of the chain from the depressed derailleur taut from the bottom.  Volunteer #2 and I pulled hard a few times and it came free!!  Thank God!  I thought my race was going to be mechanically over.  I pulled away with my Chamillionaire mantra in my head “They see me rollinnn, they hatinnn, patrollin’, they tryna catch me ridin’ dirtyyy...”  I was riding dirty.  Both my hands were pitch black from the chain grease.

The Luray bike course will work you, but it won’t kill you.  It’s a lollipop-type thing with 2 loops around the pop.  On the first loop, I was feeling my quads talking. I popped some Margarita-flavored shot blocks and drank some water.  My nutrition goal was to come back from the bike with an empty tube of ShotBlocks and 2 empty water bottles.  I told myself to ignore all the “on-your-lefters” and just chill out.  It was all good until a long false flat at the end of the lollipop.  My bike goal was to keep my lap speed above 12miles/hour.  Seeing it go from 12.3...11.8...11.5..10.9 really had me frustrated because I was in my lowest gear doing the best I could at < 60 rpms. I made the wise decision to switch my Garmin to a different screen with no lap time.  I was encouraged by my 154 HR, that’s light work for me.  At least I wasn’t burning out cardio-wise.  On the second lap, I hit one of the nice downhills and when I came out of it, my legs were back!!  Just like that.  I was like “aw shoot, let’s go!”  After a few minutes I reminded myself not to get too hype.  The run was coming.  The next time I hit the false flat stretch, I just tried to focus on my pedal technique.  It helps me alot if I remember to keep my ankles loose and use them.  I lost a lot of time on that stretch, but it felt much better the 2nd time around.  After a nice downhill stretch you approach the “bitter end” of the ride.

The end of the ride is the worst of it with 2 hills you won’t forget.  The first of the last 2 killers has a gradual, relatively benign incline followed by a quick steepening.  I got up this one surprisingly okay.  The next one steepens quickly and stays steep.  I stayed in my lowest gear and committed to grinding until I was done.  I heard footsteps behind me.  Someone was walking.  I kept pedaling. Two ladies who passed me earlier were also off the bike.  I was grinding, but not suffering the kind of muscle-burning fatigue I expected.  At one point, I almost tipped over a bit because I was going that slow.  I reminded myself about my form and started to use boths leg and all joints as evenly as possible.  My cadence picked up and I saw light at the end of the tunnel.  The walkers cheered me up the hill and I actually felt pretty good going into T2.  I finished the bike 31/35 with no shame.  I put some work in for that one.

T2- 4:32
Again, I was in no particular hurry.  I sat on the ground to put my shoes on and headed out of T2 walking with the Gerber Graduates applesauce squeezee that I have grown to love mid-run.  Sorry boys and girls, I’m eating your food.

Run 1:34:51
My teammate Tiffany was there cheering me on and walking with me to the main road. I had my positive run mantras on tap.  I thought about the many successful training runs and bricks and just told myself to repeat those.   I hit a respectable slow jog and I felt like this was going to be a pretty good race. This is where I would like to end this race report.  Let’s just say two miles into the race someone handed me a piano.  As I have experienced for almost every race for the past, ohhhh 7 years or so, my legs started to stop.  It was struggle time and there was no getting the legs to pick up for more than a few strides.  I had been steady with shotblocks and water.  I had eaten my fruit pouch.  I stopped at every water station for water and Heed. I’d trained for this run for 6 months.  I’d had a good bike and swim.  Nothing was even hurting.  I trudged, I walked, trudged, walked.  Tried to run faster than a trudge.  Legs like “nah.”  This is where I got pissed off (not a good thing).  But seriously, WTF was all the training for is this is what the race was going to be?  Why bother?  These are bad, bad thoughts.  Somewhat irrational and bad, bad thoughts.   I saw Jessica, Christy and Tiffany at the finish line chute and they forced me to pull it together.  They brought my smile back and I finished the race with a strong 50 meter run.  This Luray run is incredibly hilly.  I finished the run 33/34.

End of Season Thoughts

It’s not all bad!!  I know that I am a stronger runner this year than I was last year.  My endurance is actually better most of the time.  I still have such a long way to go and it takes a mile of consistent work to see a millimeter of variable improvement.  Not to mention, few people know more about running than I do.  I help people to run better for a large part of my job.  I live this stuff all damn day.  Those who can’t do, teach, right? I’m hype that I dropped 5 seconds off my 50m swim time (about 50” to about 45”) and I’ve got sighting down.   I’m in lower range of where I was last year on the bike according to course comparisons.  So, I didn’t lose much.  Now, I have to decide if I really want to work my butt off all winter and spring to see if I can maybe be a little bit better at running next summer or if I should just stick to a sport I can actually do well.  Right now, I’m super sore and walking like a penguin so it’s not a good time for clear decision making.  



Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fort Ritchie Triathlon 2015

Fort Ritchie Triathlon
By Marsha O'Mara

Based on my showing at the Fort Ritchie Olympic distance triathlon, I can safely say, I have improved in triathlons, but I have some more work to do.

The swim, as we all know, is my weakest event.  Apparently I thought it was more fear than anything that was keeping me back.  But I learned that it's also a lack of endurance.  Surprisingly, I was not that scared to swim.  I was in the last wave so I didn't have anyone swimming over me until the group from the prior wave came through again for their 2nd loop (we swam 2 loops in the lake for the Olympic distance).  And that wasn't even so bad.  But what got me was my lack of endurance.  I had to flip over on my back more to catch my breath than out of fear of swimming.  Maybe it was partially due to fear as well why I got short of breath quickly, but I still feel like I need to put in a lot more hours in the pool to work on endurance so I can swim more instead of just flipping on my back every 10 strokes.  So I will start doing swim workouts in January of next year if I plan to do a fall race.
As I said, my swim was pretty good.  In this race, when doing the Olympic distance, we had to swim one lap and then get out of the water, run around and jump back in the lake for the 2nd lap.  I was not too pleased with that.  Once I get out of the lake, I want to stay out of the lake.  Who wants to get back in there?  But I did it.  And no I didn't jump in the lake.  I'm not there yet.  I scooted in and meanwhile, scratched up my arm on the reentry.  So I probably should have jumped in now that I think about it.  Lessons learned.

The bike was pure torture!!!!  They changed the bike course at the last minute so when we started the course, we had to go up this steep hill.  Now I've ridden up hills before.  Yes, I may only go 5 mph up the hill, but I usually can still make it up without walking.  I had to give up on that on this hill.  I surely did get off my bike and walk up that first hill.  Then I think I walked up another one near the start too because it was just too steep.  But after that, it was a good downhill from there and I fueled up and ate my Shot Bloks.  That gave me some energy.  We had a NICE, NICE (did I say NICE?) downhill for about 3 miles.  I was cruising.  Pedaling did no good so I just coasted down the hill.  Well, what happens when you go downhill for 3 miles on an out and back course?  Yep, you have to go back up that hill.  So I did.  And I didn't walk up that hill mainly because I figured if I got off my bike, I wouldn't be able to start back up again.  So I decided to push through.  The hill wasn't really steep, steep.  It was a steady incline.  So it was rough and long but not unbearable.  But don't let me make you think it wasn't bad.  It was bad.  Just doable.  Are you confused yet?  If so, once you ride it, you'll know what I mean.  :-)  After that long uphill, I was just so ready for it to be over.  And of course, as usually happens in my races, my chain came off right near the finish.  So I had to put it back on.  Good thing is I was on a downhill at that point, so no worries.

Oh, so let's go back to the swim.  They announced it was wet suit legal, but barely.  So I have these "wet suit" shorts that I bought last year.  I decided to wear them for the swim thinking they would allow my bottom portion to glide better.  Well, I don't think they did because I didn't notice any difference.  But I got back to transition after the swim and forgot to take them off!!!!  I was about 1 mile in on the bike before I realized they were still on.  I thought about ditching them on the side of the road and coming back for them later, but I kept them on.  They were making me a bit hot though so maybe they do do something since wet suits keep you warm.  I'm going to need to investigate these shorts to see if they are still worth wearing.

So when I got back to the transition, I made sure that I took those shorts off!!!!  I would have burned up on my run in those things.  The run was fine.  There were a few hills, of which I walked ALL of them!  I usually don't walk hills in races.  I at least wait until I get to the top and then take a break.  Not here.  I was just so done after the bike ride.  So the course was a double loop of a 3.1 mile course.  On my 1st loop, I saw some people starting their second loop.  So I knew I was at least only 30 minutes or so behind someone.  Oh, I guess this is the time to mention that at this point, I was the last person in the race!!!  Oops.  I guess my swim was the slowest out of everyone and that just put me at the back of the pack for the rest of the race.  Oh well...first time for everything.  On my 2nd loop, there was someone else just starting her 2nd loop, and I was able to pass her!  So I wasn't going to be the last person in the race after all.  Not that that's a bad thing because as long as I finished, I was fine.  But I just thought that was at least something I could achieve..to pass this person.  So I did.  

While on the run, I saw a fox in the woods.  And I was very scared.  But the fox ran away, and I kept running...fast...until the next hill and then I walked.  I got to one water station and got the last cup of water.  Then I got to the last water station before the finish and there was no one there manning the water station.  Just some cups filled up on the table.  So I took as many as I liked.  And then I ran the rest of the way to the finish.

My time was 4:06:32.3 which is a very good time for me as I wanted to do it in 4 hours.  So I was very close to my goal time.  It's just that everyone else was faster than me.  :-)  Now that I know what I need to do to get better, I will start working on that in the new year.  Overall, I had a really good race and am happy with my performance.  I couldn't have asked for anything more.






Monday, May 25, 2015

The Iron Journey



by Kandis Gibson

When I first got the idea to do a triathlon, my bucket list item was a half
Ironman.  The thought of doing a Full Ironman seemed ridiculous.  Well,
just the marathon part.  But after a few weeks of tri training, I started
thinking I might be selling myself short if I didn’t do a Full.  Then, in a
moment of weakness, I let a friend of mine talk me into registering for
Ironman Texas. Ugh.
In December 2014, I started working with Robert Clarence on some techniques to become stronger and more efficient on the bike. In January 2015, I met with Lloyd to work on some run techniques to address some form issues I was having. With my form corrected, I started my formal Ironman Training Program with Lloyd at the end of January. Lloyd warned me that training in the winter was going to be rough, but thankfully I had good bike support and Robert was always up for a ridiculous session on the trainer, even if he just turned on Sufferfest and talked to you while you suffered! Before I knew it, race week had arrived. I arrived in Houston on Wednesday night -Thursday was the last day for packet pick up and I didn’t want to take any chances with flight delays on Thursday morning. I also needed to change my bike tires. I was worried about racing in my old tires because they were really hard to get off (def do a tire changing clinic before your race). The bike shop didn’t get the new tires in time to change them before the race, so I had to have tri bike transport do it. I spent a lot of time weighing riding on new, untested tires. I knew I couldn’t change the old ones so I had to take my chances. I picked up my packet, swapped out the tires and headed to the Opening Banquet.
Lloyd called me Thursday night to talk me through the Ironman Gear Bag process. This allowed me time to pick up anything I might have forgotten (I’m looking at your aero bottle rubber bands) and to pick up anything I needed more of before gear check. I got my gear in my bags and got my last good night of sleep! Friday morning I got up and headed to the practice swim. Time flies the days before a race, but if you can do the practice swim, you should. I got all my nerves out that morning. I remembered that sometimes I start to fast and forget to exhale. I remembered just how many people are in the water with you on race day. And I remembered to focus on my form. I left the swim and headed to get my bike. The tires had held up through the night, so that was great. I had about a mile ride to the bike check, so I could test them out some more if necessary.
It had rained all the rain all week in Houston and the bike in was filled with mud. The forecast was calling for more rain on Friday, so I knew things would only get worse. The volunteers assured us they would have kiddie pools filled with water on race day so that we could rinse our feet after getting our bikes. We had to tape up our gear bags to keep them from getting wet before the race as well. After bike check, I grabbed some food and tried to kill some time until dinner. Lloyd, Kyle and I met up for an early dinner and went over the race plan again. At this point it occurred to me that I had nothing else to do. After spending 16 weeks training and pushing myself, the night before a race was super calm. I was in bed by 8, even though I didn’t really sleep. The morning of the race, I was up at 4:30. I dropped off my water bottles at my bike, then we walk down to the swim start and drop off the special needs bags. At this point there is nothing to do but take a bunch of selfies and wait for the swim to start. It’s emotional. I teared up during the singing of the National Anthem. I was sniffling as we lined up according to swim times. Kyle and I went over my race mantra – I’m a winner, I’m a champion, I’m the best of the best, I love myself! The race had a rolling start – basically, a steady stream of people entering the water for 25 minutes. It went a lot faster than I thought it would. Before I knew it, I was barefoot and entering the water. I heard Lloyd and the cowbell and we were off!!
*The Swim*
The swim was GREAT! I had gotten all my nerves out. I had a steady pace and I had some space. The course was a weird point to point – out and almost back to the starting point, then a sharp right into a canal for the last 800 meters. The out and back were great. The canal portion is cool because it’s only about 15 ft wide so sighting is easy. It’s not cool because several hundred swimmers enter it at once and you have to fight a bit to pass people. Kyle told me later that there were people swimming who looked like they were fighting the water and losing. I think I may have unintentionally interrupted a few of these fights the canal, but was able to get around them without serious injury. At this point Lloyd and Kyle were running alongside the canal cheering and ringing the cowbell, so I knew I had made it to the swim out.
The T1 tent was a bit of ways away from the water exit. I grabbed my gear, and ran to get my bike. Because of the mud, I was barefoot, holding my shoes and socks in my hands and carrying my bike. A nice volunteer held my bike as I rinsed my feet and put my shoes on, then started the ride. *The Bike* The first 60 miles of the bike were awesome. It was hot in Houston and the temperature was expected to hit 90 with about 100% humidity. I knew hydration would be key. I tried to drink every 10 minutes, eat a gel every 15 and take some endurolytes every 90 minutes. I also grabbed plain water every third aid station. At mile 65 though, things were getting rough. After passing Lloyd and Kyle, I hit a bump and lost the straw to my aero bottle. I had a Gatorade in my water bottle holder, though, so I wasn’t too worried. By now it was also 90degrees and the wind has picked up. Then it started to rain. The pavement has also gone from smooth highway surface to gravelly cobblestones. There was no more coasting. Robert and I had been on some brutal rides over the winter (and me and Lloyd) so I knew I just had to stay the course and things would smooth out.
Despite the slow going, I knew, barring a mechanical issue, I was going to finish the bike. The completion rate at the race dropped 5% this year, with many blaming the bike leg, so I was more than happy to coast into T2 and hand my bike off. *The Run*
I’ve spent a good portion of my training getting ready for the run. I’m not a runner and I don’t like running. I always forget to put on my compression tights (I did Luray with 1 on) and today was no different. Thankfully, my Chi Running clinic helped me get rid of the shin splints so I was good with some KT tape and sunscreen. I felt great the first mile of the 3 loop course. The run course was unbelievably spectator friendly (the app not so much). The local tri clubs set up tents, there were a few DJs, and spectators overflowed the outdoor seating areas. Lots of people calling your name and little kids putting their hands out for high fives.
About half of each loop was like that. The other half was running through residential neighborhoods and trails. Even though some residents came out, this section was brutal. I was ahead of the run cutoff by about 2hours, so I tried to pace myself as best as I could. The first two loops went by but coming up on mile 19, it hit me just how much EVERYTHING hurt. I saw people sitting down going through their special needs bags. I knew that Lloyd would kill me if I did that and I knew that I wouldn’t get back up if I sat down. I could feel my mood changing and I knew I was getting grumpy. I made a point to say hello to every athlete and volunteer I encountered, say an encouraging word and thank them for their encouragement. The course is super friendly to begin with, but forcing myself to do this helped me get in a better mood. Then, right before mile 24, I ran into Kyle and Lloyd. They had been bouncing around the course so I never knew where I’d see them, but I was so happy they were there to encourage me. They walked with me for a little bit, then turned around so they could make it to the finish line by the time I got there. Lloyd told me it was okay to walk, as long as I saved enough energy to run across the finish. The last mile was tough but I could feel the energy picking up closer I got to the end. I rang the “3rd Loop bell” at the last aid station and almost shed a tear when I got to the “Next Loop or Finish” sign and headed towards the finish line. Somehow, I mustered up enough energy to start running. The fences were holding the crowds back and people started shouting and cheering me on. I ran up the super long shoot and turned the corner to see…..another long shoot??? What in the entire hell?? I was so confused, I looked behind me. Did I run past the finish and miss it? Where are the damn catchers??? Shouldn’t someone be shouting my name? Apparently I still had to run the .2 in 26.2. Whatever. I had already started running, so I couldn’t stop now. I ran down the long shoot, rounded the corner to come up the other side and saw the red carpet. I think I slapped every hand out there. Then I heard Lloyd’s cowbell ringing up the way and knew this was it. Kandis Gibson…YOU. ARE. AN. IRONMAN.
 
P.S. Lloyd makes you run the morning after an Ironman. The level of guilt and fear that he uses to do this is cross between a Jewish mother and a doomsday prepper- if you run, you will be able to walk normal during the week. If you don’t, you will never be able to walk again and your legs will fall off. I don’t know if your legs will fall off if you don’t run, but I can confirm that you will be walking normally if you do run. For what it’s worth!
Diaa, Leanda Cave (Ironman & Ironman 70.3 Champion, Lloyd, Me and Kyle

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Irongirl Triathlon 2014

Irongirl Triathlon
by Marsha O'Mara

What happens when you don't listen to your coach?  You have a bad swim.  What happens when you do listen to your cycling coach?  You have a great bike ride.  So Lloyd has been telling me that when I go to the open water swims or even to the pool that I need to start swimming as soon as I get in the water and not sit around trying to get acclimated since I won't have the opportunity at the race.  But I remember from last year's Iron Girl Columbia that we had 6 minutes to sit around in the water before our wave started so I paid him absolutely no attention and didn't do what he said to do in practice.  Well, at least not for the open water swims.  To my credit, I did try to do it in the pool.  :-)

Well, to my shock, the week of the Iron Girl Columbia race, they announced that the swim would be a time trial swim which means that they call 2 people at a time every 5 seconds and you immediately get in the water and start swimming.  I still didn't think it would be an issue.  Well, I was so wrong!  As soon as I got in the water for the race, I began to panic.  I was able to swim to the first kayak and hung on to it for a bit.  When I got my breath a little bit (because I never fully caught my breath for the whole swim) I started swimming again, but I started to panic again so I stopped at the next kayak.  Another athlete came up to the kayak and was saying that she wanted to quit because she was panicking.  Another teammate of mine was also at the kayak and we were both telling her that she could do it.  Don't quit.  Even though I was having the same thoughts of quitting.  But I would never admit that to anyone else.  LOL!  So I was trying to motivate her and motivate myself as well.  I think she eventually swam off but I stayed there hanging on for dear life.  My teammate left as well to continue her swim and after a little bit, I decided to just do it.  So I started swimming and rolling on my back and swimming regularly again at intervals.

I think what also made this different than last year is that I was in the last wave last year and there was no one to come from behind and swim over me.  I pretty much was able to swim without interference last year.  But this year, since we had the time trial start and I wasn't in the last wave, there were people all over swimming on my right and left and coming from behind.  I never had that type of experience before.  So I got water splashed in my face and up my nose.  I swallowed a good bit of water too.  As I turned to go around the bend to make my way back to the finish, I decided to stop at another kayak to catch my breath again because there was no amount of deep breathing that was allowing me to control my breath.  So I stopped and asked him where we were on the course.  Someone said we were more than half way.  I looked at my watch and I was 24 minutes in.  Last year I had finished my swim in 40 minutes and in practice I was doing it in a little over 30 so I knew this was not looking good as far as time was concerned.  But I just really wanted to finish.

I finally made my way again and after a while I got caught up in the weeds or whatever was in the water and I remembered from last year that this was near the finish line so I knew I was almost done.  Finally, my swim stroke started to come together and I was swimming like I was taught to swim instead of in panic mode.  Never was I happier to make it to the finish line...of the swim.  I still had the bike and run to do.  But honestly at that point, I just wanted to be done.  My psyche was all messed up.

However, when I did get on the bike, I felt really good.  I had just gotten my tires pumped up that morning after not pumping them up in weeks.  I was told they were really flat.  Is that why I was riding so slow before?  Possibly.  My cycling coach did tell us to pump up our tires before each ride.  As you can tell, I don't know how to listen.  So I was riding nice and fast.  Even though this is a hilly course, I was passing everyone on the ride.  I don't think anyone passed me on the ride at all.  Why I say I did listen to my coach is he says to always pedal on the downhills because that's how you gain your momentum to get up the hills and it just gives you more speed.  So I did that for the whole ride.  While everyone else was coasting, I was pedaling.  And I was MOVING!  It felt so good to let the wind blow against my face.  This also was my first race using my new clipless pedals and I could definitely tell the difference with them.  I highly recommend those pedals for riding.

The run, although my favorite of the 3 sports, was uneventful.  It was hot and hilly...not a good combo.  But since it was the only thing that stood between me and the finish line, I got it done.  Of course, I broke out into a sprint going down the finish line shoot.  I was so happy to see my Team OnPoint Fitness members at the finish line waving me in and giving high fives.  Definitely a great cheering squad.

Overall, I'm just really glad I finished.  I'm glad I improved on the bike, but I really need to get stronger in the swim.  I need to be more comfortable in the open water for sure.  I will not let this race get the best of me.


Thanks to my coaches for knowing their stuff.  Hopefully next time, I'll pay attention.  :-)





Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My "First" Triathlon Report- Irongirl Columbia

By Gina S. Brown

I want to start this report off by saying that first of all I give all glory, honor and praise to the Trinity-Father, Son AND Holy Spirit for allowing me to be “alive” to write this report the day after my first “tri”. Secondly, it might make me cuss less while writing these thoughts. ….

Waiting for swim start
The thought of participating in my first “tri” was circumstantial. A year ago, I was swimming and running on the same day, then biking and running, etc. My BFF said to me, “Hey, you are doing tri training”…that thought had never occurred to me. I was just trying to “get it in….” exercise and stay in shape. Then a novel idea occurred…”hey, if I’m doing tri training, why not just participate in one”…. I should have prayed first to see “who” was giving me that idea. I can’t even blame that on The Lord…. because after yesterday, Jesus might have been saying…. ummm hummmm. “Yo black behind should have asked me first before trying to embark on such a feat”…. nevertheless it was again only “The Lord” that got me through.
Teammates

Let me reflect and quickly share my journey. I took my first swimming classes as a teenager at the neighborhood pool. I can’t even tell you that they did any good, except that I wasn’t afraid of the water, I could go off of the high board, but I would HAVE to come up out of the water, and immediately flip on my back. I never learned how to properly breathe. Fast forward 20 years and 1 child later. While pregnant with my second child, I took swimming lessons yet again, learning how to stroke, but not breathe.  Fast-forward another 15 years later. While talking to India Medley who was preparing for her first tri, she suggested that I meet her coach. But I didn’t have the time or resources, so I pushed it off. Five years later while running with Karen Hayes (in 27 degree weather), she suggested that I meet her swimming coach-which was the same guy!!!

Swim Start
 So I met Lloyd Henry who is phenomenal (but has a very sharp tongue and smart mouth). Lloyd Henry is “no joke”. He pulls no punches and is the best freaking tri coach in the world! Lloyd is a Tri-Star who has done over 12 Iron Man tri’s all over the world. He knows what he is doing. I started taking swimming lessons with Lloyd, and lo and behold, I learned how to breathe!!!! I then took a sabbatical, worked on swimming and went back to Lloyd intermittently to work on strokes, distance, etc. When I finally told Lloyd that I wanted to do a tri he said “ok”. Now he KNEW what I could and could not do. I would have told me-“wait”, but he just said, “ok”. I then wanted to sign up for Iron Girl-2014. I don’t know what I was drinking or smoking that morning, but whatever it was, it must have been potent, because I had no fear whatsoever. I had my husband on one computer, Lloyd on another computer and I was on a computer, trying to get a slot. I finally got through! I should have known when I couldn’t get through the first time that Jesus might be trying to tell me something…. I even got my “run-wife” Sherrie Brown to sign up, but she had to bail later due to other obligations.
Swim Start

So Lloyd and I started training. What a feat! My travel schedule is always crazy because of work and other responsibilities, but Lloyd flipped times around, met me at unreal times (6am on his own personal swimming times), had me going to the pool at other times, gave me a training and workout plan, and texted me regularly to see what I was doing when I was on travel.  About 2 months out from the event, my travel schedule had been so heavy that I hadn’t had the time to appropriately train. I asked Lloyd to “reset” my training schedule. You would have thought that I said, “Mary wasn’t a virgin!”  Lloyd laid me out (via text) that he wasn’t resetting anything and that I needed to just “catch up”. At that point, I felt that I’d defer if I couldn’t catch up, but I wouldn’t tell Lloyd that I was going to defer until August 1. But I felt that I’d still do all the training if only to get in shape. Lloyd is the kind of coach that if you miss something, will track you down, so I knew if I didn’t want to answer 15,000 questions, I’d better show up.

Bike Start
So I worked hard. I swam even when I was on travel. I’d drive and find a pool…. But my hard work wasn’t hard enough. Lloyd was not worried about the running portions, but the biking and swimming needed work, and especially the swimming, as normally you don’t DIE when you bike, but you sure can when you swim. My regular sessions weren’t enough. I wasn’t getting it. Additionally Lloyd felt that while the distance was an issue, I still needed to learn to breathe on both sides. I’m thinking, “You are kidding me! I just learned how to breathe….” But I followed through.  At one point I was in the pool 4-5 times per week. Footnote…. I’m African American. My hair was NOT happy. It’s just starting to speak to me again…. but “it’s still angry and needs counseling….”

Anyway, that still wasn’t enough. Lloyd had me come in the morning at 6am and then some evenings as well. I was not feeling it…. but I did it. The biking he captured as well through the training plan and another coach. By the time August 1 came, I felt that if I deferred, he’d be so disappointed because he and so many others had invested so much time and energy in me. I didn’t have the nerve to quit at that point. So I lined up my insurance papers and decided to go for it. One additional thing that Lloyd did was to align me with a partner. Amy Bleich. Amy had done Iron Girl 7 times, and was use to swimming in the Chesapeake Bay. It was Amy who took me into open water, did biking bricks with me and just really emailed and encouraged me. Her help and support were invaluable.

Irongirl Finisher
Two days before the race, Lloyd called me to see how I was doing. At that point I had picked up my race packet and I was ready…or so I thought. The next night before the race, Lloyd called me again. I should have known something was wrong…”just checking on me”. Hindsight is 20/20. I’d have called me too knowing what I know now. I had racked my bike, and again, I was “ready”. HA!!!!  I had so many people praying for me…. to the point that the senior citizens from the prayer line were leaving me messages and one of them told me “I’m praying that you don’t embarrass me”…HA!

The morning of the race, Lloyd and Cherry were there as encourager’s. The rest of the “On Point Team “got there and got ready to roll. Amy had told me to get there super early, so I got there before 5am. Footnote: I’ m African American. 3:30am and Gina do not go together…” But I got there, set up my tri area as Lloyd had instructed and walked around with Amy. There were approximately 2000 of us there to participate. When it was time to go into the water, we placed our color-coded swim caps on and went out 2 by 2, like “The disciples”…. only we were to be eaten by wolves…

Amy & Gina
Amy stated that she’d go out with me, and we’d catch up later (footnote…we caught up at the “after party”)…The water temperature was 76.2 degrees. Lloyd said not to worry about that, because I’d be warm after the first 5 minutes. He also said that I’d panic the first 10 minutes but would calm down after that and find my rhythm. Well he was right about both; except I panicked probably the first 60 minutes of my 60-minute swim…no worries though.  He told me how to get on my back when I was panicked and then go back into the freestyle. I never got off of my back for any longer than 6 strokes. I did the entire race in an elementary backstroke! I could hear Lloyd screaming from the side with a freaking cowbell, but I couldn’t understand a word of it. The Lord sent me “Mike” who was a kayaker who stayed virtually beside me most of the entire race. When I was tired, I’d swim over to the Kayak, and if I could make it or talk (and yes I talked to Mike) then I d just keep moving.
Gina & Sherrie

Eventually I made it out of the water (THANK YOU JESUS!!!!) I had my husband, my “run wife” and the team cheering me on, as I transitioned to my bike. That was another experience, but I made it through those 16 miles as well. When I got back to do the run, I was just saying “Lord if you will just help me”…. eventually I saw Amy who was about 10 minutes in front of me on the run. That was great. Then I heard that wretched cow bell again, saw that florescent yellow “On Point” shirt and said, “oh no! Here he comes!” We were about a ¼ mile out…. and he’s running toward me, screaming, smiling and as I’m telling him what great coach he is, I’m also saying “I’m never doing this again”…. he said, run, smile for the photographer and beat the other teams’ girl who was running beside me”…. and that I did. My daughter, my girlfriend, and the others were there also to cheer me on. That was VERY helpful and really made the difference. None of my “On Point” team members left until I made it in. Belonging to a team really makes a difference.
OnPoint Fitness Team

While tri training can be expensive overall, it was worth every dime that I paid. The biggest question that everyone asks is, would I do it over again? Yep. I would. But I’ll be back in the saddle with Lloyd Henry working on those problem areas so that the next time, I’m an even better “Iron Girl”…


Gina Brown