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 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 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