Monday, July 25, 2011

Identity Crisis

What words do you use to describe yourself?

I am a Catholic wife, mother, daughter and friend. I am an endurance triathlete and hobbyist photographer. I am passionate in all aspects of life - family and friends, work and hobbies.

And now, I am having a bit of an identity crisis.

For the first time since April 2008 I do not have a big, fat hairy goal to chase or a big race on the calendar .... and I am lost.

I promised myself during peak IMTX training that I would take a year away from the IM distance, focusing on shorter races with at least a 70.3 next year to keep me honest. This would also allow me to pursue other goals, like an ultra trail race and/or bucket list races like Escape from Alcatraz, Goofy's Challenge or the Nike Women's Marathon, to name a few.

Sounds reasonable, right?

Let me take a step back though …

You may be wondering why I would want to take a year away from the distance in the first place. This is easy to answer.

Training for an Ironman is selfish. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I do think that we should all do things for ourselves that are inherently selfish – but we also need to recognize it. Selfish is not a “bad” word but it is an opportunity cost.

No matter how time efficient you are, if you respect the iron distance, you have to train long on the bike and that means a long ride (or really a long brick) every weekend leading up to the race.

I trained for IMTX from January to May – so let’s call it 5 months training. During that time, there were at least 2 months where my long brick took me until well into the afternoon.

With two boys ages 4.5 and 7, I feel like the opportunity cost is too great to give up that much of my weekend to training. I am lucky in that my family 100% supports this passion of mine and has encouraged me to sign up for another iron distance race, but my own guilt is holding me back.

I think that my struggle, well part of it anyway, is that all of races I am considering are in 2012 and I need a goal NOW (any ideas on getting into the San Francisco Nike Women’s marathon this year?). Another issue I am facing is that I have come to identify myself as an endurance triathlete, so how do I see myself if I am not currently training for an Ironman?

I also know that next May when everyone locally is gearing up for IMTX again, I am going to be jealous instead of relieved that it is not me out there training and racing.

This is the crux of my struggle – what I want to do versus what I think it best for this period of my life for my family. I don’t want to look back and regret that I missed this time with my boys.

Yet another problem with taking a year off the IM distance is that the necessity of signing up for most races a year in advance means that I may be looking at taking two years away from the distance. Thank God for races like Rev3 Cedar Point and Red Man that allow you to sign up much closer to the race, but I digress.

On a whim, I signed up for a local Sprint Triathlon on August 7 and I have been trying to add speed to my workouts as a new type of challenge, but that still leaves 5 months on the 2011 calendar.

I am not sure what I am asking necessarily, but I needed to share my struggle.
Any suggestions on making the transition from long course to short course? Any races I should be considering? What should I focus on this Summer and Fall before picking a goal for 2012?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ironman Texas 2011 - The Run

The run course was set up with a short run from transition onto the main loop, followed by a 3 lap run. The 3 loop course made it easier for spectators to maneuver around which made for great crowd support, although running by the finish line twice and seeing mile markers that you are not going to hit for two more laps can be a bit depressing.

Happy to be running ... I started the first lap strong, trying to control my pace. I didn’t want a repeat of Cedar Point where I went out too fast. Around the 3 mile marker, I realized that I had messed up my Garmin buttons so my average pace and total time and distance were not right on my watch (so I couldn’t use it as a crutch to help me figure out how fast I needed to be running without doing a bunch of math in my tired head).
The first lap was hot – really hot, with no real shade for the majority of the run. I carried my hand held water bottle and used EFS liquid shot for calories. I put ice down my top at every aid station and took cold sponges as well – all in the name of attempting to not over heat. The heat was hitting me hard and I too quickly mentally gave up on attempting to break 12 hours.

I was struggling to hold my pace and I told myself that I had left it on the bike course. I saw Doug and Ryan at the end of the first lap and was feeling pretty down. You can see how I feel in the picture progression throughout the run – it is so obvious by the look on my face. I gave Doug a kiss and then I gave Ryan a kiss too (what can I say, I was tired and confused) and I told them that I left it on the bike course and I didn’t have it in me to break 12 hours.

Not feeling as good - end of lap 1 Another spectator commented to Doug after I ran off, “Did he (Ryan) just kiss your girlfriend?” and Ryan responded, “Even better, I just kissed his wife!”

I took my first walk break around the aid station about 10 miles in and used the reduced speed to refill my hand held water bottle and take in some extra calories. I extended the walk break just a bit past the end of the aid station and then started running again. I immediately felt like much better – like a different person almost. Unfortunately, this told my mind that the occasional walk break is good for me rather than “you feel better, get back to only running and you can still break 12 hours”.

Looking back now, my only disappointment in the race is that I didn’t have a stronger mental fortitude to come back from that dark place and run at the pace that I know that I can run. I do believe that I was physically fit enough to run a 4:20 Ironman marathon, which was roughly what I needed to break 12 hours. I took the “easy” way out by slowing my pace and taking walk breaks. In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with walking, but for me, I know that I could have pushed harder to hit my dream goal and I mentally gave up. That mental block is something that I need to work on before Ironman #4 (which is still TBD at this point – more on that later).

Despite feeling much better, the second lap was still very hot, so I continued the ice / sponge routine and walked the occasional aid station and then some when needed. As I approached the end of the second loop, the crowd support in the mile or so leading up to the finish line (and the turn to start the next lap) really picked me up and as I made the turn, I was so happy to be starting the third and final lap! I also knew that I was about to see my support crew, which had grown to include my children, parents and in-laws.

As I made the turn to the stretch of road where my crew was waiting, the first person I saw was my 4 year old son, Tyler. He immediately ran to the side of the road, put his hands in the air and started jumping up and down. The feeling of pure joy that came over me when I saw Tyler and then immediately the rest of my crew can be seen on the huge smile on my face in these photos. I gave everyone a sweaty hug and a kiss and then took off, it was single digits to the finish line! Andrew, my 6 year old son, ran alongside me for a couple of seconds to send me off, which was so sweet.

Pure joy ...

Every step after seeing my family reminded me that I was that much closer to the finish line and seeing them again (and keeping them from waiting!). I was feeling good and my pace picked up – adrenaline does that for you. I saw a few familiar faces on the course too, which is always a nice surprise. I ran with my Trakkers teammate off and on during the second half of the third lap and we encouraged each other. I took a couple of quick walk breaks at aid stations, but kept them very brief. I was READY to be finished!

When I hit the two mile to go mark I found my inner Forest Gump and picked up my pace again, running well sub 9s. The crowd was great and the faster I ran the more crowd support I got with random people cheering me on. It felt so good to be finishing strong. With about a quarter mile to go, as I entered Market Square, both sides of the street were lined with people. The crowd was great, but a bit subdued, so I raised my hands like a football player does when trying to get the crowd to make noise … and make noise they did!

I continued this while running my heart out towards the finish line. As I entered the finisher’s chute, I high fived lots of people on the left side and ran with my arms up. I saw my mom but missed my hubby and kids because they were on the right side. Mike Reilly, rather than saying, “Anne Moore you are an Ironman”, said, “Annie, get your gun!” and that was alright by me. I’ll take a personalized announcement any day!

Run Time: 04:42:44
Average Pace: 10:47
Overall Place: 474 / 2156
Gender Place: 104 / 537
Division Place: 18 / 78

Overall Race: 12:20:02 – a PR by 3 minutes and 55 seconds!

Overall Place: 586 / 2156
Gender Place: 109 / 537
Division Place: 17 / 78

I loved this race – I had so much fun and despite the hot run conditions, I felt relatively good because of my nutrition plan (thanks First Endurance!). I would do this race again in a heartbeat (local race, great crowd support, nice course, good aid station support).

A huge thank you to my amazing family who rarely complain when I am gone for long training days weekend after weekend and who offer endless amounts of love, support and encouragement. I couldn’t do it without you!

Check out those super cool support shirts ;)
I have also been very fortunate to be a part of Team Trakkers for three incredible seasons, and have been blessed to have fantastic sponsors -- First Endurance, Avia, Tri Swim, TYR, Kestrel, All 3 Sports, Recovery Pump and Canari -- who give me what I need to train long and race hard.

Now, the big question … what’s next? Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ironman Texas 2011 - The Bike

The start of the bike leg of an Ironman always feels a bit like organized chaos to me – like a stadium emptying after a big concert or football game and everyone finding their own way - and Ironman Texas was no exception. It usually takes the first 20-something miles of the race for things to settle down and for the shuffle of fast swimmers, slow swimmers, fast cyclists and slower cyclists to work itself out.

The crowd support heading out of town was great as well and made for a nice send off into the rolling hills of the Piney Forest area. I quickly settled into a comfortably hard pace and put it on cruise control at that effort level.

I rode the hilly portion of the IMTX course twice leading up to the race so I was really happy when we approached Montgomery and the road began to look familiar. I pushed the down
hills which helped me power up the up hills and kept the pace dialed in on the flats. I saw a couple of familiar faces on the course throughout the day which is always a great pick me up.

The wind was pretty calm and we had nice cloud coverage for a good portion of the bike segment, so I stayed cool, or rather – not hot. The volunteers, as usual, at the aid stations were incredible. I chose not to use the special needs bags for the bike or run because we were told that we would not get them back and I didn’t want to lose anything. Plus, I had everything nutrition-wise that I needed with me on the bike (from what I understand, no one got the bags back, so I was glad I didn’t use them). So, as we approached the half-way point and special needs I stayed to left while a lot of people stopped.

At the half-way mark, my total bike time was less than 3 hours and I realized that if I kept pace that I could break six hours on the bike. I made a mid-race decision to go for it. My fastest HIM bike split is about 3 hours, so hitting 6 hours in a full would be a big deal for me. I knew I was jeopardizing my run, but I felt strong and knew that a fast bike split would give me the best shot at breaking 12 hours.

My only concern at this point in the ride was that I had not seen Doug and Ryan yet. I made it a game to look for the suburban, which helped pass the time, but it was also a bit disconcerting – where were they???

Around this time I went over a rail road track and lost a bottle. I have always thought it was silly that athletes who lose nutrition don’t stop to pick it up – especially if they are going to need it, so I stopped to pick up my bottle. Unfortunately, the top broke on the fall and I lost most of my liquid concentrated nutrition in that bottle. I made two bottles with 3.5 hours worth of nutrition each, so losing that bottle would have been a game changer if I had not brought a flask of First Endurance Liquid Shot “just in case”. I did pick up my broken bottle as to not litter. Overall, the stop was only about 30 seconds, max.

After the nutrition mishap I did a quick re-evaluation of my nutrition plan and adjusted accordingly. I still had plenty of calories to get me through the bike.

Around the 75 mile marker I FINALLY saw Doug and Ryan! What a pick me up! I normally would have just waved but I decided a quick kiss was in order, so I made another 30 second stop to say hello to my support crew and managed to bruise my quad getting off my bike. Thankfully, the bruise didn’t really hurt or show up until Sunday. Doug told me to get going quickly because they had been stopping bikes for as long as 3 + minutes to let cars pass at the major intersection where they were. From what I understand, there was some drama around this because it should not have been happening, so hopefully race officials will get that squared away for 2012.

I took off after seeing Doug and Ryan with a renewed sense of purpose to get back to transition because I knew that is where I would see them again. I finally stopped for a potty break at the 90 mile marker and then the countdown was on! For reference, I stopped at least 3 times during IMFL and 2 times at Cedar Point, so I was happy to have made it 90 miles without a potty stop. With an empty bladder, I felt refreshed and the break was good for me mentally as well.

At this point in the race, I am like a horse running to the stables. I was still focused on breaking 6 hours and my pace had slowed a bit during the second half, so with my albeit brief stops, I knew it was going to be close. I kicked it up a notch as I counted the miles off one by one. With 10 miles to go, my feet hurt, a deep ache. I did my best to move my toes around and just ignore the pain. I knew it would go away as soon as I got off my bike so I was incentivized to get back to transition as quickly as possible.

As we got closer to transition, the crowd support got bigger and bigger, which just fed my adrenaline. As usual, the last several miles felt long, but as I finally approached transition and was surrounded by the excited crowd, I got a huge smile on my face. I took a deep breath and thanked God for a safe ride and no mechanicals. I saw Doug and Ryan as I dismounted my bike and ran it into transition.

It felt so good to hand my bike off to a volunteer! I immediately stopped to take off my bike shoes to alleviate my foot pain and so that I could run more easily to the transition bags and the change tent.

I was amazed when I saw the cumulative clock time as I rounded the corner to the gear bags – it was around 7:35 – I knew that I had done what I needed to do on the swim and the bike to set myself up to break 12 hours. I was not sure what my bike time was, but I knew it was close to 6 hours and I was really happy with that. I was even happier after the race when I found out that I had indeed broken 6 hours on the bike, finishing it in 5:59:56. 4 seconds to spare!

I easily found my bag and went straight into the change tent. It was pretty empty and I had two volunteers helping me. I realized at that point that I had forgotten to put my all day sunscreen on my face before the swim so I was thankful to have a spray bottle of sunscreen in my bag. I sprayed it in my hands and did my best to get it on my face. I also changed socks (now wet and dirty from running in the grass), put on my shoes, changed the nutrition I carry in the back pocket of my tri top from bike nutrition to run nutrition, put on my visor and Garmin and gave the volunteers my sunglasses and bike gear and then I was off.

Bike Time: 05:59:56 (hell yeah!)
Average Speed 18.7 MPH, or 30 KM per hr for my Canadian friends :)
Overall Place: 891 / 2156
Gender Place: 134 / 537
Division Place: 21 / 78

T2 Time: 00:04:25
Overall Place: 288 / 2156
Gender Place: 71 / 537
Division Place: 12 / 78

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ironman Texas 2011 - The Swim

The nice thing about racing my third iron distance race was knowing what to expect … and knowing that despite the fact that my training volume was much lower this training cycle, that I have the capacity to finish the race.

My number one worry going into a race is having a catastrophic mechanical issue or wreck that prevents me from continuing the race. I don’t stress too much about race times – the day will unfold how it will unfold – so I try to put the things that are out of my control (mechanicals, wind, weather) out of my mind.

Race morning is fairly simple when racing long because you have already turned in all of your gear and the only race gear that you have to remember is your bike nutrition … well that and trislide and sunscreen and breakfast and your swim stuff and timing chip… but still, far less stuff to remember than a normal race day.

We chose to stay at home, a short 45 minute easy drive from the Woodlands. We woke up around 3:45 am, got dressed, made breakfast (toast with peanut butter) and hit the road by 4:30 am. My Iron Sherpa hubby and our good friend Ryan were going to be my primary race crew for the day. My children and parents would be joining them much later in the day to watch the finish.


We arrived in the Woodlands around 5:30 am, found parking and made it to transition to drop off my bike nutrition before walking the mile or so to the swim start. It was a pretty laid back morning and I enjoyed talking to lots of different people on the walk to the swim start. Once at the swim start, I got body marked and then put on my TYR Torque. The race was not wetsuit legal for those competing for AG awards and Kona slots. I knew I had no shot at either, but chose to race without my wetsuit anyhow so that I would see how I fared against the best.

Support Crew - Check out those shirts!

My Iron Sherpa
I always get teary-eyed before saying goodbye to Douglas before big races and this race was no exception. I have no idea why, but it happens every time! After one last quick kiss, I got into the “no wetsuit” corral and started making my way into the water. I finally made it into the water with a couple of minutes to spare before the gun and was surrounded by athletes. I really had no place to go to get away from people (in Florida I started a bit further down the beach to avoid the washing machine) – and there was still a decent line of people trying to get into the water.

Swim Entry Line
At the Gun
When the gun went off it was mayhem. Bodies everywhere. It was the definition of the washing machine effect and it was by far the most difficult mass start swim I have done (Redman Full Aqua Bike, IMFL, Rev3 Cedar Point, IMTX). It took about 15 minutes to find clear water – and for the rest of the race it was a constant battle to stay in clear water. It was as if we all had magnets on that were attracted to each other and we wanted to swim in pods to beat the crap out of each other rather than swim a couple of feet in any other direction in clear water. I got slapped and kicked and had my goggles knocked off my face once, but that is not so bad considering the chaos.

I mentally broke the swim into three parts – the first segment was the “out” to the turnaround buoy, the second segment was the “back” which took us back towards the bridge where we started and the turn into the canal and the third segment was the canal itself. Once in the canal, it was really neat to see spectators on both sides – until I noticed one guy basically walking next to his swimmer. I’m not sure why this annoyed me other than every time I breathed to that side he was there and it felt like I was not going anywhere!

I really try to enjoy the swim even though it is my weakest of the three sports because it just passes so quickly and before I know it I will be spending hours and hours and hours on my bike. When I get tired or frustrated during any part of the race I will often think of people who would love to be where I am at that given moment and for health or other reasons they cannot train for or race an Ironman – and that helps get me through. So as I approach the swim exit I try to remember one last time to embrace and enjoy the day.

As soon as I hit the stairs I got a huge smile on my face – one leg down, two to go! I nearly lost my balance as I started to run for the wetsuit strippers. I opted to have them help me pull off my Torque so that I wouldn’t end up struggling with it in the change tent.

With the Torque off, I ran towards the transition bags and passed the time clock, the time showed it was less than 1:30 into the race. I was pretty happy with what I saw on the clock, especially since I had not been swimming the yardage I had for previous races leading up to IMTX – think, once a week in the pool, maybe. I ran through the sea of bags to the 200s and immediately saw my bag its neon green duct tape on it, grabbed it and was off to change for the bike. I saw Doug at this point and it is always such a relief to me to see him – for one, I am happy he knows that I am safe (I always worry he is going to miss me) and two, it is just a big mental boost to see him.

Grabbing my transition bag
There was an empty seat on the bench outside of transition and I opted to sit there rather than in the dark change tent. I only had to put on my socks, shoes, helmet, sunglasses and gloves and to grab my bike nutrition, so it was a fairly simple transition. I did panic for one moment because it took a couple of looks in my bag to find my second bike shoe, but it was just for a moment. I threw my swim gear into the bag and was off to grab my bike.

Literally, millions of dollars worth of bikes in transition

My only real complaint from a race perspective is that my bike was at the far end of the rack so I had to run to the end of the rack to get it and then back to the middle to exit, so theoretically someone in my age group racked closer to the middle had an advantage. I guess when I am ready to fight for a slot to Kona these little differences will be a much bigger deal :)

The nice thing about being on the end of the rack it that it was also close to the fence so I got to see Doug and Ryan for a moment while I grabbed my bike before running to the bike exit. I saw Doug running towards the bike mount line just as I was mounting my bike (spectating is hard work!), and then I was off.

Swim Time: 01:27:56
100M Pace: 2:18
Overall Place: 1230 / 2156
Gender Place: 256 / 537
Division Place: 46 / 78

T1 Time: 00:05:02
Overall Place: 449 / 2156
Gender Place: 129 / 537
Division Place: 23 / 78