Ironman Vineman

Ironman Vineman
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You know, if I hadn’t paid an arm and a leg for my official Ironman photos, I probably would have given up on writing this race recap.

I mean, it’s been a month! I’ve slept all the sleep, eaten all the food and rested all the rest. I’ve been back to a training schedule for the past three weeks.

I have no excuse for my tardiness, other than the usual: been busy.

But, I paid $100 for a bunch of files, so you’re getting a race report. I’m getting my money’s worth. Hope you enjoy!

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Pre-race

Windsor is only a two-hour drive from home, so our plan was simple: get there Friday morning and do all the pre-race things the day before the race. Saturday was the big dance.

Except a few weeks before race day, Julie — a friend who was also doing Vineman as her first Ironman — pointed out that the last day for Athlete Registration was Thursday. No packet pickup on Friday. Can’t get your stuff on Thursday? No race.

Which I would have known, had I read the Athlete Guide carefully. And since I usually “read” those in the car on our way to a race… well, my Ironman would have been over before it started.

Phew, crisis averted. Julie and drove up together on Thursday, got our packets and drove back home — to return on Friday morning and get the real party started.

Obligatory "look at me, I'm going to race Ironman!" photos.
Obligatory “look at me, I’m going to do an Ironman!” photos.

Oh, and this race was going to be a child-free getaway for HusbandRuns and I. You know, some couples go to Sonoma Valley for a weekend of wine tasting, maybe a concert, or a spa day. We go to partake in Ironman. To each their own!

So our first stop on Friday was mandatory drop off for bike and bike gear bag at T1 on Johnson’s Beach. Then a short dip in Russian River (yup, as warm and shallow as I remembered it to be).

VinemanBikeDropOff

After that, we drove over to T2 in Windsor for mandatory run-gear drop off, and finally, well past 2 p.m., we headed to Santa Rosa for lunch.

Lunch involved:

  • a truck backing into our car as we were pulling into the parking lot behind Russian River Brewing Company,
  • miraculously – no damage to the car? The small dent popped right back out. Needless to say, the truck driver was mighty pleased and grateful (he tried to give us money for a buff, which we refused, seeing how there was hardly a scratch),
  • delicious pizza, beers, and more beers (carbo-loading), and finally:
  • a parking ticket, because in our little fender-no-bender, we didn’t notice the parking meters.

That we laughed it all off is a testament to the amazing quality of Pliny the Elder and the rest of Russian River Brewing’s delicious brews.

RissianRiverBrewingBeerFlight

If you’re ever within driving distance, it’s a must-try! Remember to feed the meters.

Race morning

Per usual, I kicked off race day with mediocre hotel-room coffee at 4 a.m.

Then I got burned.

I had just run water through the coffee maker to heat it up for my instant oatmeal breakfast and, splash! All over my right hand. It probably would have hurt more under normal circumstances, but on race morning, I was too focused on other stuff to care. (FYI, the burn formed a big blister while I was on the bike, which popped some time in the beginning of the run. The lifecycle of a burn, all in a day’s Ironman.)

We loaded my swim bag in the car and took off for the 30-minute drive to Guerneville. Traffic got backed up as we approached Johnson’s Beach, but the brilliant Waze app took us to a narrow side road that ran parallel to what we thought was the only street to the beach. Score!

Next thing I knew, we were by the entrance of the athletes-only transition area. HusbandRuns told me he’d meet me back there before the swim, and I entered Ironman. No going back now!

Well, going forward was slow, too, as I quickly realized my bike pump was in demand. I stopped three or four times to let folks borrow it and wait for them to get air in their tires. The extra few minutes were totally worth it, as we exchanged heartfelt well wishes for a great race!

Then I got to Magic Bike, pumped his tires, got my water and Nuun for the bike, grabbed my wetsuit, cap and goggles, and found my husband conveniently waiting for me near a porta-potty with a pretty short line. Another sign for a smooth day ahead?

Potty business done, I decided to just put on the wetsuit already. I stripped down to my two-piece Team Betty swim suit, squeezed into the wetsuit, put on my swim cap, and… realized that we still had at least half an hour to go.

This is the first time in the four years I’ve been doing triathlon that time was not racing before the start.

We watched the professional men’s start from the beach, then the women… then continued watching as athletes started filing into the narrow walkway to the swim arch. Men in green caps, women in pink:

VinemanSwimStart

Notice anything? Where is the pink?!???

The start was self-seeded, meaning everyone got to decide what wave to join based on their expected swim finish time.

Bit of a problem for a first-timer who had never even swam the entire 2.4 miles…

I had absolutely no clue how long it would take me. No more than two hours, I hoped? And certainly no more than the cutoff time of 2:20?

Finally, I decided to seed myself in the 1:20-1:30 wave (a little over twice the time I’d need for a 70.3 swim) and walked over to join the thick crowd of nervous wetsuits.

Swim

First snag: I hadn’t noticed the area was fenced-off, so I’d need to go to the very back of the line and try to make my way forward to my wave.

Surprisingly (or not?), everyone was very courteous and more than willing to let me pass when I mentioned I was hoping to get to the wave in front of them. I guess it’s in everyone’s interest for people to seed themselves in the proper swim group!

That, and triathletes are just awesome people in general.

I reached the back of the 1:20-1:30 crowd and we inched our way forward until I stepped over the timing mat. Time to start swimming!

Well, not before taking care of some over-hydration business first. (I’ve said it before: all triathletes pee in their wetsuit before the swim start, deal with it.)

That took a good minute, by the way.

Then I dived in and started swimming…

… and right away, I found myself in a pack of swimmers going at a much slower pace that I wanted to go.

Russian River is so narrow and shallow, that I could have easily stood up to walk around until I found more space. But walking in water is a lot slower than swimming, and I had made a pact with myself that I would not walk the swim. My legs would get plenty of action later in the day.

So I swam at a near-sprint to pass the first pack of swimmers, then settled down into my rhythm… until a few minutes later, I hit another slower pack and had to pick up the pace again. This sprint-settle down-repeat cycle went on for almost the entire swim.

VinemanSwim

As I reached the turnaround, I glanced at my watch for the first time: 37 minutes? That was better than all of my 70.3 swims! It was like getting a fresh burst of energy and on I went, swimming past walking guys, swimming past slower groups, just swimming.

I exited the water at 1:13-something on my watch and I couldn’t have been happier!

Vineman swim exit

Swim time: 1:14:41

T1

A volunteer handed me my bike gear bag and I trotted over to the changing tent. They don’t have changing tents at Ironman 70.3 events, so this was my first time in one. And seeing how I was in a swim suit and needed to be in my cycling kit instead, it’s a good thing we had privacy! I took quite a while to dry off, wipe as much mud off my feet as I could before putting on socks and get dressed. Then again, I had a long day ahead of me. No rush.

T1 time: 9:44

Bike

The Vineman bike course is a thing of beauty. First, you ride against the backdrop of these big evergreens. It’s still early morning and the sun is low, and its light is soft, and everything is simply perfect.

IronmanVinemanBike1

Then the vineyards start rollin’. Winery after winery, after winery, as we pedal along on the smooth roads. Many of them newly-paved. Two thumbs up!

VinemanBike2

I stopped at the first Bike Aid station to refill one of my water bottles and was helped by no other than Harriet Anderson. She was volunteering with SVTC, on trash pick-up duty! That’s right, Harriet Anderson was picking up our trash. If that doesn’t show you how amazing the triathlon community is, what would?

After that, I made two more stops. One to get my special needs bag, where another kind volunteer helped me pour my special-needs bottles of Mexican Coke into my bike bottle. (Coca Cola is my worst long-ride addiction, if I’m going to ride for four or more hours, I need my coke!) And one last stop at mile who-knows-what, because I would decidedly have not made it to T2 with a bladder that full.

(Water to go at all aid stations, coke, Nuun… I was very well hydrated.)

VinemanBike3

Not least, the course is all rollers. There are two climbs up Chalk Hill at miles 44 and 100, respectively, and yes – that hill does get steeper the second time around. I was riding pretty conservatively and my legs felt fine. But with about six miles to go, I decided to shift into an easier gear and spin the legs out some more. I had a marathon to run, after all.

Bike time: 6:50:08
(OK, in hindsight, that is quite slow. I’ll pace myself better if I ever do this again!)

T2

I handed off Magic Bike to a volunteer, grabbed my run gear bag and went into the changing tent. Put on my Team Betty tri suit, ran out to the porta-potty — and back in for the rest of my changing. My feet were still muddy from T1, so I used up a mini-pack of wipes to get as much dirt off as I could. Don’t want to get blisters if I can help it! Then I drank ice water. Then I applied sunscreen. Then I put on my race-belt tutu. Then I sat on a chair for a bit… Then I realized that I was basically hanging out in T2, stalling. Not knowing if I’m ready to run a marathon. How would my legs feel? Would it be too hot? Would I make it?

Suck it up. Only one way to find out!

Time in T1: 15:01
[seriously……..]

Run

The first thing I realized when I started running was that it wasn’t terribly hot out, and my legs weren’t feeling terribly bad.

The next thing I realized was that turning my race belt into a tutu was one of my smartest Ironman decisions yet.

IronmanVinemanRun1-2

Right away, I started getting loud cheers from spectators lined up around the beginning of the course:

Cute Tutu!
Go, Tutu!
You got this, Tutu!

And from fellow runners:

Nice Tutu!
A Tutu? A Tutu!
That.is.awesome. A Tutu. [chuckle]

and, my favorite (I got that some time on my second lap):

VAMOS, Tutu!!

It is impossible to get cheers and smiles from everyone, and not get a lift in spirits. So most of the time, I was running with a grin on my face.

The run was a three time out-and-back on a 4.5-mile stretch, which was a great way to consolidate aid stations and spectators. The small stretches of road that didn’t have many spectators lined up were either along beautiful vineyards, or had loud cheer stations from volunteers or sponsors.

IronmanVinemanRunTutu

I took the first half “lap” at an 8:44 average pace, fully realizing I would not be able to keep it up. But as long as I felt good, why not?

Back near the run start and on my way to the second loop, I ran by the area with our special needs bags almost too quickly, and had to back down a few steps to find my bag and get some gels.

Nutrition-wise: I had switched from Bonk Breakers to gels for the run, and my stomach was feeling good. I did have to duck into a porta-potty coming back on my second lap. It felt weird stopping to use the restroom during a run – I never do that, even in a marathon. But when you’re out there for hours and hours, it just can’t be helped.

At that point I had slowed down quite a bit, running a 10 min/ mile pace on the uphills (there was one big climb on that course, which we had to basically do six times, and one smaller climb that wasn’t so bad).

Luckily, HusbandRuns was on the course as well and he would join me for a few yards here and there to keep me company. He even offered me snacks – which I refused, since we’re not allowed to accept any outside assistance, but also because said “snacks” consisted of plums and tomatoes.

Many thanks to fellow Betty Julienne, whose husband took this photo! I wonder what we were discussing at this point, perhaps the possible consequences of snacking on plums during a marathon?
Many thanks to fellow Betty Julienne, whose husband took this photo! I wonder what we were discussing at this point, perhaps the possible consequences of snacking on plums during a marathon?

It was great seeing all my fellow Bettys on the course, too, and getting (and giving) smiles and shout-outs! Those Team Betty kits truly light up a race course, don’t they?

I won’t lie, by mile 21, I was ready to be done with the marathon thing. I was tired, my stomach was starting to feel weird, I had been out there for 12 hours and really wanted to lie down and take a nap — or just go to sleep.

With a mile to go, I ran for a bit with HusbandRuns for the last time.

We reached the “Athletes only from this point” sign at the start of the fenced-off “runway” that looped around Windsor High School and eventually lead to the Ironman finish line. I kissed HusbandRuns “see ya in a few minutes” and dived in.

Approaching the Ironman finish chute is something else. Words really don’t do it justice. So many people lined up and they all scream their lungs out, and give high fives, and shake those cowbells – so.much.cowbell!. It is so loud and so incredible. And, of course, you know that you are about to finish an Ironman – something that once seemed insane and impossible. (Something that your husband once said is as crazy as sticking your hand in the electrical outlet and keeping it there for eight hours.)

It basically feels like this:

IronmanVinemanFinish1

And this:

IronmanVinemanFinish2

The softest, most incredible, welcoming and celebratory red carpet in the world!

Run time: 4:25:22

I crossed the finish line and a volunteer immediately came over to put a medal around my neck, help me take my timing chip off, give me a water bottle and a space blanket, and ask how I feel. It wasn’t a courtesy question, either, he really meant business and I knew from the way he looked at me that he was assessing: can she stand on her feet? do we need a wheelchair? will she faint, or will she walk?

I was feeling perfectly fine at that point, so the volunteer directed me to the food tent and went over to help the next finishers.

Meanwhile, HusbandRuns was nowhere to be seen and after five minutes of looking around, I asked the folks at a nearby information table for a cell phone, so I could call him and find out where he is. He didn’t pick up, so I left a message. And after another minute of looking around, realized that I forgot to take a finisher’s photo. Doh.

IronmanVinemanFinisher

By that point, I was so cold that taking off my space blanket for 30 seconds to take this photo felt like eternity.

Then I spotted HusbandRuns, ran over to grab some food and we rushed to the car. I needed to be inside and warm up (heater to the max!) while he went to get my bike and gear bags.

It is so, so nice to have an IronSherpa to take care of those things for you. I can’t even begin to express how grateful I was at that point.

Shortly after that, we headed back to the hotel and, once in our room, I took off my still soaking-wet and stinky (but beautiful!) Team Betty kit, and finally made myself my own Iron Throne: a nice, hot bath!

Total time: 12:54:56
Overall rank: 680
Gender: 123
Age group: 27

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10 Reasons to Love Heat Training

10 Reasons to Love Heat Training
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You don’t normally see heat-training articles pop up in September, but there you have it: while Starbucks is proudly serving Pumpkin Spice Lattes, the San Francisco Bay Area is a toasty 102 degrees.

A normal person would heed the heat advisory and stay in the air-conditioned comfort of their home, work out in the gym or get in that run, ride or swim before the sun rises in all its Indian Summer glory.

A runner or triathlete, however, would rejoice at the opportunity to get some beneficial heat training. That’s right: I said it’s good for you.

As long as you do it safely – hydrate, hydrate, listen to your body, know the signs of heat stroke or exhaustion, hydrate again! – training in hot weather can not only be fun, it could make you a better athlete in the long run. Here is why:

heat training

1. Heat adaptation improves performance

In some studies, by as much as 4% to 8%. If you’re the competitive type, that might mean the difference between placing in your age group or ending your race a few seconds off the podium.

2. It increases plasma volume

Plasma transports blood cells around your body. More plasma = more oxygen being carried around in your blood cells, to feed your hard-working muscles. Plasma volume decreases during prolonged exercise, so the more of it you have to begin with, the better. (Wow, I am way oversimplifying this… There is quite a bit of medical research on the topic if you prefer the legit explanation.)

3. Running on those cool race mornings will feel effortless

Get used to running in the heat, and those early-morning races will feel like a breeze. And if you end up racing on a hot day, as luck would have it — well, then, you’ll be well prepared for that, right?

4. You get your full of Vitamin D

A widely-cited clinical study published in the March 2010 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that 59% of test subjects — healthy young women living in Southern California, at that! — were vitamin D-deficient. Crazy, right? Vitamin D is essential for bone health; insufficiency is linked to increased body fat and decreased muscle strength. Get your daily dose on a sunny run; just don’t overdo it. Wear sunscreen.

5. You’ll be so ready for long-course triathlon and those mid-day Ragnar legs!

Has the thought of trying an Ironman or 70.3 entered your mind? Or are you more of a Ragnar Relay type of athlete? Nothing like mid-day runs in the heat to get your body ready for race day, when you will likely be starting your run leg smack in the middle of the day.

6. You can run sexy!

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(image source)

OK, we’re entering the not-so-scientific portion of my list now. But how about those short-shorts you can wear without freezing your butt off, or a sexy short skirt?

7. You’ll work on your (sexy) tan

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(image source)
Ever see a pair of legs like those walking down the street? Give their owner a high-five, chances are you both love running or biking in the heat.

8. Other runners will think you’re crazy — and badass

Among those who share your love or running, training in the middle of the day when it’s a gazillion degrees out elicits awe and respect. They probably think you’re crazy, too. But never mind that, they’ll realize how smartly you trained after you show ’em who’s boss at that next super-hot race.

9. That post-run glass of [water] has never tasted better

Or Nuun. Or beer. Hey, someone has to admit it? Nothing – nothing – tastes better than a chilled glass of the amber brew (your favorite IPA?) after a super-hot, super-hard run or ride in the scorching sun. Don’t judge!

10. You may make like-minded (crazy) friends

Train regularly at the hottest time of day, and you’ll notice one of two things: you’re always the only person out running; or you run into the “regulars,” others who are just as crazy as you are to venture out in the heat. Who knows, maybe you’ll make new running friends that way. Wave hello if you see me!

[tweetthis]Heat wave? Bring it! Check out these 10 reasons why you should love training in the heat.[/tweetthis]
 

Do you ever train in the heat? What are your survival tips?

Tri Talk Tuesday: Recovery and Rest for Moms

Tri Talk Tuesday: Recovery and Rest for Moms
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Tri Talk Tuesday is a monthly linkup hosted by You Signed Up For WHAT?!, Blisters and Black Toenails, and The TriGirl Chronicles. I LOVE this month’s topic, Recovery and Rest for Moms. What a great month to join the conversation!

Triathlon Recovery

They say that nutrition is the fourth discipline in triathlon.

If that is the case, then recovery is the fifth. (Blowing snot rockets is the sixth, but let’s talk about that some other time…)

The thing is, though, many of us triathletes also happen to be Type A personalities who are always in go-go-go mode. You’ve got to be that way if you’re going to balance life, work and three sports, right?

Well, not really. I don’t need to tell you that pushing your body too hard, without allowing it to rebuild, will ultimately break it down. Everybody knows that.

[tweetthis]”Anyone can work hard. The best have the discipline to recover. @laurenfleshman [/tweetthis]

Knowing is one thing, however, doing is another. Add being a mom to the mix, and the chances of R&R falling by the wayside increase exponentially. Now that school is back in session, mornings are crazy and evenings are for catching up on housework, work, doing that evening session on the trainer or in the pool…

Nine hours of sleep? Whoever could do that??

Sleep is important, of course, but it isn’t everything. There are the other usual suspects in proper recovery: how you eat and drink, how you structure training – those things make all the difference.

I wanted to share a few things that I’ve been doing in the past two years that, I believe wholeheartedly, have made it possible for me to:

– train seven days a week (that’s right, every day!) for weeks and months at a time;
– train twice a day at least two or three times a week;
– schedule back-to-back races (like the Livermore Half Marathon and San Francisco Rock’n’Roll on the same weekend; and Ironman 70.3 Hawaii and Escape From Alcatraz on two consecutive weekends) and complete them all in good time and injury-free;
– and, not least, PR a whole bunch of run-distances this year (5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon) and do well in triathlon, too.

Of course, those are things that I have found work well for me. I am not a doctor. I am not a professional runner or triathlete. Take everything with a grain of salt.

Sleep early, sleep often

I feel like a hypocrite saying this because my son is now seven and sleeps through the night. This was not the case up until he was three and a half years old, though, and I remember chronic sleep-deprivation quite well. To all moms with babies, toddlers and, in general, bad sleepers… oh, I understand!

But without enough sleep, our bodies cannot properly repair the muscle fibers we tear up in training and racing.

These days, I try to be in bed by 10 p.m., even if I don’t have to wake up at 5 am or 5:30 the next morning. If I have an early-morning date with the pool or my triathlon training group, I go to bed even earlier. And believe me, if I had the opportunity to take mid-day naps, I absolutely would!

Structure training wisely

I alternate days of hard workouts – especially running – with days of swimming and/ or spinning out the legs on the bike. When training for a marathon and focusing on running exclusively, I alternate hard runs – intervals, tempo runs or hill repeats – with super-easy 30- to 40-minute runs at an aerobic pace.

On days when I train hardest, I go to bed earliest.

Recover actively

I am a firm believer in active recovery. I have found that it works better for me than taking a complete day off; but that may not be the case for everyone. If you feel like your legs are getting heavier and heavier after each run or ride, take a day off. Swimming is a great, super low-impact way to add some action into an otherwise low-key day.

This is especially true post race, when your body needs rest the most. I take at least a couple of days completely off after key races. This allows me to recover physically as much as it gives me a mental break from all things running and triathlon.

Eat the right foods, at the right time

This is obvious, but I can’t not mention it. First, I always have some carbohydrate within 30 minutes of training. This is to replenish the body’s glycogen stores. Then I have some protein, healthy fats, and more carbs. Carbs are a triathlete’s best friend!

Also, they are delicious:


(There’s protein in there, too! Picky Bars are 4:1 carb to protein ratio, which is just the perfect formula for recovery. It’s science, dude.)

I also eat a LOT of this:

The fats in avocado are anti-inflammatory. So is Sriracha sauce. They taste delicious together.

I might often be too busy to whip up a healthy nutritious smoothie (and have to clean the blender afterwards), but I always have time to cut a bagel in two, toast it, smush up an avocado – yes, a whole one – on top of it, and drizzle it with Sriracha sauce.

Don’t feel guilty about downtime!

Finally, something that I struggle with on a daily basis: Mommy guilt. I go on a three-hour bike ride in the wee hours of Saturday morning, back home by 10 a.m., and then it’s a full day of activities and family fun. You wish you could just take a nap, right?

Well, sometimes, you should give yourself permission to take that nap. Or come up with an activity that gives you a bit more down time: day by the pool? BBQ in the back yard? Go to the movies? You can’t be always in “ON” mode and train, work, run around and parent, brimming with energy. Those moms don’t really exist, do they?

[tweetthis]Triathlon recovery and rest for moms on #TriTalkTuesday! #triathlon #womenfortri #swimbikerun #realwomenMOVE #sweatpink [/tweetthis]
 

What do you do to rest and recover from training and racing?

Next month’s Tri Talk topic is OFF SEASON. Can’t wait!