Monday, August 3, 2015

Ironman Boulder: Perseverence

So, I have a tradition of pre-writing my race report, which I did for Boulder.  Interestingly, the swim ended up being non-wetsuit and was slower, but my plan and description might have still be pretty close.  My bike was pretty close to were I expected it to be, although I struggled back and forth throughout the day with the feeling that my energy levels were off and my stomach wasn’t cooperating fully.  But my race really starts on the run, where I had predetermined that I was going to give it everything I had.  Unfortunately, my run became a survival challenge.  When I got off the bike, I realized that I just didn’t feel very good, but by the time I put on my run shoes and made my way out of transition, I didn’t fell that bad.  In fact, the first couple of miles on the run I kept a pretty decent pace, of under 10 minutes per mile.  Of course, this section is a little downhill.  The problem?  I stuck to breathing every 6th step as planned, but I was lying to myself.  When I let my breathing naturally find it’s natural cadence, it was closer to every 3rd step.  Plus, my stomach still didn’t feel right.  I have to admit, the negative thoughts had started at around 80 miles on the bike, but I successfully put them out of my head when I started my run.  However, after 2 miles of the run, I knew that this was going to be a long day.  I had a few choices.  The first was just to walk, as I had at Lake Tahoe.  That would leave me with a 6 and a half hour run.  Somehow, I just couldn’t wrap my head around that.  So, I adjusted.  After all, this is ironman and that’s what you do.  The first thing I did was stop at the aid station and start eating and drinking whatever I could stomach.  My GI tract’s reaction to this approach wasn’t the greatest, but it also wasn’t bad.  In fact, I literally walked a couple of miles, hoping to digest what I'd taken in and get some energy back.  I even sat on the grass at one of the aid stations and ate and rested for a few minutes.  The rest of the run became a study in attrition.  I tried to balance getting in nourishment and recovering with finding a run pace that didn’t just cause me to want to completely collapse.  Somehow, as the run went on, I found something.  There is never any doubt that I am capable of pushing through pain.  Hell, I’ve run with a broken hip socket!  (Well, biked and walked).  During the second loop of the run, I stopped at special needs and took one bite of my traditional red potatoes, and felt very sick.  I think that my GI tract stopped working completely by about Mile 18 of the run.  From then on, it was a matter of finishing.  While this is far from my fastest run, I managed to run the second loop faster than the first, which tells me that I managed my body as well as I could on this day.  I came out of the water 23rd in my age group, out of the bike 22nd, and finished in that very same spot.  Why do I do these races?  That’s a question for another blog, but again, I am proud of what I accomplished.  Here’s the rest of my race report, edited to include what really happened!

Am I a klutz or what?  A few days prior to Ironman Chattanooga, I tweaked my low back while putting on my bike shoes.  I have a long a storied history of strange injuries that occur prior to my big races.  I’ve been hit by shopping carts in the supermarket, I’ve strained muscles taking a misstep off a curb, you name it, I’ve done it.  I was heading along blissfully ok in Boulder, not thinking about this, when I got up on Friday morning and put on my tri shorts.  I was planning to go for a bike ride.  Just before leaving the hotel room, I realized that I’d put my tri shorts on backwards.  When I started to pull them down, wham!  A muscle in my right hip/low back went into spasm.  Unbelievable.  I massaged it and stretched a little and went ahead with my bike ride, which actually went well.  In fact, I rode most of the last loop of the course, a total of 24 miles.  It also allowed me to envision the “climbs” that everyone has been talking about.  This is Colorado.  These aren’t climbs.  To the strongest cyclists, they’ll be bumps.  Unfortunately, that’s not me.  To me, the relatively short elevation increases on the last part of the course will slow me down, but I’ll be able to stay in my aero position for most of them, except for an occasional steep pitch that will allow me to stand up briefly and stretch, which is a good thing towards the end of the race.  Back to my muscle spasm.  I spent the entire day working on it!  Aha!  My body must have been trying to take my mind off the race and the taper craziness!  I took a mineral bath, put on tiger balm, massaged, electrical stimulation, you name it, I did it.  By the time I went to bed, it was a dull ache that I noticed when getting up from a laying position.  Well, that’s the point, I can’t lie down during the ironman!  I’ve got to stay upright, on my feet, all day (after the swim, of course, and aside from my aero position on the bike).  

I’m a big believer that our bodies will tell us the answers.  Over many years, I have gotten to know mine well, and it never ceases to surprise me.  I’ve been preparing for this ironman with a totally new method of training.  I do what I feel like doing, when I feel like doing it!  Ironically, over the last 11 weeks, compared to my preparation for Boulder last year, I’ve still averaged over 9 hours a week of training (compared to 12 last year); but my run volume has been significantly greater (25 miles a week versus 15); my swim volume has been about the same; and my bike volume has been significantly less (50 miles a week versus 90).  Interestingly, I’m trying to run faster, so we’ll see if the run focus pays off. In fact, in the end, it may be how I managed to finish.

The week leading up to the race I arrived in Boulder on Tuesday, visited friends in Denver on Wednesday, swam a little almost every day, did a solid 6.55 mile run (1/4th the marathon distance) on wednesday at an easy breathing effort (which surprised the heck out of me!), and still ran 8:50 pace.  Got in almost an hour and a half of cycling on Friday, but it was all easy and comfortable, seeing how my strained muscle would react:). My diet has been pretty similar to what I’ve been doing.  Avocado with olive oil and salt for breakfast; tablespoon of coconut oil; sardines or Master Amino Protein.  I added some carbs this week for both the race and recognizing the increased carbohydrate needs at altitude, by having my favorite gluten free pancakes at Turley’s Kitchen.  Dinners were big salads from Whole Foods with salmon.  I’m a creature of habit.  I also took some supplements, CoQ10, glutamine, both have which have become pre-race staples for me based on Macca’s suggestions.  Also, the first few days of the week, I did some echinacea and eleuthrococcus (felt like I was fighting something).  I’ve been taking quercitin for my allergies as well.  Prior to saturday, I also used some cleansing capsules, and V-8 juice, doing my best to clean out my GI tract prior to reducing fiber and roughage.  The details that go into preparing for an ironman!  But, this being number 8, I’ve clearly developed a routine, which seems to include tweaking some muscle!

Saturday was about resting.  First, I did some foam rolling and then I started working on my race report (I pre-write most of this report!).  Was able to drop off my bike at the Rez early due to my All World status:). For one of the few times ever, I decided to deflate my tires, since it was hot today, and there is always time on race morning to put air in the tires.  Dropped off my run bag and met a friend and his son for lunch at Turley’s.  After that it was back to the hotel for another mineral bath and to stay on my back and rest.  By the late afternoon, my back was almost 90% better.  It’s amazing how little I was concerned, having been through this many times before.  

I always try to keep things simple during race week, but it’s remarkable how I can get caught up worrying about the slightest thing.  This worry of the week turned out to be deciding how I was getting to the race.  I didn’t have anyone to take me, so I would need to drive and park, which also meant figuring out what to do with my car keys.  Amazing how something as simple as this can become a focal point of worry.  Fortunately, I decided on Saturday afternoon to park to the east of the high school and put the car key in the pack on my bike.  That way, I wouldn’t worry about it getting lost.  I also put on my race number tattoos (a great investment).

I had pancakes for lunch and finished them around 4pm, and started winding down, with the plan of going to bed between 7 and 8 pm, which I did.  It’s amazing how well I manage to do this prior to ironman races.  As usual, slept pretty well, and woke up just before the alarm at 3:15 am.  I had my avocado with olive oil and salt, as well as a sweet potato.  Put on my sunscreen and my tri suit.  Got my race nutrition and my special needs bags and left around 4 a.m., was able to get a decent parking space, dropped off my bags and took the bus to the reservoir.  First thing was to put air in my tires and chill.  No wetsuit today!  The water temperature was 78 degrees.  That’s ok.

Just like last year, I went into the water with the second group and started off to the side.  My goal this year for the swim was to just swim comfortably fast.  My focus was on breathing easily, but also on keeping good form.  There was the usual bumping, but overall, I just stayed focused, really trying to make sure that I didn’t swallow any water, which I didn’t!  People kept trying to swim into me, no matter where I positioned myself in relation to the buoys.  I feel like I zig zagged, but I’m not so sure looking at the other swim times in my age group.  The only thing I know for sure was I swam quite wide after the first turn because I thought I was sighting on a yellow buoy, but was actually sighting on a paddle boarder wearing a yellow jacket!  The swim did feel like it went on forever, but  considering that I’d recently done two 90 minute pool swims without stopping, this was pretty easy.  I made my way out of the water and to the transition tent.  Unfortunately, the bench I used last year was now outside of the path, so I had to use the transition tent to put on my helmet and bike shoes.  Put on my headband and sunglasses and my Synthe aero road helmet and then put on my aero gloves and arm coolers before putting on my cycling shoes.  This was all done quickly and comfortably and I was off to get my bike and get out of transition.  Walked my bike up the hill to the mounting point and got on my bike.  Coming out of the Res was something I’d done many times before.  I know this course, although I actually hadn’t ridden the exact course before, but knew what to expect.  My goal today was getting to the run unscathed.  Keeping my wattage down was the key, staying nourished and hydrated on a hot day was my goal.  The first miles out of the Res are a false flat that can tempt one to push harder than they should.  I just rode easily and before I knew it I was coming back up Nelson on the longest sustained minor “climb” on the course.  I kept a good cadence and didn’t push my wattage, and managed to stay aero.  I took in some almond butter and started drinking from my mixture of UCAN and Tailwind.  I wasn’t sure how many calories I’d need, but just went by how I felt, trying to keep taking calories early on in the bike.  Hydration was key today, especially with the heat, and I even took extra water and poured in on my head and back when I had the opportunity.  Before I knew it, I was doing the second loop and once again, focused on keeping it easy.  I had decided not to push at all until the last 20 miles, which included some very short climbs.  “I was feeling good when I got to mile 80 and knew that I was on my way to a solid bike ride.”  That was the original plan.  Instead, at mile 80, all I wanted to do was get off the bike.  My butt hurt, I was starting to hate being on my bike, I couldn’t stay comfortable in my aero position.  I stood when possible to stretch out my back and legs.  The last 20 miles seemed to take forever and then, I was dismounting and running, in my cycling shoes, to T2, where I got my run bag and quickly put body glide on my feet, socks on, shoes on, hat on and race belt on.  Off to the run course, with a quick stop to have extra sunscreen put on me.  

One addition to my bike ride.  My power seemed to be about 10-20w under where I expected it to be.  I did try to load up on nutrition early, but my stomach did start rebelling and I had to modulate.  I did drink plenty of water during the bike, and wonder if I didn’t take in enough electrolytes.  I kept having the feeling like a switch was turning on and off.  Sometimes I felt great, other times I actually felt a little light headed.  I have been training to teach my body to burn fat, but the high altitude may have thrown the ultimate curve ball to my body.  I took in carbs, but my body had trouble processing them at the rate that I needed.  In fact, it felt a lot like my early ironman’s felt in that regard.  That feeling only got worse on the run.