Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon

A few weeks ago, I was able to participate in and finish the inaugural Alaskaman Extreme Triathlon. This is definitely one of the craziest/stupidest things I’ve ever done….and it was awesome. I definitely want to share this experience with the internet so everyone can know how awesome this race it and get it on their bucket lists!

Pre-Race Thursday:
Ok, so this is the first triathlon I’ve ever had to fly to, so I was stupid neurotic worried about my baggage getting lost on the way. I had shipped my bike up to Alaska 2 weeks prior, so I knew it was already up there, safe and sound, but I was totally sure that my checked bag with my race gear was going to get lost. I packed my carry-on bag full of race stuff that I absolutely had to have that couldn’t be replaced (helmet, wetsuit, etc) and hauled that bad boy all the way from Atlanta to Anchorage. (Spoiler: my bag did not get lost and everything was fine).

I landed in Anchorage around 1 pm, but one of our crew wasn’t coming in until almost 7, so we had a good bit of time to get some groceries, pick up my bike, and waste some time at REI before picking up our last co-hort at the airport and heading down to Seward. This gave us a chance to check out the bike course (backwards) and also just generally enjoy one of the most scenic highways in America – although it rained the entire way there.

We stayed at the Harborview Inn, which was just fine and more reasonably priced than some of the other hotels in town.  We got in and pretty much crashed right away so we coud get up and go to the social swim in the morning.

Pre-Race Friday:
I got up to head to the social swim around 5:30 (so we could sleep in a bit after our late night). I told the crew they didn’t have to come with, but they all wanted to, so we all went down to the swim start with our swim gear on.  I’m glad we got there a little later, since of the other participants had already been in the water and warmed it up a bit 😉

I squeezed into my wetsuit, and also put on booties and a neoprene cap and gloves to try out – I had been in the wetsuit, but not the other gear before.  I pretty much immediately had to have the gloves off – they made me feel super claustrophobic and I couldn’t grab my goggles. So that wasn’t going to work.  Once I had those off, I was able to get out in the water and swim around a bit. Everything in the wetsuit was fine. My hands were cold, but I was just going to have to deal with that, and when I put my face in the water, it really kind of hurt, but I hadn’t put any vaseline on it that morning. I made a mental note to not forget that for race morning.

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HUGS!

Then everybody got in, so that was fun.

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Not everyone is excited about this

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Not at all

After that, we went and got breakfast, did packet pick-up and went back to the hotel. Because I am kind of a dummy sometimes, I accidentally made two reservations at the same hotel for Thursday and Friday night, which meant we had to give up our room at 11 and couldn’t get the new one until 4….not ideal for the day before the race.  But we tried to make the best of it, so I spent the rest of the morning organizing all my race gear into bags so I wouldn’t have to worry about it later.  We spent a few hours at the Sea Life Center, but at one point I got really, really tired and just wanted to lay down, so I went out to the car and relaxed in there for a while. There was a still a little time before the mandatory pre-race meeting so we drove over to the Exit Glacier. My crew went and hiked up to it, but I napped in the car (geez I was tired).

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This is what I have to deal with

Finally, it was time for the pre-race meeting, where I found out I should have already checked my run bag (I thought for some reason we checked them at the meeting). I kind of panicked a little bit (a lot) and ran over to where the bag check was, but everyone was over at the meeting. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who missed this, so one of the other support crews offered to wait there with our bags while we went back to the meeting.  My nerves were definitely in full-force at this point, and my support crew captain picked on me a little because I pretty much chewed off all of my fingernails during the meeting. YEP I’M NERVOUS NOW.

After the meeting, we were finally able to go back to the hotel (to our new room), and I sent my crew off to dinner so I could have some time to finish prepping my stuff and check out my bike (I’m glad I did because the back brake was rubbing on the wheel).  I made everyone get in bed by 8 because we had an early morning and a long day ahead of us!

RACE DAY!
Alarm went off at 2:45 AM…ughhhh. I had everything already packed in the van, so all I’d have to do in the morning was get dressed. My support captain drove me to transition and helped me set up all my stuff and get my tires pumped up. Then we got my wetsuit and booties on and I got on the bus for the swim start -buses were off at 3:30!

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YIKES

There was a good bit of time to just hang out at the swim start, so I found a chair to chill in with my pop-tarts and coffee drink. I only drank a little bit of that before I realized that I was super anxious and probably didn’t need any coffee. I’m pretty sure this is the most nervous I’ve ever been for a race. I chatted with a guy about pre-race breakfast (he eats bologna sandwiches and Mountain Dew??) to try to calm my nerves, but I’m not sure it helped. I’m pretty sure this is the only time I haven’t finished my pop-tarts too.

Finally, the RD started calling for everyone to get ready so I got up and started getting vaseline all over my face (and all inside my goggles, oops). The national anthem was sung and then all of a sudden it was time to get in the water and then 3…2…1….go! SHIT.

SWIM (2.67 Miles):
Getting in and getting started wasn’t too bad, but it was cold and very foggy.  The only thing we had to sight on was a light on a fire truck at the end of the shore, which was plenty bright but since I had accidentally gotten vaseline all inside my goggles I couldn’t really see anything. I swam for about 30 minutes before I had to stop and try to clean them off. It didn’t do much good but I put them back on and kept going. I was pretty uncomfortable – my hands were cold and my feet and face were numb. Just had to keep going!

Everything was going pretty well until I had about a half mile to go.  This is where the glacier melt water was coming into the bay and the water dropped from ~55 degrees to more like….47.  THAT IS COLD. The change was noticeable and very unpleasant and I wanted very badly to be done.

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This is horrible.

I kept pushing forward to try to get away from the coldest part, but eventually I got to the point when I needed to start turning towards the finish but I really couldn’t see. I flagged down a kayaker to see if they could help wipe off my goggles a bit which helped enough so I could kind of see where I was headed.

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Look, a Stephsicle!

The last 400-500 were the worst. I was cold, tired, numb, and my arms hurt.  I could see one of my support crew waving at me (when your swim coach is there, she knows exactly how you swim 🙂 ).  It really took me a long time to actually reach the finish because I kept having to stop and float on my back every little bit because my arms were so tired (blarg wetsuits).  FINALLY I could see the old wooden boat ramp where the exit was.  As I came out there was a volunteer/support crew guy there who was helping everyone (and did help everyone until the end) out of the water. He is the hero of the day, for sure.  Obviously, my support captain would have come down to get me but it was nice that she didn’t have to get all the way in the water to fish me out. I was so happy to be out. This was definitely the hardest swim I’ve done – and I’ve swam 10 miles!

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It’s tough being support crew

Gear: Blue Seventy Reaction Full Wetsuit, neoprene booties, neoprene cap, Speedo Vanquisher goggles
Time: 1:27:51 (yea, really. This was rough) < I’m adding my garmin files so people can have a good look at the course

T1 (12:12):
Once I was on my feet I was ok, but I let my support crew grab me and help me walk towards transition. They were taking pictures so I tried to smile but I couldn’t because my face was numb 🙂 🙂

My hands warmed up really quickly so I was able to start getting my bike ready while my support captain pulled out my clothes to change into. We got the swim gear off and bike gear on (no changing tent but I think everyone there had seen my butt before so whatever).  My feet were frooooooooooooooooooooooozzzzeeeeee, so once I was dressed, my support tried to rub some feeling into them so we could get my shoes on. It wasn’t really working, so she helped me get those on too.  Bike lights on, phone tracker started, and I was off!

BIKE (111.5 miles):
THIS BIKE COURSE was absolutely the best part of the day. INCREDIBLE.

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I’m happier than I look

It was raining at the beginning of the bike, but no hard so it wasn’t especially unpleasant.  I was a little worried about road debris plus the wet making my tires slippery or causing a flat but it ended up being ok.  The course started out with a long gradual climb, much easier climbing to what I’m used to.  This was the section with the least amount of shoulder and there was a good bit of debris in the shoulder so I kind of stuck close to the rumble strips and only moved over when someone called out that they were coming up to pass (which unfortunately not everyone did).  I started in on my nutrition right away because I was super hungry and thirsty after that swim.  I had a few oatmeal creme pies in my bento box, plus two bottles of BASE Rocket Fuel in my bottles (and plain water). The first place my support crew was allowed to meet me was after mile 30, so I asked them to go ahead to a pull-off around 32-33 to wait for me

The only problem was that my toes would just not warm up. I don’t know what the temperature was – it was cool, but not cold – but I was comfortable in my regular jersey and shorts, plus my vest for visibility.  I had toe covers on my shoes, but those toes just had no feeling.  I had full cycling booties in the van and I spent most of the first 30 miles contemplating having my support crew fishing them out for me. Of course, about 10 minutes before I saw them, my feet FINALLY warmed up. I swapped out my bottles with my support and took off again. Not too long after this, the sun came out which was AWESOME. You could really enjoy the mountains on both sides, and the sunshine….it was just great.

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Don’t look at the dumb triathlete, look at the mountains!

I saw my support again around mile 45-50, where I didn’t plan to stop but I had lost a bottle somewhere, so I wanted to get a new one (I wish I knew where because I would have gone to get it).  Everything through this section was really great. A lot of people had flats, so I’m pretty glad that I didn’t have to deal with that.  There was some traffic on the highway but it wasn’t bad, and most cars passed respectfully.  The only one that was a little annoying was a tour bus that must have passed by me like 5 times during the bike course (because SERIOUSLY. go away).

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LOOK!

The next place I met up with my crew was around mile 62, which was somewhere near the end of the last climb. It was a very gradual climb, but it was long and it was getting to me. I asked them where the end was and they thought I was joking…nope, I made them get out the course map and look. Luckily, it was not too much further, so that really helped me out mentally. After that was a crazy awesome descent where I wouldn’t have braked at all except I got stuck behind a poor skinny dude…you just can’t win with physics! But it was too much trouble to pass him, so I just slowed down a little. It was still great.

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Working hard, or hardly working?

After this point the rest of the course was basically flat. This would have been really gnarly if the wind were in our face, but we got really lucky with the weather. There was a little bit of a headwind between miles ~75-85 on the out and back section, but it was really not too bad (and it was at our backs on the way back!).  My support could see me 2 more times at the beginning and end of the out-and-back and they stopped me at the start because my phone hadn’t updated in a while, so they thought my battery might be dead and wanted to get the portable battery plugged in. It was fine, but better safe than sorry!  Since I was stopped, I asked them to make a sandwich for me for when I came back because I was pretty hungry (OCPs only go so far).

It was nice on this section to get to see some of the other racers and wave! When I got back to my support, they had a turkey and cheese sammich for me (yay!), so I stopped for a few minutes to eat it – I am so glad I did! This was around mile 88, so I only had a little over 20 miles left on the bike.  The last 20 miles were definitely the fastest – very flat road, but by they end I was definitely ready to be done. I feel good about my bike – I feel like I was strong and was able to bike conservatively and save enough for the finish. My nutrition was solid as well.

Gear: Felt DA4 (Michelin Power Competition tires), Shebeest shorts/Hincapie Jersey + bright yellow vest.
Nutrition: oatmeal creme pies, BASE Rocket Fuel, Nuun Performance, cheese crackers, and a turkey sandwich 🙂
Time: 7:09:38 (I forgot to turn auto-pause off so it looks like I spent ~10 mins in support stops)

T2 (14:26):
Support wasn’t allowed to come to T2 (for safety reasons), but there were volunteers there to help get my run gear bag and fill up my water bladder.  I was definitely a little disoriented getting off the bike, so I took everything out of my gear bag to figure out what I needed – I didn’t pack it very well.  The volunteer came back with my full water bladder, so I put that and all my nutrition in my vest, and got everything else I needed (bell, whistle, etc).  Then I got changed into my run clothes (shorts and a tank). The volunteers brought me a chair to sit in, which is probably why I took so long – I sat down. Bad plan!  But finally, I got my shit together and went over to the aid table, where I got bug spray and cookies and then started the run!

RUN (27 miles):
This was it! I was able to break the run up into segments: the first 14.5 miles where I was on my own, 14.5-20 where I would pick up my support captain, then 20-27 on the mountain.  I needed to make sure to save a little for those last 7 miles because I knew they would be hard (I had no idea).

For the first part, we were running on a multi-use path that ran along the highway that we just biked up.  So we got to enjoy the scenery since it was still sunny and glorious. It was a little “warm” (meaning like…70), and not too much shade so I made sure to have some salt with my water.  I was doing ok with run/walk, but probably walking more than running. I got passed by some people (though some I passed later). I tried not to worry about the time or anything, just keep moving forward.  The miles passed pretty quickly. There were some other people using the trail and most of them were really excited about the race and encouraged us as they passed, which was pretty nice since it was pretty quiet and lonely otherwise. Lots of little piles of bear poo 🙂

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Not from race day, but this is what we were looking at

There was an aid station at mile 12, so I stopped and got some gatorade and cookies before continuing on. The last couple miles before I got into town and to my support crew were really long…..blech.  I walked a lot of this section.  Finally there was a big hill leading up to the resort and everyone was there! I stopped there and changed into my trail shoes and Kim and I headed off for the next 5.5 miles of the course. This section was pretty hilly. The first section was on sidewalk/road over to the cross-country ski trail, then on the trail before heading back.  This was another nice section where there were a lot of people because most participants picked up their support crew for this section. It was nice to see some people!

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Also Daisies!

My feet were really hurting by this point and I could definitely tell I was getting some blisters – even with the change of shoes. Not so fun, but not much you can do about that! Most of this section was walking, but I let Kim talk me into a little bit of running on the flat/downhill parts.

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SELFIES

When we got to mile 20, the rest of my crew joined me. I filled up my bladder again and we headed up to the checkpoint! :O

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We don’t even know what’s coming to us

I was in pretty good spirits….for about 30 seconds. This mountain was. STEEP. AS. SHIT. Like we have mountains here in South Carolina. I climbed Mt. Mitchell just a few weeks before the race to train.  IT IS NOTHING COMPARED TO THIS. The trail was basically straight up the side of the mountain. It was absolutely brutal.  Only Kim brought hiking poles (I don’t have any), and she offered them me but I declined them at first. I didn’t think it would really help since I was basically crawling up the side of the mountain.  After the first 50 minute mile of suffering, I finally took them – I feel like it did help a little, but it was still awful. The first two miles took FOREVER (no seriously. forever).  Around every corner, I’d think we were at the top and WE WEREN’T. ARG. Near the top, there was a creek – a volunteer told us we could go around, but I was not having that. I just splashed right through and it kind of felt good on my poor hurting feet.

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Some say it’s worth it. I’m not sold

My crew was nothing but cheerful and awesome. They sang songs for me, encouraged me, and well, pretty much never shut up. But it was good. When we finally got to the top, there was this GLORIOUS view but if I stopped I didn’t think I could go again, so I just kept on which they took pictures for me.

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BLARG is how I feel

We started downhill, where we would pass by the finish line and drop off one of the crew (She unfortunately can’t do steep downhills because of an injury).  This wasn’t too bad and I was even able to run a little bit.

I did have a moment which really dragged my attitude even further down though. As we were leaving the finish line area, a spectator felt the need to tell me “You only have two hours left, better hurry up.” Maybe she was trying to be helpful BUT IT WAS NOT. Not at all. I was really upset because I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it and I had gone all this way for nothing.  Kim continued to be encouraging and told me she was with me until the end – wherever that was. I knew there was a checkpoint/cutoff at the bottom of the mountain, so I decided that if we reached that checkpoint in time, we would continue – otherwise, I’d done the best I could and that would be that. But in my head, I was so sure I wasn’t going to make the cutoff, so I was pretty down. I hustled as best I could down the mountain.

We reached the bottom and no one was there? I had no idea what time it was, but I figured if no one was there to stop us, then we were good to go. So up we went!

The north face of the mountain was not as steep, but loooootttssss of switchbacks. And a whole lotta mosquitoes.  Like seriously. We had bug-sprayed up, and had Parakitos, but there was nothing for that level of bug. And I felt bad. I was so tired and my feet hurt so bad and I wanted nothing more than to just sit down on the trail and be done. Kim continued to be 100% encouraging, telling me I was great, and pushing me to continue.  At about a mile 26 (1 to go!), we could see the finish line….because it was right above us, and there were so many switchbacks between us and the finish. We could hear the music and cheering. I figured at this point that even if I didn’t make the finish cutoff….at least I would make it to the finish line!

Up and up we slogged. I got passed by a few people in that last mile and they seemed to think the cutoff was in reach, so I started feeling a little better. We finally got to the last couple switchbacks where I could see that the last person who had passed me was reaching the finish line and I tried to pick up the pace. We could hear our other team member that we left at the finish line. I got excited! I was going to make it after all!

Gear: Athleta Be Free Shorts, tank top from Costco, Nathan Hydration Pack, and of course my Malone Coaching visor
Nutrition: Margarite Clif Blocks, a few Hammer Gels, a PB&J Uncrustable, cookies from aid stations, and random junk that Kim had in her pack
Time: 4:57:28 for the first 20, 4:11:46 for the last 7, 9:09:14 total run time (Note: I felt really bad about how long it took me to do the last 7….but it took a lot of people in the ball park of 4 hours to do, so then I felt better haha)

I’m pretty sure we all boo hooed a little bit. I *still* can’t believe I finished! This race really tested my mental strength….and it would have been a lot worse if I hadn’t had such a great support crew! They were amazing and I couldn’t have done it without them!

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I got a fist bump from the guy in orange over there

I made a beeline for some stairs so I could sit my ass down. Everything hurt.  We stayed at the finish line for a few minutes, but there were only a few “aid station” food items there and none of them really called to me, so we took off to take the tram down. We didn’t stay at the host resort, but at a really nice ski condo nearby (Alyeska Accomodations Brighton #116 – super nice!).  My support captain went to get my bike so I could shower and have a beer (beer > food) and then we all *crashed*. Dead.

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Dirty, Exhausted, Happy

Obviously no alarms were set, but I woke up around 8. I was SO SORE, but since I was up, I roused everybody so we could go to the finishers brunch and get my well-earned t-shirt.  We got pictures, but we didn’t get brunch tickets so we took off to some place called the Bake Shop. It was solid good.

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LOOK AT ALL THESE AMAZING PEOPLE!

Race stuff was over! I went back to bed for a long nap while my support crew got started on vacation mode with some downhill mountain biking 🙂

Ok, so that was long.  Total finish time was 18:13:21. One of 198 brave souls to start this day, 146th out of 159 to finish, and 25 out of only 26 fierce and fabulous women to make it to the top of that mountain in time.  It was a brutal and awesome day and I am so proud to be a part of this inaugural race! I hope there are many, many more race days to come.  If you need to break away from the Ironman scene, do a race in one of the most beautiful places in the country, and feel like a badass….put this on your calendar!  Aaron really put on a world-class race from start to finish, and I don’t think any of us can thank him enough for such an awesome experience.

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I’m Not Dead – Update

Hmmm. Ok, so it’s now July 2017. A whole year has escaped me, and what have I accomplished? Uhhh….not that much. But I figured I’d do a quick recap of what I’ve been up to and we’ll go from there!

Races since June 2016:

Low Country Splash 2016: This was a rough day.  This swim normally is down river, with the outgoing tide, but in 2016, the race started at slack tide with a headwind and I was pretty good and well undertrained (This is a theme for 2016).  It took almost two hours and it was not so fun. (1:51:16, 70/131 OA)
Dixie Zone Long Course Meet: I do not like racing long course (50M Pool) but I let myself get talked into this meet. I don’t even remember what I swam, but it was probably not anything special. I didn’t die!
Fab 4th 100K Ride:  I was going to do this ride with a friend who was training for her first IM, but I broke a derailleur cable maybe 20 miles in? It was my front derailleur so I could have finished the ride but it seemed like a good excuse to take the 30 mile option back so I did #noragerts.
Clemson Tri 2016: This was a moderately pitiful race. My training lacked greatly (particularly in the running department) and I was about 3 minutes slower than my 2014 time – pretty much all on the run. (1:26:16, 35/86 OA, 3/6 AG)
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Stumble and Flail Du: I signed up for this just for fun and it was fun!  It was a 2 mile trail run followed by a ~200 m swim (cooldown) at Paris Mountain.
Swamp Rabbit Tri 2016: Somehow, somehow, I swung a PR on this race. HAH oh maybe because the last time I raced it was 2013 on my old road bike. But it was actually not a bad race. The run was half decent and my bike was solid. (1:32:18, 26/94 OA, 1/5 AG)
You Go Girl Tri 2016: Another PR from a 2013 race, it was just ok for me, but I enjoy this race because there are lots of new triathletes to cheer on. And some of the guys brought donut holes to share 🙂  (1:01:35, 6/104 OA, 1/15 AG)
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Lake Logan International Tri: This was a poor race and I absolutely deserved it.  I did not run, I did not bike (I was in great swim shape!) and it definitely showed. Pathetic.  (3:02:10, 57/115 OA, 5/10 AG)
Greenville Tri 2016: My mom and sister were in town for this race and I knew it would be so bad that I told them to stay home. I was right.  Thankfully this ended my tri season – the only reason I participated in this race was to get my 5 in the series so I could get a age group award. (1:31:22, 36/100 OA, 5/9 AG)
Asheville Off-Road 10K: I did this race to complete the Royal Trifecta – 3 races completed at Biltmore over the year. It was a fun race where we got to run up a trail on the back side of the Biltmore house.  They also had some off-road biking events which could have been fun, but I don’t have a bike for off-roading.
Upstate Splash 2.4 Mile Swim: This was a rough swim for me, but it came in the middle of my training for the Swim the Suck and my shoulder was in terrible pain. It probably didn’t help that we camped out at the lake, so slept on the ground for two nights. But the weather was good and I enjoyed the camping.
Swim the Suck 10 Mile Swim: Alright, so this was my big event for the year.  This is an extremely well run event, and is a great into event for long distance swimming.  I don’t have any particular interest in doing this much swimming ever again, but I enjoyed the journey and race experience. The last 40 minutes of the race were the longest 40 minutes of my life.
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Paris Mountain Trail Half: ARG. One week after completing Swim the Suck, I went for a trail run to train for this race and took a faceplant to the trail and sprained my ankle something good.  It got big, but because I am dumb, I went out and got an ankle brace and did this race anyway. I proceeded to roll the sprained ankle on a root or something (I said many bad words!), finished the race anyway, and then couldn’t walk for days afterwards. DO NOT DO THIS. A week later, it was so swollen, the nerves in my foot were being compressed, causing my foot to be numb, which sent me off to the doctor. No running for 6 weeks. I couldn’t swim for MONTHS because of how badly it hurt. It’s one way to force yourself to bike – when it’s the only thing you can reasonably do.
Tryon Half Marathon: I had signed up for this before I hurt myself…It was almost exactly 6 weeks after my ankle sprain, so I was technically cleared to run. It wasn’t wise, but I went out and did it. It was slow, but pain-free!
River to Rock “100” Relay: This was a preview event for a relay a local RD wants to do in the future – running from Hartwell to Caesar’s Head. It was hilly but we had a blast!
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Palmetto 200: First official race of 2017!  I finally got my shit together and back to training, so when someone asked for people to join a team for the P200, I jumped it.  We were team Baconators and had a great time! This was the first relay I’ve done that isn’t SMR, so it was fun to see some different scenery (the running is so much easier!!)
Assault on the Carolinas 100k:  This was a tragic day – the day I broke my road bike 😦 The ride started out well – the weather was good, I felt good. I completed the Caesar’s Head climb for the first time and was coming down the other side back into Brevard when I hit a pothole and busted my frame. Mile 52. Luckily I was in sight distance of the next aid station so I was able to stop there, but I had to ride the SAG home.
Smoky Mountain Relay: Nothing new here! Another great year of SMR with the Bootleggers! Picked up some new buddies.
Wheels for Meals English Century: OH man. This ride destroyed me. I felt like I trained well for this ride – my first century of the training cycle, but it was killer.  I was not ready for how difficult Green River Cove was. I also broke YET ANOTHER BIKE FRAME during this ride (it’s now fixed). A long and frustrating day.
Noblesville Triathlon: So this was supposed to be my tune-up half IM race, and 70.3 #5….long story, but it was cancelled. I don’t want to get into it here, but I highly advise you to think twice about choosing races from this RD.
Low Country Splash 2017: This was a splash like it should have been. Lots of good current, good weather! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay and hang out at the beach since I had to get back for more IM training.
WNC Flyer Century: The day after the splash, I drove up to Brevard for century #2 of the year! This was a good event. The course was fast, well-marked, and I didn’t even mind the rain in the last 30 miles since it kept the heat off.  A good training ride for Alaska.
Enka Lake Triathlon: I woke up a few weekends ago and decided that I wanted to race instead of doing a long training ride. I hadn’t done a tri since last August! So I drove up to Asheville for the Enka Lake Tri. It was a sprint tri and I definitely enjoyed it! A nice lake swim, very hilly bike course (I had 1400+ ft over 18 miles?), and a shady run along the lake. I wasn’t fast, but it was good to shake off the racing cobwebs before the big race. (1:57:00, 20/64 OA, 4/7 AG)
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Uhh, ok, so I think that’s about everything! In one week I’ll be challenging the Alaskaman triathlon and I can’t wait!

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June 2016 Update

Hmm. I suppose it’s been a while. I guess I’ve been a bit busy and have been spending my little free time watching Game of Thrones instead of doing stuff like this. #priorities

So let’s have a look and see what’s been going on since the beginning of March:

Asheville Half Marathon at Biltmore:

Ok, so I did the Bear Craw race at Table Rock the week before this and spent most of the week pretty dang sore. My friend Elizabeth and I were ambassadors for this race again for 2016, but we were both a little burnt out from the work and she was pregnant (I say was because now she’s got a baby!) so we decided to just go and kind of goof off for the race.  It ended up being pretty unseasonably warm that day (like high of 79) so I was pretty glad to not be “racing”. We took the first half kind of easy with 5/1 intervals and the last half we spent a lot of time at the aid stations eating oranges. Final time: 2:44.  Then we went to the expo for the marathon and handed out packets for the rest of the day (and ate a lot of Roots hummus since they were giving it out!)

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March was also home to a short vacation with the fam and some very lackluster half-ironman training due to rain and laziness.

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Altamont Marathon Relay:

This was a prep event/fun time to prepare for the Smoky Mountain Relay. I got 3 other Bootlegger ladies for a 4-person team and some of the other Bootleggers were there running the half marathon (including one who ended up winning the event). For the relay, each person ran up and over Altamont Rd once (though two of my team members actually ran back to make it a long run) and we ended up the 4th relay overall (not last). I felt really good about my run because last year I attempted to run up Altamont and suffered a lot – I suffered a lot less during the race. Hopefully next year I will be ready to do the half.

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Assault on the Carolinas:

The next weekend was the Assault on the Carolinas bike tour in Brevard, NC.  The weather took a swing from unseasonably warm to unseasonably cold and was 35 and windy as all hell on event day. A lot of people (including my coach) bailed on the event, but I figured I would at least go out and do one of the shorter ride (60k instead of 100k). I met up with some of my “old dude cycle friends” and enjoyed the shorter ride then went home and sat on the trainer for an hour just to get a little extra bike time without freezing. This is an excellent event and I highly recommend it.

The next week and a half was a hot mess of a week (work-wise), but I managed to get my long workouts in. The weekend of April 16-17 was the USA Cycling Nation TTT and Crit championships in Greenville and one of the weekend activities was the closure of I-185 prior to the TTT for a “gran fondo” open to the public.  $20 to ride on the interstate? You bet. We made a morning of it by starting at our normal place to add 20 miles to the route and ate some Bo-Berry biscuits.

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Smoky Mountain Relay:

Next race! The one I’ll always be most excited for because it’s Bootlegger weekend. I was the 12 person team captain this year because last year’s fearless leader decided to start a 6 person ultra team (Ultra Bootleggers, clever right?). We also had a lot of newbies to the team due to 6 people splitting off and they were awesome. I also moved myself from Van 2 to Van 1 this year to see the other half of the course (spoiler: it’s just as good) and I had some more challenging legs. It was a great weekend.

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Ok, so that brings us to the end of April! This is a double event weekend, starting with:

Meals for Wheels 100k:

This was like my one good prep ride for Mountains to Main Street. It’s a 62 mile ride with a good bit of elevation gain (5000+ ft) and it also raises money for Meals on Wheels, so good cause there. I rode with my friend Jake “retired guy” and we traded off leading (though he claims I pulled most of the way) and it was a very nice ride.  And delicious tacos and beer and the finish, so win!

Lake Murray Tri:

Yea, sprint tri the next day.  I love this race, but my coach insisted that I needed to do the MfW ride on Saturday to prepare for the half coming up so I would just have to suffer a bit.  Lake Murray is about an hour away from Greenville so I drove down morning of through a massive thunderstorm, though the weather channel insisted that it would be clear at the race site. I got down there and set up all my stuff and BOOM! Thunderstorm rolls in. Thankfully it passed very quickly and the race start was only delayed by 20 minutes or so. The swim went well, but the bike and run were oh so very painful. I managed to keep a good pace on the bike – very close to my time in 2014 but it hurt a whole lot. And the run was just straight bad, though I don’t know what I was expecting. Overall, it was an ok race and I was 2nd out of 2 :/ in my age group.

The next weekend I was out of town for my sister’s graduation and basically trained none for 4 days.

Biltmore Kiwanis 15k:

So, I typically don’t do challenges and things like that for medals but the race director that runs the Asheville Marathon has a “Royal Trifecta” challenge for the 3 races at Biltmore and I figured since I was going to do the Asheville Half again next year, I should go for it now.  So the 2nd race of the Series is the Kiwanis 15k/5k – I chose the 15k as a last long run prep before M2M. It was such different weather from the Asheville Half – cold and windy and perfect for running.  I liked this race and I think it’s a good value for the cost of the race.  You get to run mostly the same course as the half marathon minus the race swag, so if you don’t care about that sort of thing it’s definitely good.  I ran a 1:39 which is one of the best longer runs I’ve had in a while so I was quite pleased.

I spent the next work week in Canada which was very productive but not the best timing as I got back Friday afternoon and had to rush around to get ready for Mountains to Main.

Mountains to Main Street:

Ok, so finally to the main event! Signing up for this event was ridiculously foolish. I didn’t train properly, I didn’t WANT to train properly, but I wanted to support this race in it’s first year since it’s in my hometown, so there ya are. The logistics for the race are a bit complicated since there’s not any open water very close to downtown Greenville. So on Saturday you have to drive all the way out to Lake Keowee (like an hour), then to Traveler’s Rest (another hour) to drop off all your race gear. Then on race morning you either have to ride a shuttle or catch a lift with a friend (what I did) out to the swim start. It’s far. I think the race organizers did do a good job communicating all of this to participants because I mentioned to them that at B2B last year it was not as clear.

The swim start was a bit late (8:30), so I hope they update that for next year. Keowee was a very comfortable 72.5 degrees and it was a very nice swim other than dealing with the wall of dudes. I came out of the water in about 32 minutes but kinda fooled around walking to T1 (should have left flip flops there!) and wasted too much time.

Ok so the bike. This is really kind of the main event of the race because it’s kind of a beast. While I never did a course preview, I’m familiar with the roads since I live here and I knew what was coming to me. It killed me anyway. The first 20 miles are very rolling but nothing too bad. Scenic!  Then we turned onto Highway 11 and I’m pretty sure that’s what killed me. Those hills are big-uns. None of them are steep but they feel like they go on forever and the downhills are long but aren’t fast enough to carry you much a ways up the next monster. And people tell me it was very windy – that whole section was right into the wind. To be honest, I was too busy dying to notice. After an eternity, we got off 11 and back to rollers. At mile 37, my whole rear hydration unit came off!  I stopped and was baffled for a minute because I heard something fall off my bike but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then I looked down and saw the whole until hanging by my saddle back off the back of my bike. The bolts had completely sheared off. 😦  I couldn’t figure out what to do with it so I ended up just dumping the bottles into by big front one and leaving the whole thing in the ditch so it couldn’t be seen from the road. I was actually able to retrieve it the next day!

After that I was just kind of flustered and wished I would just be done (with 20 miles to go). The rest of the ride was ok, and the high traffic areas were well managed by police and volunteers. I reached T2 in Traveler’s Rest after over 4 hours of biking (ugghhh) and seriously considered turning in my chip but for some reason I put my running shoes on and kept going.

The run is net downhill but it is definitely not all downhill. By this point it was after 1 pm (way late for a 70.3) and it was, well…hot. I was definitely not the only one suffering but I was really only paying attention to me and dodging Swamp Rabbit Trail users. It was awful. It made me seriously question how I managed to do an Ironman last year and what the heck I was even doing out there. I walked most of it. I finally made it to the finish line in 7:24 and I was kinda down about it until I started talking to my friends and teammates and found out that almost everyone was way slow. So I guess I was proportionally slow? Ah well. I am proud that I finished such a challenging course and hope that the race continues to be popular. I will definitely be volunteering for this one next year, though.

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I didn’t have any races Memorial Day weekend – a friend and I took a trip to the southwest and visited the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. Let’s just say it was awesome.

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Bear Crawl 10 Mile

*ahem*

This is still here?

To be fair, I haven’t been engaging in many athletic endeavors of note. Or anything athletic really. Post-IM I was pretty lazy: didn’t really swim, bike, or run much until January (with a few exceptions. I did a 5K and a swim leg of a 70.3 relay in October). January showed up which meant a return to coached workouts (in hindsight this was an excellent idea otherwise I would have definitely kept slacking) and finally decisions for races for the year.

One thing I found was that I actually kind of liked trail running a little. I mean, I’m not good (at all), but getting off the road a little really helped with my motivation for long runs and I can’t deny that the hills (mountains) weren’t beneficial.

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Look how much fun we’re having

So I decided to take a whack at a real race. Specifically, the Bear Crawl 10 Miler at Table Rock (there was also a 50K but that’s reserved for crazy people). This was a first year race, though I’ve hiked Table Rock plenty of times so I at least had an idea of what I was in for. It’s a quad killer. I did a full course preview two weeks before the actual race date and couldn’t walk very well for most of the week after.

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There she is: all 3,500 ft of elevation gain and crazy wild descent. So. Obviously this wasn’t so much of a race for me but definitely a challenge!

A number of my Bootlegger people were also doing it so we made a day of it by spending most of the afternoon cheering on the 50K runners (that loop 3 times. yes really).

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BOOTLEGGERS!

My race was pretty unremarkable. I hiked as fast as I could up the mountain to the peak of Pinnacle Mountain and then slip-slided down until I could get my quads to work again to start running. I didn’t fall at all!

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Look I’m having fun

It really was fun. I cannot possibly imagine going back out and doing it two more times. My legs were toast. Obviously my time was nothing impressive at 3:09 but it fit compared to the times of my teammates (slower than all of them haha).

Anyway, thanks for Upstate Ultras (and RD Hammersmith) for an awesome race experience!

 

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Ironman Chattanooga Race Recap

Where to start?

The good news is that internet results are now and forever and therefore my internet results showing that I finished Ironman Chattanooga in 14 hours and 20 minutes and photographic evidence shows that I was upright and smiling at the finish line.

So I guess I’ll start at the beginning. I decided to head down to Chattanooga on Thursday and I am so, so glad that I did.  I had originally planned to work on Thursday and head down early Friday morning but changed my mind after the training camp weekend when I found out all of my friends were headed down on Thursday.  So when I got home, I got on the Ironman travel website and was able to extend my stay to Thursday night. This turned out to be a really good idea for several reasons:
1) I so could not focus at work at all that week. Why did I think I could get any work done Thursday? I didn’t get anything done Monday-Wednesday.
2) The traffic situation heading into Chattanooga that weekend was a nightmare. There were some really big accidents on pretty much every major interstate headed into town on all 3 days leading up to the race – Friday was especially bad with a jack-knifed truck on 75 N. This all appeared to be unrelated to race day but any day you have to travel through Atlanta…well, it’s not a pleasant situation. A lot of people traveling into town on Friday were not able to make it to packet pick-up and I am so glad that I didn’t have to deal with that stress.
3) It was nice to have an extra day to just RELAX. I watched hours of America’s Next Top Model and it was awesome. My sherpas/spectators didn’t come into town until Saturday evening and it was just nice to have some time by myself.

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So anyways, Thursday I went for a short run and had a chat with my coach before I left and got into Chattanooga around 2. I checked into my hotel (I stayed at the Staybridge Suites near the Convention Center, good value!) before heading downtown to packet pick-up. I walked through but there wasn’t a whole lot to see, then I got my wrist-band and gear – including a really nice backpack! Much nicer than the ones I saw last year. I did stop by the Ironman store for a few…souvenirs. I mean, it was my first Ironman and all! I picked up some groceries at a fancy Publix on the other side of the river while I was out. After that, I finished unloading the ridiculous amount of junk I brought with me into my room and had dinner with some of my teammates later at Terminal Brewhouse. Definitely would recommend that place, though the parking situation was kind of a mess. There’s a free shuttle stop near it, so I would have used that had I known.

Friday was “organization day”. I slept in a bit before meeting a few friends for a shake out swim in the river. It was raining a lot so we figured a swim would be better than a bike ride and it was really nice to feel out the water.  We swam for 15 minutes or so and then I packed it back to my hotel for breakfast. I spent the next several hours sorting out my gear into piles: morning of stuff, bike/run gear bags, special needs, nutrition, etc. I was definitely glad to have plenty of time to deal with this because I had stuff everywhere. I also made sure to mark my gear bags in several places and decorated them with some colorful tape to (hopefully) make sure they didn’t get lost on race day. Since it was raining, I also double bagged my gear in big ziplocs (especially my clothes and shoes) so they would stay dry over Saturday night. Once I had some decent organization, I lounged around and watched TV until dinner – Friday we ate at the Blue Fish Grille which was not bad. Not my first pick but it was a teammate’s birthday and that’s where he wanted to go.

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Saturday morning I slept in again (I could get used to this!). I had planned to meet some friends for a quick bike ride but it was still raining and none of us really wanted to do a test ride the day before the race in the rain. We finally decided to meet down near transition to pedal around for a bit and then turn in gear and go to the athlete briefing. Once that was done I was able to head back to my hotel and not worry about doing anything for the rest of the day! I had planned to eat in Saturday night with my friends and parents and had pre-cooked everything at home so all I had to do was throw it together in the microwave for dinner when everyone got in.

Watching for the first time

Watching for the first time

The biggest surprise of the evening was the video. OH this video. My friends spent a ridiculous amount of time making this video for me and all I can say is that I have the greatest friends in the world. It’s so amazing and I can’t believe I had friends who would do this sort of thing for me. Apparently the goal was to make me cry (I’m not really a very emotional person) and I did cry a little (though not as much as Kristin would like, sorry!). It was still one of the best parts of the whole weekend.

I also finally got to look through all the notes people wrote for me at our IMTN send-off party that we had a few weeks before (again, best friends ever. It’s like an Ironman shower. I love them so much). I wanted to make sure I got some sleep, so I made everybody get ready for bed at 9 and took a sleep aid to help knock me out (so much excited energy!).

Now that I’m 1000 words in…RACE DAY!!

I was not interested in getting up at some absurd hour to go stand in line at the swim start for hours so we got up at 5 with the plan to be in transition at 5:30. All I needed to do was drop my SN bags, put my nutrition on my bike and get body marked.

And find track buddy Nicole!

And find track buddy Nicole!

Kristin went with me to play sherpa for the morning. There were plenty of buses to take everyone to the swim start – I didn’t check my phone but I think we were over there by a little after 6.

OK the swim start line. It looks REALLY LONG but it really moved quickly once things started going (and the wetsuit people and spectators got out of line). We walked down until I found two of my friends that were near the end of the line so I didn’t feel bad joining them (they had a blanket to sit on). No one seemed bothered at least. One problem I did note at the swim start was that there were definitely not enough port-a-potties there. I stood in line for 20 minutes and the line had not moved an inch and I finally had to sneak away into some trees – I moved way away from everyone so I wouldn’t get caught and made sure it wasn’t someone’s yard. It was just along the highway back into some trees. I felt bad but I really, really had to go.

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When I got back, the line had moved a lot because the pros had just started and everyone was getting ready and OMG I didn’t have my swimskin or chip on! The next 15 mintues were just kind of crazy because I was trying to get dressed and eat my pre-race gel and then my parents showed up at the swim start (which was super exciting!!) and everyone was moving because the wetsuit folks had to step out of line and I was SO SO NERVOUS! I handed off all my other stuff to Kristin and all of a sudden we were under the arches and headed for the dock! I got a quick hug with my two friends and training buddies as we got down there and then off we went!

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SWIM (2.4 miles):
I hopped in and took off. I love starting every race with my best sport (even though it bites me later).  It’s so nice to start off strong and confident because if I can do nothing else, I can definitely swim. At first, I was confused because it wasn’t clear which side of the sight buoys we were supposed to be on and I was pretty far to the left (near the bank). But the paddleboarders near me kind of steered me over so I assumed we were supposed to be to the right of the buoys so I corrected my course and got on track.  After that, things were pretty smooth. The water temperature felt very nice and I could definitely tell by the way the buoys were flying by that there was at least some current.  It was not too crowded, but it seemed like people were in clusters where I would have trouble getting by them, then would have clear water for some time.  The swim went so fast and once I hit the first bridge I knew I was almost done! I hit the one and only turn buoy and headed for the stairs.

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Time: 53:40 (3/43 AG, 56/831 Overall) <- Yes 3rd in my age group! Wish I could hang on to that for the rest of the race 🙂 Also, swim outfit was my two-piece Athleta suit with the swimskin over top.

T1: 7:38
The run from the water to the tent was pretty long and I didn’t run the whole way and made sure to slow down and wave at my friends 🙂  I also slowed down through the gear bag area since there were a lot of overzealous AG men running around and causing problems (eyeroll). It was cool to be there with so many bags still in transition (especially since it was a totally different scene in T2).  In the tent, a volunteer helped unload my bag while I got undressed. I changed everything except for my swim top <- that I left on the entire race. Once I got my shoes on I started moving since I wanted to get going as soon as possible. I stopped at the sunscreen station and was able to adjust my jersey and put my gloves on while they were doing that. Then I went and grabbed my bike and headed out!

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BIKE (116 miles):
Yes, you read that right. If you’re not familiar with this race, we are lucky enough to get 116 miles of biking instead of the usual 112. I can’t complain though; it’s a really great course and I think they should keep it.

I spent the whole bike leg getting passed. Like really, I’m sure I did not pass one person. So you can just imagine me the whole time; men and women whipping by me at top speed and there’s Steph, just pedaling away.  I spent the first 15 miles settling in and getting started on nutrition.  It’s the easiest part of the course, especially once you get out of town and out on the highway which is flat and fast.  I had to really focus on making sure my heart rate was staying down because I was NOT going to overdo the bike. NOPE.

For nutrition, I started with those Powergel yogurt chews and alternated with Infinit and water. I wanted to make sure I stayed on it early so when my stomach got queasy later in the day I would still be OK. The hardest rollers on the course are in the first section of the loop, then there’s an easier section leading up the the “climb” at Hog Jowl.  I used quotes since it’s not really a climb but it’s the most notable hill on the course.  After that, there’s a fast rolling section but is net downhill, then a flattish section on the way into Chickamauga. The first time around went by really fast. (I also got lapped by the Pro men during this section :/)

Special Needs was at about mile 52 in the town and that was the first time I stopped – I had my new bottles of Infinit and some swedish fish in there that I needed (also vaseline). I had some Bonk Breakers in there too, but I really didn’t want them so I left those. I had to pee pretty bad at this point but there were no port-a-potties at special needs so I had to keep going.  There were so many spectators cheering during this first loop in the downtown area and my parents were there to cheer for me 🙂

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There’s a long uphill section coming out of town, followed by a fun descent and then FINALLY an aid station where I could pee. I cruised to the end of the aid station where a volunteer grabbed my bike and refilled my water bottle while I used the bathroom and re-applied some vaseline. Then I was onto loop 2! I was definitely starting to feel some fatigue in my legs by this point but I was still doing a good job keeping my heart rate in check and my cadence high. The rate of people passing me had also slowed significantly at this point which was nice but I was stuck around 2 guys – one who couldn’t climb and one who couldn’t descend. I was probably only with them for about 30 minutes but it felt like an eternity since I was trying to stay out of their draft but they kept slowing down/speeding up.  I finally broke away from both of them when we got to the Hog Jowl climb for the second time. I definitely coasted a lot more on the way back into Chickamauga – more than I should have but I was definitely a little tired and VERY much ready to get off the bike. My nutrition was still good though; I went through another bottle and a half of Infinit and all of the swedish fish I had with me (which was half the bag)

When I got back into town, there were a lot less people around but I was glad to see a few still out cheering. I remember seeing a guy dressed like the pope at the edge of town which was pretty amusing. When I reached the last aid station on the loop, I stopped even though I didn’t have to pee. My arms and shoulders were hurting pretty badly at this point and my ass hurt and I just wanted to get off my bike for a minute before heading back into Chattanooga. I only stopped for a minute and a half but it was an excellent 90 seconds.  Then I was back on the highway into town.

I smiled during this whole section. I was just so happy – I was almost done with 116 miles of biking and OMG I was doing an Ironman! I saw some of my friends on the corner as I made the turn onto the Riverfront Pky – I was definitely happy to see them because it meant I was almost done!

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One lady passed me and joked that she wished she could still ride in aero and then we were both at the dismount. I gladly handed my bike off to a volunteer and grabbed a bottle off my bike to sip on while I got ready for the run.

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Time: 7:20:18, 15.8 mph (27/43 AG, 442/831 Overall)
I know it’s stupid to say you’re disappointed at your first IM, but I really thought I had more speed in me after all of the hard workouts I did this summer. I spent a couple days just being really bummed out but I do recognize that this is pretty silly. But I KNOW I can be faster than this.

T2: 7:03
Once I handed my bike off, I hustled over to the gear bags. My parents were standing on the other side of the barriers and I told them I had never so happy to see someone take my bike. I grabbed my gear bag and headed to the changing tent and 3 of my wonder women were there waiting for me! I gave them all big hugs and then we went in so I could get changed.  I got on my outfit…

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RUN (26.2 miles):
At this point, a thought crossed through my head: I have to run a marathon now. Holy crap! It was was a little toasty as I started the run (maybe 80-81?) and the first bit was kind of all uphill. So I walked…and walked some more, then realized if I was going to walk this much I needed to walk fast. So I picked up the pace, a lot. Then I jogged a bit until I didn’t want to jog anymore, then walked fast.  I figured as long as I kept moving forward quickly, even though I wasn’t running, I was going to be just fine. The miles just flew by.  The first 4.5 miles were out on the highway which wasn’t very scenic but each aid station came quickly even though I was averaging 12-13 minute miles. I was chatting with people around me, including one guy who spent the first 3 miles trying to catch up to me to tell me he liked my skirt and another girl who was out on her second loop. Then we were at the turn around heading back on the riverfront path. I ran much more on that side since it was shadier and cool. There were tons of people out on the first loop and lots of people complimented my outfit. Lots of “go wonder woman!”. Loved it.

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I took in four gels in those first 8 miles which I had in my gel flask.  My parents were at the beginning of the Veteran’s bridge and I handed that and my HRM off to them since it was suffocating me! Ug. It wasn’t really helping me at that point anyways so I was glad to be rid of it. (Sidenote: Someone on a facebook group seemed mortified I did this because it’s against the rules? I’ve never heard this – I know you can’t take anything from a spectator but never anything about handing stuff off for good and I’ve done this several times. If anyone knows for sure let me know! I don’t intentionally want to break rules).

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Across the bridge is where the hills are. I made sure to keep my fast walking pace up the hills and run down them, especially since I was still feeling pretty good on this first loop. My stomach was starting to hurt a little, but I managed to choke down two more gels over this section.  There were lots of spectators on this side of the river which made that harder section of the course really enjoyable.  The pedestrian bridge came really quickly and all of a sudden I was on my second lap! 13 miles to go!

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I came up to special needs and a volunteer brought my bag over to me and walked with my while I grabbed my reflective vest and light, plus cookies and tums. She helped hold my stuff while I was getting my gear on too. Great volunteers all over this day! I didn’t really need the reflective vest since they would have given me a glow stick, but it was nice to have the gear I usually run with and it made it easy for my spectators to find me after dark. I was expecting them to be at the pedestrian bridge and was kind of bummed that they weren’t there…

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But they had bummed a ride out to the first aid station on the highway.  They were getting loud at this point (beer induced) and had silly string and cowbells and were cheering for everybody (but of course were extra loud when I came by). I got lots of high fives and kept moving forward. It started getting dark probably around mile 16 or so? There were plenty of lights though. They had set up big lights along the road and all the aid stations were very well lit along this stretch.

My stomach was hurting really bad at this point, but I kept trying to take in calories – a couple of the cookies and coke and oranges. I took some tums but they only helped for a little while. I just kept running ask much as I could and walking fast since my legs still felt strong.

When I got out to the turnaround, I realized that I really had to poop…and also that I had just passed an aid station and was going to have to wait. I walk/runned my way along until I saw a REAL bathroom on the trail. I checked the door and it was open yea!! So I hustled inside and took care of business and it was so nice not to have to use a port-a-potty. I went back out onto the course (where I had left it, yes!) and told the people around me that the bathroom was open but they were kind of like zombies. Not really responsive.  My walking pace was faster than some of these people’s running pace at this point.

The riverwalk stretch seemed a lot longer the second time around. A lot of the spectators had left (though they left their posters out at least!) and there were a lot of places where it was just very quiet. Kind of peaceful, I guess. My stomach wasn’t getting any better so I started trying the chicken broth at some of the aid stations along the path. I’m not sure it helped but it didn’t make it worse so I kept getting it at the aid stations that had it and took coke at the other ones.

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Then I was at mile 20! WHAT? How did I get so far so fast? Ok it really took a while but it didn’t feel like 4.5 hours.  All my people were on a big hill right around mile 20 leading from the path to the bridge and I almost cried because I was so happy to be there. When I got to the other side of the bridge, I found my coach there waiting for me to come by! She was at the bottom of the big hill over there so I was obviously walking. She came over to chat with me for a bit to see how I was doing (pretty good for mile 21). I told her I was tired, generally ok, but my stomach hurt really bad. She recommended I get some pretzels at the next aid station to help. Once I reached the top of the hill, I started running again and she disappeared.

The spectators in these last few miles were they best. They were super encouraging and were making sure to give everyone high fives. It was so great. They all told me I was going to be an Ironman! Yes! These miles were pretty tough and I walked most of them but I didn’t let up on the fast walking pace. Coming back up that big hill towards the end was really tough. I was definitely ready to be done and I could hear the finish line announcements from there.  I reached the pedestrian bridge (and mile 25) and wanted to run the rest of the way…but there was no way. I ran down the far side of the bridge (the downhill side) then walked a little bit until I reached the last corner – the finish line was still a bit down the road but it was all downhill from there! I started running and ran down what has the be the longest finish line chute ever.

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WOOO!

Time: 5:51:28 (24/43, 436/831)

Total Finish: 14:20:07

My friends and family were all right there at the finish line but I still had the wade through all the finish chute nonsense: getting my shirt, picture taken, chip off. Finally I got to go out of the chute and my mom was there for a hug. There were definitely tears there.

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Even though my stomach still hurt pretty bad, I decided I was hungry so I got some pizza and found a chair to sit in for a bit.  We took some pictures and talked for a bit while I ate. It was just an awesome moment where I was with all my people and we were all so happy! 🙂

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Getting back to the hotel was a challenge (for me at least). Luckily, my crew had already picked up all my gear and loaded it into my car which was parked nearby but I couldn’t really walk very well. My legs hurt bad. Getting in and out of the car was especially painful. I pretty much could have gone to bed immediately but instead took a quick shower and ate a cupcake. Kristin also made me let her massage my legs for a few minutes which was pure torture. We all went to bed around 11 but I think I was in too much pain to sleep! Who knew that was a thing? Ouch. Luckily one of my friends had offered to drive me and my car back on Monday 🙂

Before we left, I met my parents for breakfast at Maple Street Biscuit which was really, really good. We got there just in time because right after we ordered, a horde of people ironman shirts showed up. Hah! That’s what they get for sleeping in, lazy bums.

Ok, so that’s my Ironman story. Not a short thing for sure, and I’m sure I missed a lot of important moments but I think it’s impossible to capture everything that happens in a 14+ hour race.  It was the both the longest and fastest day ever but every moment was awesome! I know I need a break from Ironman, but I’m definitely not one-and-done. I’m going to have to do another one 🙂

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August IM Training

Hold on, because August was a full month and I’m going to get it all down before I forget everything. Is Ironman brain a thing? It should be. I’m definitely to the point where I’m tired of being tired and I can’t seem to remember things I should remember (you know, like my watch to workouts or my sports bra). Get excited because it’s race month!

(OK, so I know it’s October and the race is done but I wrote this post at the beginning of September and never got around to posting it. So just pretend)

Not that anyone cares, but I’m going to organize this training recap a little different because it was one busy month. I feel like so much of it was a tired blur and I want to remember this month before I consider signing up for another Ironman. I don’t want that race-day happy haze to cover up the more painful parts of training!

Aug 1-7: “Taper” for Lake Logan Half
Sat: 53.5 mile bike
Sun: 8 mile run
Mon: 3200 yd OWS
Tues: Yoga/Rest
Wed: 3000 yd swim/24 mile ride
Thu: 4 mile run
Fri: 1500 yd shake-out swim

Training notes:  Goal for this week was to get recovered from a pretty killer week before.  Long bike was 50 miles, long run was 8.  One open water swim with drafting practice and a fun little scavenger hunt just to get us swimming without being totally boring.  The rest of the week was shorter workouts with some race-pace intervals to be ready to race.  My hip was really bothering me towards the end of the week so instead of doing a 3 mile run as planned on Friday, I hit the pool for a short swim with a few sprints to shake-out.

Aug 8-14: Race and Recovery for Training Camp
Sat: Lake Logan Half
Sun: Spectating at Lake Logan Oly/Sprint, 30 min trainer ride, yoga
Mon: 2000 yd recovery swim, yoga
Tues: 24 mile easy ride
Wed: Yoga/Rest
Thu: 3 mile easy run/Yoga
Fri: Rest, travel to Chattanooga

Training notes: Very, very easy week this week.  Coach wanted to make sure all of us that raced at Lake Logan would be recovered enough to have a good weekend at training camp a week later so a few easy workouts and lots of yoga.  It was really nice to get some extra sleep.

Aug 15-21: Chattanooga Camp
Sat: 120+ mile ride
Sun: 14 mile run
Mon: 3000 yd OWS
Tues: 3000 yd swim
Wed: Rest/Yoga
Thu: 7 mile run
Fri: 3800 yd swim

Training Notes: Training camp weekend! Cliff notes from that post: lots went wrong but we survived and I was tired (duh)!

We had team OWS on Monday and all of us that went to camp were pretty pitiful but it felt good to shake things out in the water after such a hard weekend.

You can see I didn’t do any more riding the rest of that week.  The reason is I had some terrible saddle sores (sorry, TMI but it’s a reality of IM training for sure) after the ride in Chattanooga and my coach advised me to just stay off the bike for the week. So I took advantage of that time to go swim and also actually do something social which was awesome!

I’ve actually been having a lot of trouble with my bike seat all year which has been frustrating since it was fine last summer.  After a string of emails with my coach and a new saddle ordered, I finally figured out that my saddle had somehow “collapsed” (either the foam or the rails) and the saddle height was not where it was supposed to be. It was less than a cm difference but that height matters!  Months of suffering for…7 mm.  Luckily, now I know so when I run into this again, the first thing I will check will be the saddle height.

I took a rest day on Wednesday because when I tried to leave for swim practice in the morning, my car wouldn’t start -_-.  I was 99% sure it was a dead battery (it was 6 years old so I was definitely due), but when we tried to jump it, it wouldn’t go. Apparently very dead.  So I ended up having to call a tow truck which didn’t come for several hours and by the time I got home from work that day I was just done. =)

Aug 22-28: Build week
Sat: Flight of the Dove 100K
Sun: 12 mile run
Mon: 3000 yd swim
Tues: 5 mile run
Wed: 30 mile ride
Thu: 6 mile run (track)
Fri: Rest/Yoga

Training notes:  I did the Flight of the Dove again this year with some friends and it was far, far less hot than last year.  I also had to travel to Nova Scotia for work for part of this week but was able to get a run in while I was there. Low key week because of travel but it *almost* felt like fall on Thursday during my track workout.  At least it wasn’t 80+/100% humidity which was excellent.

Friday night we headed up to Lake Jocassee to camp out for the Upstate Splash.  We stayed up a little too late, ate a little too much, totally didn’t have any drinks (yea right) and generally set myself up for a rough training day.

Aug 29-31: 2nd to last big weekend
Sat: Upstate Splash/60 mile ride
Sun: 16 mile run
Mon: 4000 yd OWS

Training notes: Oh this weekend was absolutely brutal.  It’s also very fresh in my mind which is probably why it seems worse than some of the other weekends.  I started out Saturday not feeling the greatest because of the drinking that I totally did not do (also, who actually sleeps well when camping?) – just tired.  But it was Upstate Splash weekend, yay!

Afterwards, I had a 90 mile ride on the plan – which didn’t happen as you can see. I made a solid attempt.  Since the area around Jocassee is really not a great place to ride, I packed up my stuff as quickly as possible and headed back home to meet a friend at 12:30 for the ride. She was planning to do 60 with me and then I would finish the last 30 on my own. I was so, so tired (which was clearly my fault but still).  The first 30 miles were ok but about halfway through the 2nd 30, I felt like I could lay down right there on the pavement and take a nap. I was feeling like maybe I could go home and finish the last 2 hours on the trainer. Then…bad thing.  My riding buddy hit a set of train track wrong and went down. THANKFULLY THANKFULLY she was not injured seriously but there was definitely a moment of absolute panic where I wasn’t sure.  Some nice people stopped for us and called EMS while I was moving our bikes off the road and seeing if she was OK.  I could not thank those people enough because they helped her up so she wasn’t laying in the road, directed traffic around us and helped call her husband once we realized she was not seriously hurt.  Just some road rash and a broken helmet (WEAR YOUR HELMETS!).  But after all that, I was definitely mentally done too so I packed up once I got back to my car and went home.  By this point it was almost 6 and I just ate dinner and went to bed. Fail, but can you blame me?  The run on Sunday was particularly ugly after such a long day Saturday but I did get it done.  Then we had team OWS where we basically did 3×1000 (one of them pulling a kayak) and yea I’m basically dead on my feet. I feel like I could sleep for daaayysss. I know taper is coming but it feels like an eternity!

The good news is that I feel physically able.  The fitness is there and any long workouts I have left are just bonus.  Remember that race day is the reward and it will be great.  24 days…

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Upstate Splash Swim

How to write a triathlon blog:
1) Do a race
2) Wait at least a month to write a blog post about it.
3) ???
4) Profit?

That doesn’t seem to be working out for me.

The Upstate Splash was a first-time event put on by my master’s team (Greenville Splash!) to raise money for scholarships to provide kids with swim lessons. It looks like it will continue to be an even based on the huge success it was this year! We had a 1.2 and 2.4 mile swim which definitely attracted a lot of swimmer and triathletes from the area.

The event was out at Lake Jocassee which is a little over an hour from Greenville – really out in the middle of nowhere, actually. But it’s a beautiful lake in the mountains and is a great venue.  There’s not really anywhere to stay out there, but there is a campground on site and we had the opportunity to take over a teammate’s campsite who couldn’t use her’s. Yay camping!

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We enjoyed some weenies, s’mores, and..uh…beverages (those are not allowed at SC state parks but the key here is to not be an obnoxious asshole!).  We also enjoyed the convenient beach at the campground and goofed off a lot before going to bed way too late in our tents. Note to self: not a good plan for Ironman training.

Saturday morning came way to stinking early and we walked over to the race start and a great sunrise.

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See that nice water. It’s normally smooth and glassy. It was so not on this morning.  Apparently it was pretty windy and there was some pretty good chop on the water (I mean, for a lake. It’s not an ocean).

We had wave starts and I was in the second wave. The first 500 m or so I felt the chop but thought it was because of the other swimmers around me. Then we kept swimming and the chop just kept getting worse the further we got from the beach (it’s in a cove, kind of). While it doesn’t really bother me that much, I was thinking about my IM training buddy Danette who was also swimming the 2.4 mile who doesn’t love swimming as much as I do. (She ended up doing just fine but was super worried about Chattanooga. I told her it would be much, much easier!!).

Once I reached the turn around, I hit the lap button on my watch and headed back to the start (obviously). The chop was definitely coming from the north because the return leg was much easier than the outbound leg! I just kept swimming until I reached the finish which was a boat with some people writing numbers down. High-tech, I know, but they weren’t anticipating how big it would be this year! They already have a timing sponsor for 2016 which is awesome.

I looked down at my watch and saw 2.64 and said ??!?!. No wonder that seemed so long.  I didn’t think I swam off course and when I checked my garmin file later I found that I stayed pretty well on course so the swim was definitely long. Whew. My final time was 1:11:30, which is not very meaningful for 2.6 miles but my pace per 100 was 1:31, which I think is a nice, comfortable pace for an IM swim.

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After I finished I grabbed some food (there was SO MUCH), and packed up my car quickly because I had a 90 mile ride on the schedule for the afternoon. There wasn’t really any good place out near the lake so I had to drive back to Greenville.   I ended up not getting started until 12:30…we’ll just say I didn’t finish 90 miles but I tried.

Anyways, that’s the Upstate Splash!

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