Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ironman Coeur d'Alene Through the Ages

I've been thinking about this blog post a lot lately. In fact I would have posted earlier, but I’ve been preoccupied this week with the typical race week distractions – packing, last minute purchases, pre-race massage, focusing on getting more rest, etc. It’s a delicate balance of getting your shit done and staying calm. Or maybe I’m the only one who struggles with this? For me race week, especially when it's a race with so many memories, churns up nostalgia and I feel the need to reflect on how far I've come since I started racing Ironman. Here are the “Clif's Notes” versions of race reports from the past five times I’ve toed the line in Coeur d’Alene:

The year was 2008 and I had signed up approximately 365 days prior (this race used to sell out back then) thinking it might be a "one and done" type of experience. My training consisted for running a couple half marathons and marathons, buying a TT bike (that I rode until April of this year), swimming solo at the gym near my house, and way too many late nights and early mornings lifting weights or on a stationary bike (before I understood the benefits of a bike trainer and when I worked too many hours in public accounting). I actually stumbled upon my training plan the other day while I was cleaning out a closet. It was something I found on the Internet and printed out and put in a 3-ring binder. I don't remember much from the day other than it was really a lot of fun. My friends and family were out on the course and I remember the crowd was really supportive. I finished in 11 hours and 49 minutes and was pretty much hooked after crossing that finish line.

Support crew - Malia, Sherry, Andy, Jill, John, Lane

2008 Finish line with Jill, Lane, and Sherry
In 2009 I decided that I didn’t want to put in that much time and not get faster, so I hired a coach. Kainoa, who still coaches me to this day, whipped me into shape and prepared me to be more competitive in my age group. The weather that afternoon was cold and gray that day; it rained a bit on the run. My goal that year was to bike under 6 hours and run under 4. I succeeded in both and finished in 11:11:01, which was good enough for 5th place in my age group. Unfortunately, the Kona slot only rolled down to 4th place who finished about 90 seconds ahead of me. The girl who finished fourth, Lilia, and I are now good friends. Being that close and not getting a Kona slot was motivation that would help me through training the following winter. 
2009 Race morning with my friend Lindsay
In 2010 I knew I had a better chance of getting a Kona slot than the year prior. My run times were getting faster and I was showing improvement on the bike and in the pool. I swam okay, for me, got through transition quickly and got to work on the bike. I remember telling my friends and family that if I had a perfect day, I’d bike around 5:35. I biked 5:32 and was leading my age group as I started the run. My run was less than stellar – it was hot and I paced it poorly, but I held on to finish in 10:42 and got my first age group win in any distance triathlon. I had friends, family, and teammates at the finish line. When I was digging through pictures to post for this blog, I noticed the Facebook album I posted for this Ironman was titled, “Race of My Life.”

2010 - when I learned how to ride a bike

2010 - holding position on the run

I could probably argue, however, that 2011 was the race of my life (up for grabs this weekend, I hope). I put a lot of pressure on myself that year to qualify for Kona. I knew a couple fast girls from Seattle in my age group (Lilia mentioned above and Sam Mazer), not to mention all the fast girls who could show up from other states. Plus I felt like I had something to prove after winning my age group the year before. My training had gone well – I had a new stand-alone marathon PR that year (3:05) and I had also done well at Oceanside 70.3 that spring. And when race day came, I executed it almost perfectly. I posted a real race report here. The icing on top was that I had so many friends and teammates there who also raced well and that was really special.

2011 podium with Lilia in 2nd and Sam in 3rd - an honor to share
 the stage with such talented friends

2011 run
Last year was special for me in a new way. I learned to calm down a little and focus more on what I could do as an athlete versus worrying about how others were racing or what it would take to get a Kona slot. At the end of the day, I won my age group and was the first amateur female, something that would eventually lead to my decision of going pro. Racing CdA last year was a good reminder of how much I love racing and that I love Ironman. I got to experience racing up near the front and head to head with another competitor. It gave me a confidence boost and was a good stepping stone for this year.

2013 run -  hoping to improve on last year's race.
I'll likely have this same dorky smile.
So when I arrive in Coeur d’Alene this week, swim in the lake, and stroll up and down Sherman Ave, there will be a lot of memories giving me a lump in my throat (because sometimes I’m a total sap). But there will also be a ton of positive energy on the course for me on Sunday. Apart from the hustle of getting ready to race, this week has been awesome in terms of getting so many wonderful messages from friends and family. I have some fears about my first Ironman as a professional and the usual nervousness I get before a race, but I’m looking forward to writing about a new year and new experiences.
Best of luck to all athletes on Sunday! Have a safe and memorable race! This could be the start of something amazing!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sometimes Weekly Roundup - 6/16

First off, Happy Birthday to my best friend, training partner, and one of my most loyal readers - Sydnie!

Here are the ramblings from the past week:

I took this shot last weekend in Central Washington on my final over distance ride of my Coeur d'Alene training block. 120 mile bike + 1 hour run all solo. Last weekend, my friend Heidi asked me if I ever get bored training by myself and I gave her an indifferent answer. But then two days ago when I had a much shorter ride, I was bored out of my freaking mind. So it goes, the shorter stuff is sometimes harder than the longer stuff. I'm pretty sure we've all been there.

I posted this picture to "the Grams" this week after picking some delicious produce in the urban gardens near my office. Seattle U is all about sustainability and has gardens around campus free to harvest. By the way, this is what strawberries should look like, not the huge, overgrown ones you see in grocery stores. I then whipped up these Smitten Kitchen bars.  
Friday night was one of two graduation parties for the weekend and I was showing up empty handed, so I picked up a dozen cookies and growler of IPA. Taking advantage of not having a seven hour training day on Saturday, I had some bevs and it kind of made me think about this article. In terms of food and drink, it was B+ nutrition.
The second graduation party of the weekend was at a place called Sound Spirits, a distillery in Seattle with really delicious gin cocktails. The bartender had really funny candor and it was a fun place to tour, hang out, and raise a glass to our friend Annabelle to congratulate her on her grad school graduation.
I've been slightly obsessed following RAAM this year as my friend John Bergen crosses this epic adventure off his bucket list (picture taken by John's crew). John has been a friend and mentor of mine since 2010 when we both raced Ironman Kona. I sometimes call him my "Ironman big brother" and had a chance to crew for him at Ultraman last year. There was a great write up by one of his sponsors, nuun, written here. And if you like to geek out on this type of stuff, check out how Christoph Strasser is doing compared to the rest of the field. Incredible!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Sometimes Weekly Roundup - 6/5

Training is in full swing which means a) creativity wanes and b) I don't really take much time to post pictures or blog... c and d) I'm a little grumpy trying to fit everything in and I'm pretty much eating all the time. So, here is round-up that spans the last few weeks. My taper for Ironman CdA is just around the corner, so hopefully I'll soon be able to spice up the blog posts.
I spent the past three weekends in Coeur d'Alene, ID, Central WA, and Seattle, respectively. I packed in the miles, but also enjoyed some quality time with good friends. Here are some ramblings from the past few weeks.
The Student Center at Seattle U has become a new friend. I go there daily for some fruit-infused water, Thai iced tea, or to grab a breakfast burrito (stuffed with tator tots!) after hard training weekends. I was recently there for lunch and got asked if I was looking for a summer job. I'm glad to know I still (kind of) fit in as a student.
Saturday was the final broadcast of "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" with Carl Kasell as the official scorekeeper of the show. Nerds around the country, including Barack Obama, bid adieu to our favorite voice in radio.
I went over to CdA with my friends David, Adam, and Julie. The three of us in this picture are all racing IMCdA, just like we raced St. George in 2012. Since St. G was changing from a full Ironman to a 70.3 that year, all their merchandise was really cheap and the three of us bought matching sweatshirts. We never miss an opportunity to bust these out together. Though I will admit, I felt a little self conscious wearing a sweatshirt with the M-dot plastered all over it.   
Also on my CdA training weekend, I rode the old course. Anyone who raced her prior to 2012 will recognize this junction. I miss the old course - it was more technical and scenic.
This past Friday night I ran 20 miles after work (not at a 4:18/mile pace), followed by stuffing my face with salty teriyaki chicken and then watching the Pre Classic online. Galen Rupp set *another* American record with his blistering 10k. If you don't already follow track and field, there is some really good stuff out there. He ran 1:57 for his last 800 meters! So impressive!
A couple weeks ago, I attended an event at SU that included a successful alumna, Robin Wehl Martin, who talked about her new cookie shop in Seattle. I tasted the habanero chocolate chip and the snickerdoodle - both amazing! Definitely worth a stop for good coffee, delicious cookies, or an ice cream sandwich.

This picture says so many things. You can read about it here. I love Oiselle for being bold and pushing the boundaries - in business and in sport. Congratulations to Heather, Katie, Kate, and Brenda on an amazing race at the World Relays!
And finally, a picture from Golden Gardens in Seattle . I felt like garbage (energy wise) on Tuesday, but rallied to finish my bike workout. It's sights like this that really turn my mood around. I'm entering my final push of IM CdA training. It hasn't been easy, but I feel like I'm strong and healthy and will be able to put down a good race on June 29th.
Best of luck to all to those pushing their limits in training!