Sunday, July 30, 2017

Kona Legacy spot and my least enjoyable Ironman

I did not expect that my legacy qualifying 12th Ironman would end up being my least enjoyable IronMan ever. But there were reasons. It probably begin four weeks before the race with my decision to take a five day business trip to Israel. Well, the trip itself probably had no impact on my preparation, but the impact on my body was probably greater than I had given credence to. The whole idea of tapering is to reduce stress and not just physical stress to the body but the physiological and emotional stress. I definitely did not do this in the weeks prior to IronMan Santa Rosa. There were a number of life stresses that also contributed. With that said my training is been great up to IronMan Boulder, which was seven weeks before Iron Man Santa Rosa. I even got in a really solid week of training the week before my trip to Israel. I also fell and tweaked my left ribcage, which caused me some consternation and kept me from running the ladt 3 weeks. I was starting to feel pretty good a week before the race and then on the Monday prior to the race my wife came down with a cold, so trying to dodge a bullet I left one day early.  On Wednesday I drove to Santa Rosa and registered. I was beginning to feel the greater effects of the cold, but interestingly being in IronMan village and registering made me feel a little better. I got back to my hotel and began what was going to be the next 2 1/2 days pretty much laying in bed watching television and taking it easy. Additionally I had my liquid wellness formula which I was taking every few hours which is an herbal supplement and some zinc lozenges which I was also taking. I did go out on my bike on Thursday for about 15 minutes. My legs felt good but I quickly cut my ride short and went back to my room when I realized that I wasn't feeling that great. My nose was running and my throat still felt a little scratchy. I also took some other "extreme" measures including avoiding politics on television and the Internet which these days I find somewhat stressful. By Friday I was feeling a little better and was trying to maintain a positive attitude which I had hoped would be helpful. On Thursday night I went to sleep at around 9 o'clock trying to get my body ready for an early bedtime on Friday and on Friday night I went to bed at seven and slept pretty well until my alarm woke me at 2:30 in the morning. I had my now typical morning breakfast of avocado and olive oil and a sweet potato and began drinking some coconut water. My nose was a little stuffed but not bad and I was actually feeling fairly good. The problem with the cold is you might wake up feeling a little better in the morning but as the day goes on you start feeling worse. I have noticed this the last few days. When I went outside to my car to drive to the buses I realized it was kind of chilly and I had not brought a jacket of any sort, thinking that it would be relatively warm because of the recent weather.  This of lack of planning is a little unusual for me especially as I had driven to the race and could've brought anything along with me. I realized I would just have to make sure I spent some time in the change tent where it would be a little warmer. I took the bus which was about 45 minute ride just trying to rest and relax on the way to the venue. When I got to the course venue I went and checked my bike which was fine put my nutrition on my bike and in my bike and made sure I put my car key on my bike as well so I have a way of getting home after the race and went to the change that. The water temperature had been gradually rising all week and it had actually broken the threshold of 76.1° the day before but clearly the organizers of this race had concluded that they wanted everyone wearing wetsuits so they somehow managed to find a place in the water that was 76.1° and thus this was a wetsuit legal race. Part of me was disappointed as I had brought my swimskin and I wasn't all that worried about not being able to wear a wetsuit especially since I've been struggling with some ribs issues for the weeks leading up to the race and I'm never sure how my chest feels with a wetsuit on. On the other hand I knew that being cold was not a good thing with the cold I was fighting and was happy to be able to put on my wetsuit as quickly as possible to keep me warm prior to the race. That is what I did and I got my wetsuit on and then made my way down to the start area and seeded myself relatively close to the front and before I knew it it was time to get in the water. The water did not feel cold which is not surprising and I actually felt pretty good as I took my first strokes I actually felt very solid during my swim.  I felt my form was good.  I felt I stayed on a good line, I did feel a little bit of the cold every so often in my head. With that said again the time went by pretty quickly  and I actually felt like I had had a solid swim. A couple of notes on the swim. It was not the easiest swim to draft on based on the turbidity of the water. I did finally get to use my skill in making turns at the turn bouy's which I had rarely used in previous IronMan. So before I knew it I was out of the water, thinking I'd had a decent time only to find ultimately that this was my slowest IronMan swimming ever at one hour 26 minutes, of note I have not been in the water very much prior to this race because my pool was being re-plastered, no I have definitely gotten some solid work on my VASA swim trainer which may have helped me feel like I was swimming strong but it may have been somewhat wasted effort if my form was not dialed in. Historically I have gotten by my swims with good form and I do have to wonder if that may be slipping a little bit.   Certainly something to work out and work on going forward. The transition was a fairly hard one in the sense that it was a quarter mile uphill slog to T1 which I walked strongly and calmly and with purpose.  There were wetsuit strippers about halfway up that I had my wetsuit off and I made a quick change in the changing tent, putting on my bike shoes (they did not allow shoes to be on the bike and I found out why when I got to start), and put on my glasses and my helmet. I decided to wear my regular glasses because my new helmet has a tinted visor which ultimately was a very good choice. I grabbed my bike and and walked it to the mount line where I realized that as soon as I mounted my bike we had a very short uphill climb. This is the reason not to have shoes on the bike in advance, it was also a reason I should've had my gearing a little lower as I had been expecting an immediate descent.  I ended up having to just manage to go up a short climb in a little bit too high gear although I did not push it and just used it as an opportunity to stretch my legs a little further. Before I knew it I was on the first major descent and quickly realized that I still had a cold. This was going to be sort of the defining theme of at least the first part of my race. I realized early on that from the neck up I wasn't really feeling good and I tried not to fight myself a little bit in the first 30 miles or so with those negative thoughts which is part of the reason I said this race was the least enjoyable of all IronMan's. I also realized quickly on the descent that my heart rate was over 160. Even not pedaling wasn't really getting my HR down very quickly and my heart rate stayed above 150 for the first hour and a half I had a decision to make and that was whether to be a slave to my heart rate or to listen to how my legs felt my legs actually felt pretty good. So I chose to listen to my legs and assumed my heart rate was 10 to 15 beats higher than it should be due to my cold I just went with that. The other thing that I noticed was it was still a little chilly out that wasn't helping the way I felt. Ironically, I began to look forward to it warming up, which turned out to be insightful. By the time it warmed up a little later in the bike ride any symptoms of my cold had no longer become noticeable. The first half of this bike ride is where the vast majority of the hills are any climbing wise. Honestly I never felt like there were any sustained climbs and there were a lot of rollers which I began to strategize on and felt like I handled it very effectively bringing speed into them and trying to pick up speed right at the crest of the hill and bring it to the next downhill. I traded places back-and-forth with a number of riders as I often do losing some speed on some of the uphills and gaining it again on the down hills and flats.  I did take great pains to try to modulate my effort so as not to Spike my heart rate but still had trouble keeping my heart rate much lower than 145 which was supposed to be my goal heart rate in the latter half of the bike. It didn't take much for my heart rate to Spike about 150 as well of note when I looked at my data the night after the race I found my normalized power was very consistent from the beginning to the end of the bike portion of the race at 160 W. I definitely did go up higher at times to attack some hills but also use the descents for recovery purposes. Occasionally I took the opportunity to enjoy the scenery, but by and large this bike ride was about finishing the bike. With that said my legs felt good and I never really struggled much on the bike or ever felt like I couldn't wait to get off on except for a few moments later in the ride that I will come too. My nutrition plan went great. I had brought a red potato with olive oil and salt which I finished the first hour and I brought a total of 1400 cal of Tailwind nutrition which I had finished just around four hours into the bike ride. From there I had two bottles or partial bottles of Gatorade endurance and supplemented with water. When I hit town at around 60 miles the course flattened out and it was 2 1/2 loops around Santa Rosa most of which were pretty flat again with some rollers and one freeway overpass that we hit twice and I decided to attack it hard to get to the top and then just Coast the other side which served me pretty well.  when I got to the 90 mile mark after passing through the bike finish area for the second time I was still feeling pretty solid.  I never really felt like I couldn't wait to get off the bike also by this time my left knee had been feeling a little soreness. I've had this intermittently and had had my bikefit adjusted last year and haven't had a problem since.  It never really was much of a problem it was just more of an annoyance something to take note of.  The first loop went great, I did feel like my second loop was a little harder and around mile 100 I decided to back off just a little in my effort in order to feel a little better coming off the bike. By the time I was nearing the end of the bike ride I wasn't feeling my cold anymore and felt I had done a good job of ignoring it. As I came to the bike dismount I got out of my shoes and put my feet on top of my pedals where I did a flying dismount and realized my legs were pretty dead. I wasn't really worried as I knew my legs would come around. I have to admit I was a little more concerned about the impact of my heart rate on how I would do but pretty much The only thing that kept me from averaging 20 miles an hour on this course were the hills in the first half. My normalized power was 160 which I believe is one of my better bike efforts and was pretty close to what are I hoped it would be. Over the years my transitions have continued to improve and this was no exception I got into the change tent, wiped my feet off putting Vaseline on them put my socks on and my shoes on my hat on and my fuel belt and was out of the tent and onto the run. My legs were a little heavy but I just settled into a run pace that was comfortable and looked at my watch and I was probably hovering between 930 pace and 10 minute pace and just endeavored to get out and move forward running and finding a comfortable rhythm and pace. I stopped at the first aid station and had a banana and some orange and some Gatorade and my stomach felt good which was unusual for me and was encouraging. I made sure to maintain my hydration and continue dto make my way out on the three loop course.  a good portion of the course was on packed dirt and gravel which actually made that much easier on the legs there was also a fair amount of shade on the course and the temperature never went above 85 it was still a little warm. I managed pretty well through the first loop and the first half of the first loop is mostly a slight downhill along the creek and then the second half of the loop is obviously a little uphill along the creek and I did notice my pace slowing down on the uphill portion to over 10 minute pace and a little closer to 11 minute pace I was a little concerned that I was falling down but realized that also may have been the grade. I continued to drink water and Gatorade and put ice on myself. I started out on the second loop and I began to realize that I was probably going to have some issues. I thought I was just starting to feel the effects of the day and I realized that if I pushed too hard it could really have a significant effect on the latter half of my run and so I began to take walking breaks. I have to admit that I was feeling somewhat lousy at this point and begin focusing on the fact that I just needed to finish to get my legacy spot and that became my focus. However, in the back of my head I knew that if I was smart, stayed hydrated got a little rest and recovery I could reevaluate on the last loop. One of the nice things about struggling during IronMan is it does give me the opportunity to walk and to meet people which I did and talk to a number of folks. By the time I was walking on my second loop there were folks starting their first loop who were a little stronger and actually helped me at times to get back going again. I tried not to walk for sustained distances and use the walking to regain my energy. I also noticed as I started the second loop I felt my pulse and it was racing. I'd taken my heart rate monitor off at the end of the bike which is probably a good thing but I imagine during that first loop my heart rate was pretty high. At around mile 15 I went to an aide station was trying to decide what to drink and realized it was finally time to drink Coke. So I started Coke and made sure I put ice in it which made it even better and I started to think about the last loop with the mindset that when I started the third loop I would try to get back to running and use walking breakd strategically when I need it. At about mile 21 or so I started mixing Coke with Redbull and was really doing a better job of doing mostly running with occasional short walking breaks. I managed to keep my pace close to 11 minute mile pace through this. With three miles to go my left quad began tightening (maybe because of the left knee), but it never went into a full spasm.  I knew that at the final turn around there's a turn to the finish what I didn't realize was how long of a distance it was after that turn. I thought it was pretty short and so when I hit that mark I was determined to run and it turned out it was about half a mile or so, the last half-mile I ran and it certainly set me up to feel pretty well spent at the end.  I went down the finishing shoot imploring the crowd to cheer and when I got to the finish line I put up my hands with 10 plus two fingers for my 12 Ironman's and my legacy spot. I was surprised to find my parents in the finish greeting and have my mother put on my finishing metal. My parents had done the VIP program and they allowed them to come in for this moment. So, I've done 12 Ironman's in eight years. I will go to Kona (when, is related to the waitlist, making 2 to 3 years most likely). In the meantime, I keep learning about life and my body and what I'm capable of through the ironman experience.  

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