Wednesday, August 1, 2018

"It's still Vineman" Ironman Santa Rosa 70.3 Race Recap

Spoiler Alert!!! Celebrating with #roseallday ;)

My “A” race this season is Ironman Chattanooga, so IM Santa Rosa 70.3 was going to be a test of the fitness 2 months out.  As my 9th 70.3, I went into race weekend/registration/preparation like it was old hat.  I was super relaxed…my shake out ride/run went smoothly, registration was easy, checked my bike into the transport shuttle so I didn’t have to deal with traffic up to Lake Sonoma, and had a great lunch with good friends.  All this was done by 1:30, and it was time to kick my feet up and relax for the rest of the afternoon at our delightful AirBnB up in Healdsburg.  Everything was going great.  Then mom and I headed out to my traditional pre-race dinner of Basil Chicken at the Thai Orchid Restaurant…and that is where the night took a turn…
Sherpa Extraordinaire - My Mom!
Best part of the Air BnB - 2.5 year old Uma!!
During dinner, mom realized she didn’t have her wallet.  After checking the car, we thought she left it at the cottage.  After dinner, we turned the cottage inside out…no wallet.  So we went back to check the restaurant and parking lot again…no wallet.  Back to the cottage to scour it again.  As we’re searching a second time, I realize that I had all three of my gear bags (morning clothes, bike gear, and run gear).  And it hit me…I was supposed to turn in my run bag at T2 in Santa Rosa earlier that day since the race has two different transition locations!!!  All that relaxation from earlier in the day went right out the window.  I knew it would work out ok, but I had to revamp my race morning plan, including a wake-up call 45 minutes earlier than planned!  Plus it meant that I tossed and turned all night worried that I would miss my alarm :/  That will definitely teach me a lesson in not taking my race prep seriously!!!
5am arrival at Lake Sonoma
Ironman definitely made the right call! Photo Cred: Tammy
The lake was nice and clear by the time we started riding! Photo Cred: Tammy
Race morning rolls around.  I make it to T2 in plenty of time, grab a spot on one of the shuttle busses, and pop in my new favorite playlist for the drive up to Lake Sonoma.  As we arrived, I completely understood why Ironman was contemplating cancelling or shortening the swim…the dark and fog was super eerie! But I found my bike racked right where it was supposed to be (thank goodness the Tribike transport shuttle worked so well) and prepped Penny the P3 for the day ahead.  Then it was a waiting game.  Lots of potty stops and chatting with most of my friends in transition until the final decision was made at 7am that the swim was cancelled.  I was surprisingly bummed (I don’t hate swimming, but it’s definitely my least favorite of the 3) because I really wanted to test out my swim improvements from Coach Tom’s torture sessions for the past year.
Body marking by friends is the best! Photo Cred: Tammy
Killing time with Kathy and Bill until the swim was cancelled!
Pre-race photo with Brenda - Thanks for pulling me along when you caught me on the run!
Bike: 2:32.15 - The race began with a time trial start with 5 people being sent off on their bikes every 5 seconds.  I lucked out because of my AWA status and was within the first 100ish people out on the course.  Coach Muddy had given me a plan for the day and it started out with riding my bike as hard as I could. The course was great, weather was perfect, and it turned out to be a beautiful day.  
Flying through the vineyards.  Photo cred: @alpynephoto
Even though there was an elevation gain of about 2k, most of that was on rolling hills, and I just felt like I was flying!  I played leapfrog with another lady for most of the day, totally legal on both our parts, but great motivation to keep pushing the pace the whole time.  As I rolled into transition, I checked my watch and saw that I held nearly 22mph and came in with a 13 minute bike PR!!!  So stoked!  My mom yelled out that I was in 4th, which was awesome, but my main goal was to execute my plan and as long as I did that I would be happy with my day regardless of placement.  But it was definitely an incentive to keep my head in the game on the run.
A look of concern when I thought my watch was broken! Photo cred: @alpynephoto
Run: 14:41.12 - After a quick transition, I was off for the last 13.1 miles of the day.  My legs felt great as I started running, and as I looked down at my watch to check my pace, I thought my watch was broken!  My pace was WAY faster than I imagined and when mile one clicked over at 7:11, I was shocked.  I knew that the “out” portion of the 2-loop run course was slightly downhill, and I still had 12 miles to go, so I tried to dial back my pace.  Coach said he would be happy with 8:20s for my first few miles, but when mile 2 clicked off at 7:31, I decided to just go with it and hold that pace as long as possible. 
Is it really an Ironman run if I don't do jazz hands?!? Photo credit: mom :)
The course was shady and quiet for the first loop so it was easy to settle into a rhythm.  The miles passed pretty quickly and soon I was at the turn around.  When I was out on the bike course I spotted 2 of my training partners with Coach Muddy and I was certain that they would catch me before the end of the bike.  But they didn’t, and when I finally saw them on the run my goal was to hold them off for as long as I could 😉 I managed to do just that…barely!  I heard the finish line announcer call out John’s name just as I crossed the line, and Jeff and Fred crossed the line minutes later.  I managed to pull out a 3 minute run PR, but the best part was feeling like I could have kept on running at that pace (I guess that means I should have run faster, but it bodes well for IM Chattanooga!)

Total (69.1 miles): 4:17.16  
#muddylove - Best training partners ever!
Women's 35-39 Podium!
All in all, it was a solid day of racing.  I’m still a bit bummed that we didn’t swim because I KNOW I would have had a huge 70.3 PR (and my first sub 5 hour finish), but I am beyond proud of my day and my first 70.3 podium spot.  And the best part of racing “local” was the number of friends I shared the course with, and spotting my photographer hubby out on the course.  And as always, a huge shout out to my Sherpa extraordinaire mom – xoxo
This crazy triathlon obsession all started because of that guy in middle!
59 days to IMChattanooga!! #headdowndowork

Friday, April 27, 2018

Rainstorms and Unicorns - Boston Marathon 2018

Make Way for Ducklings - Boston Common

When I ran my first marathon in 2009, I was in awe of runners who ran the Boston Marathon and never in a million years believed that I would someday run those hallowed roads.  But as my fitness improved over the course of training for triathlons with Coach Muddy, the allure of Boston caught me, and I set my sights on making it to Boylston Street.  On Monday, April 16, 2018, I experienced the joy of crossing the finish line in some of the worst weather in race history…and I wouldn’t change one bit of that experience.
The city has these #BostonStrong daffodils all over the city for Marathon Weekend.
Boston.  In running circles, that’s all you need to say and everyone knows you are talking about the Boston Marathon.  Some people are fast enough that they can achieve the super-fast qualifying standard in their sleep.  But for most others, running fast enough to achieve the qualifying time (let alone being enough under the standard to actually get in) takes constant dedication, focus and planning.  But the great thing is, the qualification race takes the hard work, worry, and stress.  Once you get to Boston, it is a celebration!  That’s not to say that you don’t train hard for Boston or set goals for the race, but the Boston Marathon is so much more than just a race for a time or a place.   It is a celebration of the history, the joy, and community of running.  And I noticed that from the moment I stepped foot in the city – Boston is PROUD of this race and so welcoming to its runners!
Not excited AT ALL!!
Shakeout 5k with mom - race weekend tradition!
The husband and I arrived on Friday to a great Air B&B in Beacon Hill.  The weather was chilly, but nothing to write home about.  The rest of the Sherpa squad (Mom, Dad, step-dad) arrived on Friday as well.  On Saturday we packed in lots of Boston: mom and I ran the B.A.A 5k, hit up the expo to get my bib, toured the city on Caty the Duck, and feasted at Legal Seafood with old family friends.  The weather was perfect running weather.  
Sunday, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.  I did my shake-out run along the Charles River and across the bridge to MIT – I was running sideways to counteract the wind, and I knew that would be the headwind we would be running into on Monday.  We trekked to Fenway and caught a Red Sox game in the SNOW!! (so fun and totally worth it), then finished off the night with my traditional per race dinner of Thai food (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!)
Bundled in so many layers and still so cold!
I had been checking my weather app non-stop in the week leading up to race day.  Family and friends kept trying to tell me how the New England forecast of rain, wind, and cold would change by Monday.  And, while the weather prediction for EVERY OTHER day of our trip changed a million times, Monday remained etched in stone.  By Sunday, I fully accepted that we would be running in the rain…but kept telling myself it would be warmer, so it wouldn’t be a big deal… But no matter what, I was toeing that starting line!
I bought this jacket for $20 at Marshalls intending to toss it at the start - turned out to be my lifesaver!
Monday morning arrived with a civilized wake up call of 6am.  My start time wasn’t until 10:50am, but the busses to the start took off from Boston Common (5ish minute walk from our rental) at 8am.  I picked up my mom from her Air B&B on my way to the Common, and it was already raining.  By the time I dropped my gear bag off with dry clothes and shoes for post-race, my shoes were soaked all the way through.  Lots of runners had tied garbage bags around their feet to keep them dry – I thought they looked ridiculous, but definitely wished I had realized just how much rain there was going to be… The rain was unrelenting, even before the race started.  Just after 8, my mom said goodbye and I boarded the bus to the start.  During the hour drive, I kept looking out the windshield of the bus to see if the driver had stopped using his wipers – nope, definitely not.  And there was definitely snow on the ground along the highway…yikes!  But I shared a seat with a lovely man from Pennsylvania which distracted me from the weather (at least a little bit).
Bundled up, heading to the busses!
Arriving at the athletes village was just nuts.  The start is at the high school in Hopkinton, and the gathering areas for the runners were under tents on the athletic fields…on the grass-turned-mud pits!  The pre-race updates had suggested bringing a second pair of shoes to change into before the start so that you would start in dry shoes… I totally regretted that I didn’t have a second pair (or done the silly garbage bag look).  My shoes were covered in mud from my second step onto the field, and they squished like full sponges as we trudged our way to the start line.  But in the end it didn’t really matter because they would have been soaked the minute I switched shoes or took off the garbage bags.
Not joking - Athlete's Village was a mud pit!
Finally it was time! The gun went off to a rousing cheer, and Wave 3 was off.  My feet felt like ice blocks but by mile 3 they warmed up enough that everything just seemed to settle in for the long haul.  The hardest part of the start was figuring out how fast to run!  I had an original goal of 3:25 (and I am certain I had the fitness for it), but with the reality of the cold, wind, and rain, I had no idea how my body would cope.  So I just took it mile by mile.  Right from the start, the course was lined with spectators.  I actually can’t picture any portion of the course that had more than a 25 yard gap between spectators!  I have already come to the conclusion that runners and endurance athletes are a special (crazy) breed, but I was in awe of the support out on the course.  Even with the torrential downpours, there were lots of sections where I couldn’t even hear my music over the cheering!
In the zone - not a clue that I was running past my family!
The miles ticked off one by one, and soon enough, I hit the girls at Wellesley and was halfway done!  Then I was counting down miles until I thought I would see my mom around mile 16.  I didn’t see her where I thought I would, and after looking for another mile, I just got in the zone and tried to click off mile by mile.  Apparently I was so focused that I completely missed her and my step-dad at mile 17!!! And I ran RIGHT next to them!!!  So bummed.  But I just focused on getting to the top of Heartbreak Hill, then it would be all downhill from there.  Well, it was around that time that the winds really started to get to me.  I thought I would be able to ride the downhill into mile 25, then pick up my pace for the last mile to the finish.  But miles 24-26 were my slowest of the day.  I was so cold that I couldn’t even open up my hand to stretch them out, and it felt like I was barely making any progress! 
So happy and relieved to see my family just before the turn onto Boylston!
Luckily, I spotted my husband right after Fenway Park which gave me a huge boost until the right on Hereford.  Then I saw my mom, dad, step-dad, and long time family friend, right where they said they would be.  And all the emotions were captured in my smile.  I turned onto Boylston and finally got choked up for everything that the day brought.  I ran straight down the street and could not be more proud to cross that finish line!  

Crazy stats for the day!! Cannot believe we ran in that nonsense!
But as soon as I stopped running, the cold sunk to my bones.  My teeth would not stop chattering as I made my way through the finish area.  It felt like I was walking forever before I got to the water…then my medal…then a heat sheet…then my food…then, FINALLY to the dry clothes that I had dropped off in my gear bag earlier that morning.  The line to get into the change tent was way too long so I headed straight to the Starbucks to meet up with the fam.  What a relief to be out of the rain!!!! I finally changed out of my soaking wet clothes and was able to absorb the race I had just run!  It felt like the race took forever and at the same time was over in the blink of eye! 
Celebration time!!! After fully defrosting, we feasted on Italian food in the North End at La Famiglia Georgio, then followed it up with delicious cannolis at Modern Pastry.  Of course by then the rain cleared, and the night was beautiful to stroll around the North End, in my finisher’s jacket, and enjoy the city.   
The horrible weather
And the day after the race Mother Nature blessed the city of Boston with perfect running weather – seriously?!?  We finished the trip off with a visit to the Sam Adams Brewery tasting delicious brews, then had a farewell dinner with longtime family friends. 
Morning after - Seriously, Mother Nature?!?
Over a week has passed and it still feels like a dream trip.  But, I know that I have some unfinished business out on the road to Boston.  I had a goal of running sub 3:30, aiming for 3:25.  I KNOW that I was trained for that time and my body was ready, so it’s tough not to think about the what ifs.  Could I have pushed a little bit harder, did I let go of my goal too easily?  Maybe I could have at least guaranteed a BQ time (my official time to qualify is 3:40, but this year you had to run 3 minutes and 23 seconds faster (so 3:36.37) faster).  But then I think about the conditions, about how many people didn’t finish, how many elites dropped out, how many people didn’t even start, and I am super proud of my day.  I powered through awful conditions, where it became a complete game of mind over matter, and I earned every bit of my unicorn!