Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wayne's World - Wayne's World!

   I'm almost three weeks out from my Ironman, and I'm finally starting to feel like myself again. The first few days after the race, I felt GREAT. Well, I was a little sore, but I had a lot of energy. Then the weekend hit, and all I wanted to do was sleep. Like "getting back in to my pajamas at 3:00 to nap and not getting back up until morning" kind of sleep. I was pretty tired for about four or five days when, finally, the lethargy lifted, and I'm pretty much back to normal now.
   While I have done a few light workouts since my race, for the most part, I've been taking it really easy. I've run a few times, and have been to the pool, but only for short distances. I still haven't made it on my bike yet, though I'm hoping to this weekend. I feel like a complete slacker, but I know my body is still in recovery mode, so I'm trying to not be too hard on myself. One funny note - I was packing up to go to the pool, and Dudley saw my swim bag. Knowing I'm not one to just go swim for the fun of it, he immediately asked, "Did you sign up for something and not tell me?" I seriously think he thought I signed up for another Ironman and just didn't tell him. Umm, no. Though I have heard of people doing that.
   I did do one out-of-the-ordinary thing last week - I was on TV. One of my FTP teammates has a cable-access TV show, and she interviewed several of us FTPers for it. The first segment featured me and Kathy. We spoke about triathlon and our recent Ironmans (Kathy did Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June). Totally felt like I was on Wayne's World (Sidebar: Wayne's World came out in 1992!! Holy Cow! I'm so old!).
   The second segment featured Belinda and Deanna, which was really interesting. Belinda has been racing over 30 years(!), and Deanna over 11. That's a lot of racing! Did you know that before timing chips, you wrote your finish time down on an index card and filed it in a box? Every discipline was manually written down. That's mind-boggling considering all we do now is strap a chip to our ankle, and we get our exact times down to the second.
   The whole TV taping experience was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed spending my evening with these ladies. I don't really remember anything I said, though. I hope I don't look too foolish. The shows start showing today in Nashville at random times. If I can get a link, and I don't look too silly, I'll post it.

Far view of the set.

A closer in.

Kathy, Deanna, me (and The Weapon), Belinda and Becky (the host). 
Bunch of bad-ass ladies, right there!  

   This weekend, I have my first race since IMCHOO. Dudley and I are doing the Wounded Warrior 8k in Franklin. I'm placing bets on how many times I cry. If you all are in town, and aren't doing anything on Saturday, you should come down. 
   See you on the roads! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga - RACE DAY

   This is part three of my Ironman Chattanooga adventure.  For part one, click here and for part two, click here.

   Sleep, of course, did not come easy the night before my race. I tossed and turned all night. I think I ended up with about 4 hours sleep total, with only three of those being of any quality. Transition opened at 4:30, so I set my alarm (ok - three alarms) for 3:30. That way I could eat a bit, stretch and mentally prepare for my day before heading down to transition. Not that I needed any alarms because I woke up around 3:00 anyway. Who needs sleep when you're about to take on the longest endurance event you've ever done? Apparently, not me.

   Dudley and I headed down to transition around 5:00. Honestly, I didn't have a whole lot to do in transition because we dropped everything off, except our special needs bags, the day before. I got body marked and checked out my bike one last time and then headed over to the shuttles that would take us to the swim start. Unlike any other race I've done, Ironman allowed friends and family accompany us to the swim start. I can't tell you how much better it made me feel to have Dudley there with me. I've done a lot of races, but this was my first Ironman. I needed all of the support I could get.
   After what seemed like a WAY too long bus ride to the swim start, we got in line to wait with the other 2,300 athletes for the race to begin at 7:30. It was probably 5:45 by now. The start was first come - first in, so the the earlier you got there, the earlier you could start your swim. I was probably about a third of the way back. Not too bad. I knew my friends Kathy, Meg and Sarah were volunteering at the swim start, but I wasn't sure exactly where. Dudley did a little recon lap and found Kathy, so I went down to say Hi. 

Swim Start Selfie!  

      I got back in line and waited for time to pass, nervously chatting to Dudley and the other athletes - most of whom were first-timers, as well. But before too long, we heard the cannon go off! This meant that the pros were in the water! Then a second cannon! The female pros were in! Finally, a third cannon, which was for the Age-Groupers! My race had officially started! I put on my goggles and swim cap, and quickly moved down the line. The race organizers said to be ready once the line starts moving, because it moves faster than you think. You didn't want to be "that guy" holding up the line futzing with your goggles on the starting dock. They weren't kidding either. The line moved a lot faster than I thought it would. I think I heard they got all 2,300+ of us in the water in 25 minutes. Crazy. 
   The swim start was one of the two times I really got emotional during my race. Specifically, it was when I was saying good-bye to Dudley. I almost LOST it. I just couldn't believe what I was about to race an Ironman! I was scared to DEATH! Knowing how bad it would be to cry with goggles on, I turned away from him and focused on my race plan. Less than a minute later, I was jumping into the Tennessee River and my race had officially begun.

Seriously about to freak out here.

   Once in the water, I immediately moved away from the dock, so other swimmers wouldn't jump on top of me. I then took about 10 seconds to regroup and check my goggles, and I was off! I knew I could swim the distance, because I had covered over 2.4 miles in training several times. Granted, it was never in open water, but with a very generous current, I wasn't too worried about missing any time cut-off. My main concern with the swim was how hard to push myself. Unlike biking and swimming, where I'm generally energized by the workout, swimming really wipes me out. And the last thing I wanted was to be worn out so early in the day. So, I took the swim pretty conservatively. I tried to draft when I could, but I had a hard time finding good feet to follow. They were either too fast, or too slow. Most of the time, I just cruised along solo. I knew I could swim faster, but I didn't push at all, and I still made it out of the water in an hour flat. Thank you current!!  

Thankful I didn't drown.

   There was a bit of a run to transition, part of which was uphill. Normally, when I get out of the water, I'm a little dizzy and need to get my bearings. Not this time, though. I was able to start running (jogging) immediately, get to transition, grab my gear bag and head over to the changing tent in just a minute or two. I guess I was pretty early out of the water because there weren't many people in the tent yet. I had been warned that the changing tent would be crazy packed, but I was able to find a seat easily. I took out my cycling shoes and helmet out of the gear bag and put them on, then threw my swim cap and goggles back into the bag, handed it to a volunteer and I was off for the bike! It all happened so fast that I thought for sure I forgot something, but fortunately, I didn't. Now, I just had to get through 116 miles of cycling.
I'm on my way!!
   Coach Andrew made it very clear in my race plan that I was supposed to take it easy for the first 13 miles, and then increase speed. However, even after the first 13 miles, I really never supposed to hammer it. The key to Ironman is pacing. Go out too hard on the bike, and you'll pay for it on the run. So, even if I could ride faster, I had to rein it in. And I did. It was hard, because I got passed a lot, but I stayed within my assigned zones for the entire bike leg.

   The ride itself was pretty uneventful for me, thankfully. I had been able to ride the course several times prior to the race, so I knew exactly what to expect. It's a two-loop lollipop course. We rode about 13 miles out of town, then rode two loops of the course, and then the 13 miles back to transition. There are only two hills of any significance, with a bunch of rollers thrown in throughout the course. Fortunately, I live in an area where the terrain is hillier than what we experienced on race day, so I didn't think the course was too bad. Don't get me wrong - I felt those hills, especially on the second loop. But considering we literally could have been climbing mountains, I was very happy with the layout of the bike course - even with the extra four miles. I was also really happy with how IM shuttled out friends and families out to Chickamauga (a little town about half-way of the course) to cheer us on. I now know what it feels like to be a professional cyclist because the crowds in Chickamauga were AMAZING! They were screaming, ringing cowbells and just generally going crazy. It was fantastic.
   What I wasn't happy with were the jerks who decided to spread oil and tacks throughout the bike course. Yes, we were sabotaged. The good news is that the Ironman staff saw the oil and police were able to divert the racers around the oil by the time we got there. The bad news is the about 30 racers got flats from the tacks. Seriously, I don't get people. Who sabotages a race course?
   A mere 6:07 later, I pulled back into transition and got ready for my run. Ironman is really efficient with bike-to-run transition in that they take your bike for you. So, after I got off my bike, I was immediately greeted by a volunteer who took my bike and racked it for me. That allowed me to run over, grab my run bag and head over to the changing tent. I quickly changed my shoes and swapped my bike helmet for a running visor. This was also where I made the biggest mistake of my race...I didn't apply body glide before the run. The volunteer who was helping me actually said "Do you need Body Glide?" And I said, "No, I think I'm OK," and ran out of the tent. Remember this for later.
   When you started the run, you had to first run back down the hill you ran up after the swim. Yeah - I almost bit it here. Big time. Wouldn't that have been the worst? For me to sprain my ankle not even five minutes into the run? Fortunately, that didn't happen and I made it onto the run course safely.

Only 26.2 miles to go!  
   Considering the longest distance I had ever run consecutively was 15 miles, I really had no idea how this marathon was going to shake out. As with the bike course, the run course was two-loops. It started out on the flat greenway, then we turned onto the Anmicola Highway, which was hillier than I expected. After Anmicola, we ran up to Veteran's Bridge, which led us to North Chattanooga. This is where the REAL fun began. There are hills, and then there are North Chattanooga hills. They were truly awful. Not crazy steep, but they lasted FOREVER. We then headed back over the Pedestrian's Bridge and started the second loop.
   As with the bike leg, Coach Andrew had a pretty detailed race plan for my run. I was to start out with an 11:00/mile for the first 6 miles, and then speed up or slow down, depending on the terrain. Though I got passed a lot that first 6 miles, I stuck to that plan a close as possible. I knew if I went out too fast, I would really pay for it on the hills - especially on the second loop. And I have to say, during the first loop of the course, I felt pretty good. Well, my legs felt good.

All smiles here!

Still smiling!! :-)

   Though my legs were OK, what I did have an issue with was chafing. Remember how I refused the Body Glide in transition? That was a really stupid thing to do. I'm not going to go into any graphic detail here, but I will say that I was in a lot of pain where my kit was rubbing. Like "Oh My God, I have to get this fabric off me NOW!!" kind of pain. Since removing my kit wasn't an option, I had to stop and grab some Vaseline from the water stops every couple of miles. The Vaseline helped some, but the damage was done. I'm still kicking myself for being so stupid and not applying Body Glide in transition.
   Mile by mile, the race went on. Though the crowd was sparse on the greenway and on Anmicola, they were out in full-force on the rest of the run. It was great seeing so many of my FTP teammates, and other IM friends on the course. It seemed whenever I was hurting, I would see a friendly face, and that was awesome. I think between athletes, coaches, friends and family, I knew about 100 people in Chattanooga that day. To have that level of encouragement on the course was unbelievable.
   I did have some dark moments though. Crossing the Veteran's Bridge for the second time (mile 21ish), I was really hurting. EVERYTHING hurt. And I knew I was about the enter the hardest part of the course again. I saw Dudley on the bridge and he was yelling and clapping and being the best cheerleader ever. I think I worried him because I wasn't the smiley person I had been the last time he saw me. I told him I needed was a hug, which he obliged. And even the hug hurt. But it kept me going.
   Almost five hours from when I started the marathon, I hit the 25 mile mark, and I got emotional again. That was the first time that I truly realized that I was going to finish. And not just crawl over the line, which I would have been happy with at the start of the day. No, I was going to finish strong. While I wasn't exactly sure of my time, I knew I had surpassed any time goal I set for this race.
   The Ironman finish line is a crazy place. It's really noisy. There is loud music playing and people are screaming, clapping, and banging on the signs that line the finishing chute. It has just gotten dark when I finished, and they have the finish lit up with the lights right in your eyes. As I was running down the chute, I couldn't really see anything beyond the finishing arch...until I looked up an saw the shadow of someone at the finish line jumping up and down with their arms in the air. It was my friend, former neighbor, and FTP training partner Kathy. She not only volunteered at the swim start, but she was also the volunteer who put my medal around my neck. So freakin' cool.


Serious smiles here!

  My final time? 12:16:42. I was ecstatic. Though I really had no idea what my time would be since this was my first Ironman, I assumed I would be in the 13-14 hour range. I never thought I'd be sub-12:30. Granted, I know a lot of that was weather. We had PERFECT race conditions on Sunday - overcast and 70's. It even rained a bit on the run. If it had been the 85 and sunny, this would have been a completely different race for most of us.

I'm an Ironman!  

   It would take an entire blog post to list everyone I need to thank for my race experience. I, obviously, need to start with my amazing IronSherpa Dudley. Though I know the 4:00am weekend alarms got old for him, he was my biggest supporter and cheerleader throughout my training and on race day. I have no idea how I would have done this race without him. Thank you so much, Honey.
   I also need to thank Andrew and Jessica from FTP Coaching. Their guidance over the past five months got me to the point where all I needed to do on race day was execute the race plan. Any questions about pacing and nutrition had already been answered - all I had to do was race. I can't tell you how much that helped my stress level. Plus, they were all over that Ironman course. With 20 FTP athletes out there, I'm sure they were like proud parents on graduation day.
   And speaking of parents, the only thing that would have made IMCHOO absolutely perfect is if my parents would have been able to be there. Unfortunately, they were across the country and couldn't make it. But their support has been tremendous. 
   Thank you also to my FTP Teammates and the Nashville triathlon community. It was an honor to train with you all the past few months. We suffered together frequently over the past few months (HOT 100, anyone?), but I loved every minute of it. You all rock.
   And to everyone who was cheering me on either on the course (EAST NASTY!), or following me at home - THANK YOU. I was truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I received. I'm truly blessed to have such wonderful friends and family. 
   I have no idea what's next, other than a week or two of relaxation. I've been asked if I'll sign up for another Ironman, and I think it's safe to say that I will. Although, I'm a little hesitant to. Chafing issues aside, IMCHOO was such a great experience that my next Ironman would probably be a let down. Maybe I should stick to shorter distances - I did see the Goat Gallop 5k this Saturday in Lewisburg. That might be interesting...  
   See you on the roads! 

Ironman Chattanooga:
Swim: 1:00:55  
T1: 6:14
Bike: 6:07:53
T2: 4:47
Run: 4:56:53
Total: 12:16:42

Photos courtesy of: Dudley Lightsey, Derrick Rice, Kathy Roeder, Glenda Crowder, Joy Howard, FTP Coaching and FinisherPix.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report- Part 2

   One would think that with my first Ironman on two days, I wouldn't have to get up early to run. But that's exactly what I did on Friday morning. My coach set up a 7:30 am run for the team to shake our legs out a bit. Fortunately, it was only about two miles.

Paul, Kevin, Derrick, Nikki, me and Coach Andrew (photo courtesy of Kevin)

   Afterwards, Dudley and I went on a quest to find a bagel shop for breakfast. Downtown Chattanooga may have a lot of things, but one thing it doesn't have is a bagel shop. So, we ended up at a little diner called the Innside Restaurant. Y'all - the breakfast for the two of us was less than $8.00. And it was good! I would have eaten there every meal if it was a little closer to our hotel.
   The rest of Friday was basically spent hanging out, napping and waiting for that evening's athlete banquet. I'd heard mixed things about the athlete's banquet - mainly about how bad the food is - but since this was my first IM, I wanted to go. I'm really glad I did.

HELLO Athletes!! 

   The banquet was free for athletes, but guests had to purchase a ticket online ahead of time. I totally slacked on this and the banquet was sold out when I tried to get a ticket for Dudley. Fortunately, he still had some work to do, so he dropped me off at the Convention Center where I met up with some of my FTP team mates for dinner. How we all found each other is still a surprise because the banquet was packed! 

This only shows about 1/3 of the room!  

   We heard from a few speakers, including Mike Reilly - "The Voice of Ironman," and Chris McKee, the VP of Little Debbie (and whose family started the company), who spoke about the controversy of having them as the title sponsor. I have to say - the more I learn about this company, the more I like them. They are huge supporters of Chattanooga, and also encourage a healthy life-style. They just want you to have an Oatmeal Creme Pie every once in a while.
   Then Ironman started playing their inspirational videos. You know - the ones showing people overcoming unspeakable odds to finish their races while dramatic music is playing in the background. I swear - there wasn't a dry eye in the place. We also heard from the youngest and the oldest participants in the race. The youngest was 23 or 24, while the oldest was 78. SEVENTY-EIGHT!! And you know what? He didn't start racing Ironman until he was 72. Y'all - seriously - we have no excuse to not be out there doing something. I think we all left the banquet sufficiently inspired to tackle whatever the race threw at us.
   Saturday morning, Team FTP met up for a short bike ride. This was mainly to make sure everything was in proper working order before bike check-in later that day. Fortunately, none of us had any issues, so we headed on to our next item on the agenda - team photos.

Such a good-looking group of crazy people.

   I then had to check-in my bike and transition bags. I had all of my transition bags packed from before we left Nashville, so getting everything together was really easy. I just moved everything from my pre-packed bag to my official Ironman bag. Even though I knew I had everything covered, I felt uncomfortable about checking everything in. You're basically giving a stranger the most important things you're going to need for the race (bike, bike shoes, helmet, running shoes) and hope everything going to be there the next morning. Not a fan.

The Weapon - ready to rock!  

So many bikes!! Love the Honey Buns in the background.

So many bags!  And that's only part of the run bags!  There's another set of bike bags!

   After checking everything in, I had nothing to do but rest. So, that's what I did for the rest of the day. Just stayed off my feet as much as possible and rested for the next day - RACE DAY! Would I be an Ironman at the end of it? I had no idea.

Next up - Race day!!! 


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ironman Chattanooga Race Report - Day One!

   Dudley and I arrived in Chattanooga on Thursday around 2:00 pm. Though the race wasn't until Sunday, I wanted to get in town and relax for a few days before race day. I'm really glad I did.
   The first thing we did was check into our hotel - the Hilton Garden Inn. Check in usually isn't until 4:00, but they allowed us to even though it was only 2:00. Thanks, Hilton! The staff was very excited about having the Ironman in Chattanooga, and we even received a little welcoming bag from the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce! Nice touch, CoC.

Coupons, Powerade, a Moon Pie and an Oatmeal Creme Pie. What else could a potential Ironman need?

   One thing that was interesting about our room was that is was a "whirlpool room." The employee who checked me in was all excited about this fact. "Oh - YOU got a whirlpool room" - like I was someone really special or something. Know what a whirlpool room is? A room with a giant whirlpool IN it! Not in the bathroom, where you would expect it. Nope, actually IN THE ROOM. And it was huge! Seriously - the thing took up half the room - it had columns and everything. And if you've ever done a triathlon, you know how much gear this sport requires. So, guess what became my race staging area? Yep - the whirlpool.

So. Much. Stuff.

   After unloading an amazing amount of luggage, Dudley and I headed down to Ironman Village, which is what they call their expo. I have to say, I've been to hundreds of expos since I started running 5 years ago, and I have never felt the feeling I had when walking into this one. Generally, I'm excited, which I was here, too. But I also had an overwhelming sense that I was completely out of my league and that I had no right to be there. This is freakin' IRONMAN. These races are no joke. What the hell was I doing there? Well, other than taking a lot of photos.

Welcome to the most intimidating expo ever.

   I decided to pick up my bib number before looking around at all of the vendors or the Ironman merchandise tent. It was kind of a weird system. You first have to stop by a table in the front of the tent where you show your ID and USAT card, and they give you a piece of paper with your bib number on it. Then you take that piece of paper and show it two the IM bouncers at the front of the check in tent. Once they deem you're OK, you're allowed to enter the tent. Then you go to a table where you're given two forms: one that signs any right to sue if you should die during the event and the other giving Ironman permission to contact your loved ones if you do die. Remember, this is the FIRST table you come to when you enter the tent. I understand that Ironman needs to protect themselves from lawsuits, but do they have to scare the crap out of you right at the start?  Geez.


   After signing your life away, you go to another table and are issued your race packet. Inside is your bib number, stickers for your bike, helmet and race day bags. THEN you move to another table where you get your timing chip. Of course, by now you're holding a bunch of random stuff, because on top of all of your race necessities, they give you 5 pounds of magazines and a poster. Fortunately, they do give you a bag to put it all in. Unfortunately, it's in the merchandise tent. Because why wouldn't it be? So, you have wander over there and stand in line to get your (very nice) backpack. Of course, what do you do while you're standing in line? Look at all of the cool Ironman swag they have for sale! Very sneaky, Ironman.
   $200 later, Dudley and I were back in the hotel room with all of my race stuff AND new IM swag (M-Dot name shirt, a tri-top, a water bottle and a long-sleeved running shirt). I know that might seem like a lot, but I know several people who spent twice that. One girl I met admitted to purchasing over $1,000 worth of merchandise - and she was buying more! Crazy. 
   Dudley and I then, finally, went out to eat. Unfortunately, while my favorite restaurant, J. Alexander's, does have a Chattanooga location, it's not located downtown. Since we'd been traveling and didn't want to get back in the car, we just hit a local joint and got a salad. It was really cool walking around downtown because you got to see how much support the race had by the local establishments. There were welcome signs everywhere.

   I didn't want to spend to much time on my feet, and Dudley had to get some work done, so we headed back to the hotel to nap (me) and work (Dudley). We then met up with some of my FTP teammates for dinner. That was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, while we train together a lot, we don't get to socialize that much, so it was good to just hang out and chat. 
   Next up: Day Two of my IM adventure!