Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lake Placid Ironman by Kasandra Garner


John Burroughs was a naturalist who was born and lived much of his life in the Catskills, which is just south of the Adirondacks in upstate New York.  I read some of his essays on my way to Lake Placid (along with the humorist Charles Dudley Warner who wrote about the Adirondacks and is known for the quote: “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”  This proved to be true during the Ironman.)  There is always a price to doing an Ironman:  the obvious price is the cost of registration along with plane tickets, bike transport, lodging, a week off from work, in addition to all the gear, nutrition….yeah, the list goes on and on.  If we ever really added it up we would find that we could have sponsored an entire African village for a year through World Vision.  Then there is the price of time:  time spent training, sometimes with friends but often alone.  I love training, so I am not going to complain about it.  I choose to do it, I would do it even if I weren’t racing:  maybe not as long or as hard, but I LIKE running and swimming, and sometimes I even like cycling.  When I read that quote above, I think of the love and patience my family shows for me by never complaining about the time I spend training.  And how do I repay them?  I drag them along with me to Lake Placid because I needed them there with me for this epic event.


The adventure started early in the morning on Thursday when Wayne Patterson, my husband Bill, my two children, and myself all piled into the man-van at the butt-crack of dawn to drive to the Nashville airport.  Why not Huntsville, you might ask?  Because flying out of Huntsville our only option was to fly to HOUSTON and then back to Boston.  An extra 4 hours in the air!!!!  From Nashville we went to Newark and then Boston, and that was where the first adventure began:  a Cessna 8 seater from Boston to Saranac Lake, NY.  What a gorgeous flight!  Taking off with views of Boston Harbor, then flying into the Adirondacks as the sun was setting.  My son got to sit next to the pilot.  We landed at a little airport that was straight out of the sit-com “Wings” and picked up our rental car.  On the 15 mile drive to Lake Placid we got into our first traffic of the day:  cars backed up on the curvy two lane road connecting the two resort towns.  We found out later that a 20 year old had begun a reckless rampage in an F-150 earlier that afternoon in Lake Placid, nearly running over pedestrians before fleeing town with State Troopers on his tail, only to crash head on into a family in a Honda Fit - killing the parents and leaving an 11 year old in critical condition.  I hugged my children a little longer and harder than usual when I put them to bed that night.


Our lodging was a snug town home about a half mile from the transition and just off the bike and run course.  It was decorated “shabby chic” with the requisite moose and bear d├ęcor.  Ironically, it did not have an Adirondack chair.  It did have retro 1980 Lake Placid Olympic posters.  Walking around town the next day my excitement was building:  Lake Placid is one of those places that is just what you expect, a kitschy mash-up of ski resort town, granola/hipster scene, Olympic nostalgia, and summer camp.  You felt like you should be wearing LL Bean and going canoeing with your matched set of Labrador retrievers.  I loved every minute of it as I picked up my bike from Tri-transport.  Ignoring the advice of every Ironman veteran I went to the local bike shop and had aero bars put on my road bike.  I know, I know, you should never do anything the day before the race you haven’t trained with for three months, but... I used those suckers to rest my back and shoulders many times on the bike course.


The next day we drove the bike course.  The scenery was breath-taking, and so were the hills.  Even though Wayne and I had incorporated a lot of climbing and rollers in our long rides, somehow I had convinced myself that Lake Placid would not be as bad as riding around Jackson County.  WRONG.  And with about 11 miles of climbing at the end of the 56 mile loop, I realized we should have done our climbing at the middle and END of our rides instead of in the beginning and middle.  On the second loop I would be starting the worst climbs at the point in my training where I was falling gratefully off my bike as my odometer hit 100 miles.  My stomach started to feel like it had when the Cessna hit turbulence.  This is when all that money you spent getting here comes in handy, because otherwise you might just decide to skip the race and do some sight-seeing.


As always a trip to the swim venue made me feel better.  My swim warm up consisted of wading around a bit and looking wistfully at the sailboats.  I racked my bike and turned in my gear bags, then it was time for a big late lunch and a nap.  My parents had arrived by now so my race support crew was complete.


I slept great the night before the race – must have been the mountain air.  I woke up just before my alarm went off at 4 am and popped out of bed.  Wayne and I had coffee and I ate a blueberry muffin.  Then we walked to transition for a final check of our gear and to drop off special needs bags.  I realized I had hung my bags up in the wrong place, but luckily someone moved them for me and everything was ready to go.  It had rained overnight and was supposed to storm at sometime during the morning.  It was overcast for the start of the swim.  Two years ago, Lake Placid changed from a mass start to a rolling start, with swimmers “self seeding” and going into the water in big groups, with race officials randomly stopping the forward movement of swimmers every so often to clear out a bit of the congestion.  It was still a very crowded start, and lots of traffic in the water.  I got bumped, swam over, my feet knocked, jammed, hemmed in, and kicked in the throat.  My first lap was a desultory 37 minutes and I hoped for a smoother and faster second lap.  The traffic was a little better at the beginning of the second lap, but then it started to rain and then it started to pour.  The water became choppy and the buoys hard to see.  People started swimming crazily (I felt like I was still going straight, of course, but people would appear out of nowhere and swim across my path at an angle).  I heard the first clap of thunder as I exited the water but it may have been thundering before that, and lightening flashed as a stripper peeled off my wetsuit.  I saw my parents as I staggered the half mile through the rain to transition.  I think my Dad was telling me I was insane to consider biking in a storm, but my Mom was yelling “Go Kash!” so I kept moving.  By the time I got to the changing tent it seemed to pointless to change into dry cycling clothes, but for the first (and probably only) time I was grateful for that awful 2013 Lake Guntersville Olympic where we all froze to death in the rain, because thanks to that experience I had packed extra clothes in my bike gear bag.  I kept my tri suit on, but put a long sleeved shirt, a bike jersey, and a light rain jacket on over it.  As I ran my bike to the mount line, lightning forked over the ski jumps as a peal of thunder shook the ground simultaneously.  The storm was just overhead.  I seriously considered going back to the tent.  But the lemming mentality is strong in triathletes, and I saw all of the other fools ignoring the weather and heading out on the bike, so I shrugged my shoulders and hoped that with 2700 other athletes out there the odds were in my favor. 


The route out of town is twisty and steep, so we all got to discover just how hard it is to brake in the rain from the get-go.  Then a few climbs into the hills, and then the long descent into Keene where – in good weather – you can pick up a lot of time by racing downhill for 5+ miles at high speed.  In a thunderstorm you hold on for dear life and hope that the puddles aren’t hiding a pot hole.  By the time I hit the gentle rollers between Keene and Jay, my muscles were clenched from cold and constantly feathering the brakes to keep my speed in check.  I had passed people pulled off shivering, so I was glad I had the extra layers and had left my tri bike and carbon wheels at home.  The storm moved off but the rain continued all the way through the out-and-back to Au Sable, a beautiful section along a boulder-strewn river that was the closest thing to a flat section of the course.  The rain finally stopped around mile 40, and I was able to stop and take off layers about mile 50.  I made it up the “Bears” (the three final ascents are called Baby bear, Mama bear, and Papa bear) enjoying the cheers of the crowds lining the course on either side as I huffed up Papa bear.  From the town of Wilmington at the base of Whiteface mountain all the way into the Lake Placid the crowed support is phenomenal.  You really need it through that section, too. 


I dumped my extra layers at the bike special needs station, forgot to apply sunscreen, and decided not to take the time to change into dry bike shorts.  Mistake, as it turned out, as the second loop was murder on my nether regions in the tri shorts.  But I would have lost a lot of time going all the way to a port-a-john to change, as public nudity is grounds for disqualification in an Ironman.  Once I got back out of town, I stopped at the first aid station and let a nice volunteer slather me in sunscreen, knowing I would have a horrible break out later in the week because it wasn’t the special hypoallergenic stuff I have to use.  It also stung like the dickens on the back of my neck where my wetsuit had rubbed due to my forgetting to apply Vaseline before the swim.  But I was cheerful because the sun was out and the wind wasn’t too bad and the Adirondacks really are gorgeous.  I took the descent into Keene a bit faster, and this time was able to appreciate the grandeur of the river that cuts through the mountains as you come into Keene since my eyes weren’t glued to the pavement.  I started reading the signs, too, and I laughed at how many people had friends that went to a lot of effort to cheer them on with ridiculous posters.  One poor guy had photos of himself from when he had 80s glam-rock hair plastered all along the course with messages like “Rock the course” and “No matter how bad you look, at least you don’t look like this anymore” type messages.  I got a big kick when I passed an alpine vacation home where a group of aging hippies were drinking under a canopy and blaring the Queen song “Bicycle.”   


I had to get off my bike around mile 90 before the final climbs from Wilmington to re-apply chammy cream.  My lower back and butt were definitely ready to be done with the bike.  The Bears were a lot worse the second time, even with people yelling for you.  There were some young fit men in very little clothing and a man who reminded me of Mike Gerrity in blue checked petticoats, which were nice distractions.  I spent a lot of time in my little chain the last 22 miles.  Finally the bike was over and I didn’t care how long I had to run, I was just glad to be off the blankety-blank bike.  A volunteer offered to help me in the change tent and I told her no thanks, I wasn’t in a hurry.  I changed into dry shorts (finally!), dry socks, and a dry shirt and immediately felt a lot better about life.  I took two Advil for a pinched nerve between my shoulder blades and started walking.  It took me a couple hundred yards to work my way into a shuffling run, which would be my pace for the next 20 miles.  I walked the up hills but for the most part kept running, even though the run didn’t really look or feel like what I usually would call “running”.  The weather was perfect at this point, mid 70s with a slight breeze and big poofy clouds that would periodically hide the sun.  Large parts of the run were even shaded.  I heard a woman complain about the humidity at some point and laughed out loud and wanted to explain about real humidity.  We ran by the ski jumps, the horse jumping arena, and out into the country.  We wound by yet another boulder strewn river where I saw a young girl kayaking lazily and I was incredibly jealous.  The volunteers at the aid stations were cheerful and encouraging.  One even told me I looked like I was doing a casual 5k.  I said, “I am, just a lot of them in a row.”  I passed a guy walking a Clumber spaniel and had to stop and pet it, since it’s the first time I’ve seen a Clumber spaniel in real life.  I saw lots of Springers, Labs, and two Malamutes.  (I saw a woman walking two pot-bellied pigs coming in on the first loop of the bike.)  I saw a big red barn with horses that looked a lot like a puzzle I had put together as a kid.  When I talked to Wayne later, he hadn’t seen any of these things, but then, he was moving a lot faster than I was!  My favorite tri-kit was a light green one worn by a hefty man that said “Big Pistachio.”  Someone had put up a series of signs that said “Your parents are proud of you” then “Your children are proud of you” then “Your friends are proud of you” then “I’m proud of you and I don’t even know you!”  Around mile 20 I started walking a little more often, and my shuffling run became even slower.  There is a steep up hill section as you come into town at mile 24 that I had to walk, even though the crowds were yelling like crazy, but finally I started running again and as I made the right turn to the out and back that would bring me back to the finishing oval I could hear the announcer telling people they were an Ironman and I started to get choked up.  So I ran the rest of it and even managed to pick up to a decent pace as I made the turn around and focused on the lights all the way back along the lake and into the oval.  From then on I had a stupid grin on my face as I was slapping hands and running for the arch, laughing and maybe crying a little bit too.  I heard the words we all dream of: “Kasandra Garner, you are an Ironman!” and laughed because he pronounced it correctly and the guys I train with still say it wrong.  A volunteer let me lean on her over to the finishing pix, then set me in a chair and got me some French fries.  I am telling you, it was one of the most perfect moments of my life and I had to just sit there for a few minutes grinning like an idiot and loving everybody and everything.  Then I saw my parents waving to me and went over and kissed my son, and he said he was hungry and wanted my French fries, and it was back to the real world but the real world was still pretty wonderful.  The next hour was a blur of gathering gear and my Dad (who hates to exercise) volunteering to walk to get my special needs bags even though he had already walked more that day than he usually does in a week, so I knew he was proud of me.  When Bill and I were married he jokingly called himself “Mr. Dr. Garner,” and now he called himself “Mr. Dr. Ironman”, so I knew he was proud, too.


My official time is 13:35 but that is misleading.  Remember the thunderstorm I mentioned?  It turned out that they had halted the swim not long after I started the bike so some of the athletes only ended up swimming one loop and had their transitions messed up by having to be boated in or swimming to shore further away from T1.  So for the official results, they have excluded the second lap of the swim and T1.  My real time was more like 14:22 according to my Garmin.  My bike was 7:28 and my run was 5:19, so obviously a lot slower than Beach to Battleship but almost exactly what I expected given the difficulty of the course and my haphazard training this year.  I was proud to represent Fleet Feet Huntsville, and had several people on the bike course see my kit and mention it, including someone from Birmingham and someone who said they knew Dink and Suzanne (both as they were passing me).  I highly recommend Ironman Lake Placid to anyone who values scenery, tradition, and a challenging course over speed.  Only Kona is older than Lake Placid, and it shows in the organization and attitude of the officials and volunteers.  I had a great experience, and I would love to go back to the area sometime to explore it more thoroughly, albeit in a more leisurely manner.  Anybody up for the Wakely Dam 55K?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Wet Dog Triathlon Race Report by Paul Erickson - 7/19/2014

Let me just go on record here now and say this:  I hate riding a bicycle in the rain.  The water in the eyes, the greatly diminished traction, lousy braking.  I hate it all.  When I saw the forecast for the 2014 Wet Dog Triathon in Decatur, I was NOT a happy camper.  But I paid the fee and I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.  The name Wet Dog has probably not been more appropriate for any race I've done to date (small set of data points though!).

Wet Dog is the first triathlon that I've done that is one I've done before (last year was my first year for triathlons).  It's amazing the confidence you can get just from having experienced a particular course or venue before.  I was excited about this one!

I’ve always had a hard time tapering the week before a race day and this week was no exception, except mentally.

  • Monday - Spin at the Hogan YMCA
  • Tuesday - Run and Arsenal Rid
  • Wednesday - JetPlex Ride
  • Thursday - Hobbs Island Swim
  • Friday - REST (yeah, THAT word)

I also managed to get over to Packet Pickup Friday afternoon with my wife and was NOT loving the Transition area.  The bike entrance/exit was rather deep.  Visions of photos I’d seen from Memphis in Mud/May flashed through my head and I knew it wouldn’t be pretty.  Yet, onward and upward!

I felt good all week, had been eating well, and felt relaxed for all of the week, even with the workouts, so I felt confident.

Saturday morning, 4:00a.  Alarm goes off.  Do my normal morning routine of feeding the cats and dogs, but also loaded up the truck with my tri gear, bike, DRY clothes for afterwards, and then proceeded to make my breakfast, which I generally forget.  NOT TODAY!!!!  Whole wheat egg sandwich with lunch meat and a slice of cheese.  Not much but enough for a sprint and far more than usual.

Swam, err drove, over to Point Mallard Park and got there by 6:00a.  Got my transition set up only to realize I left my Infinit-filled water bottle in the fridge.  Crap.  But with the temps being cooler and the sky cloudy, I wasn’t too worried about it.  I got a bottle of water for transition and would drink between legs of the race.

6:30a – Popped a Gu chewable any my Sports Legs so they could be in my system by race start.

6:45a or so – Got in my warm-up swim.  I learned during the Hobbs Island practice swim, where I went 1.2 miles (according to my Fenix 2), that about around 3-400m, I kinda bottom out, so I figured I’d get in about that distance before the race so my body would cooperate on the swim today.  Swam till I felt tired, about to the turnaround buoy, then came back.  Felt great, once my body acclimated to the water in the river, which felt a bit cooler from the rain.  I suspect some people had warmer water directly around them as I saw quite a few with that s***-eating grin while sitting around in the water.     

I stayed clear. LOL

7:00 – Started to lineup single file (yeah, right, whatever), until the race started.  Rain started to fall on and off for a while as I waited to plunge into the water.  That actually helped chill me a bit so when I finally did start, the river felt nice and warm by comparison.  BONUS!

Well, Not a bird or a plane, but I sure felt fast!
But I forgot to start my GPS.  OOPS.  About 75m in I hit the start button.  This was to be a recurring theme all day for that watch! 

Anyway, felt GREAT on the swim and found my rhythm early.  Actually passed people for the first time EVER and was sighting pretty well.  Felt a few hit my feet as they were swimming every which way but I kept on going.  I hit a couple of people and I paused to apologize (I don’t want to be THAT triathlete that just mows people down – not cool), but continued.  Got to the turnaround buoy and felt like I was on a Caribbean dive – the diesel from the safety boat was pretty noxious, but since I scuba dive too, was kind of used to it.  Just go faster and get outta there. 

Turned around and went back to dry land (dry being a relative term today), and had a few sighting/current/wave issues and I swam into the buoy line a couple of times.  I guess all the people coming/going just messed with my vision a bit and I got turned around.  No major thing, just re-sight and go.  Got out of the water and noticed my wife.  She saw me and smiled and said that I was going fast (which again, is relative to the other racers, but it DID feel faster than usual for me).  Made me feel good and gave me confidence to keep on chugging up the beach out of Point Mallard and to T1.  Time from entry to the T1 mat was 8:40, so I figure my actual swim time was sub 8:00 for 400m, which thrills me! All you speed demons can stop snickering now.  With swim being my most feared/worst leg of the tri, I’m proud of the progress I’ve made this year so far.  And many thanks to Eric Broyles and the Swim Hobbs Island crew for putting on those training events (Eric is trying to talk me into doing at least the 2 mile swim event).

Back into T1, I try to dry my feet a bit and slip on my baby-powder filled socks.  No real problem, but grass and sand are going along for the ride.  My shoes somehow STILL got wet in the rain despite being covered, so it was a sloppy mess any way I look at it.  Gregg Gelmis comes by and has me look up for a photo.  Only later do I realize I still have river water/muck on my face still.  And all this time I thought it was a great tan! LOL

Smiling in T1, just before realizing my helmet
strap/clip had problems...
I get on my helmet and hook it ... wait, where is the other half of my strap clip?  Crap, it fell off and was hiding almost under my towel.  Took it off to fix it knowing I would NOT ride a wet road in a race w/o a helmet.  Just stupid.  Got the clip fixed, but I took at least a 30 second hit in T1.. Time: 2:22.  OUCH.

Got on the bike and got my bike legs by the time I got to the entrance to the park.  Last year I averaged 19.8 for the race.  Not bad considering I had just started riding seriously in March of that year.  But with more training, a proper bike fitting, and a really cool aero helmet I won at the Fleet Feet Tri Expo this Spring, I was zipping along.  

Leaving T1 with helmet strap repaired.
 2 more Gu to chew and I was cruising comfortably in aero at about 23 to 24 mph on the way out.  Got to the turnaround, unclipped the inside shoe just in case, and started heading back.  Hey, where’d that wind come from?  A breeze on the way back had me working a bit more, but I still managed a 20+ pace.  YAY!  My goal was to be faster on the bike than last year and so far I’m on pace.  I was sure to call out ‘Passing on the Left/Right’ to ensure people knew I was coming was just some added insurance to ensure I didn’t spill it on the road in the wet/slick conditions.  I avoided all the paint lines too.  

As I passed people, I tried to give encouragement as all the riders were looking great whether they were on road bikes, tri bikes, or hybrid/mountain bikes.  Finally, on the way back to the transition area, I noticed my GPS was on RESUME.  I never clicked out of T1. LOL  Lost cause, but I continued pressing the Lap button until I got to the ‘bike’ portion.  Slow stop to T2 to avoid skidding.  No flying dismounts like I know I can do.  I just don’t want to scratch myself or my bike on this wet road.  Bike time:  26:05 with a 21.4 mph pace.  Happy there too.

Again saw my wife on the side of the road, still smiling and cheering me on.  It’s amazing how a loving face and smile can drive you forward!  My ride stats: 

Into T2 and I change fairly quickly.  Debate changing socks to avoid blisters, but I am wearing my Swiftwick socks and realize the trail portion of the run is going to be wet and muddy so I keep them on.

Grabbed my hat, appropriated water bottle, bib, and the Gu from my bike bento box and head out.  Pop two more Gu and drink some of the water.  ¼ mile into the ride and I check my pace. OOPS.  Still showing ride.  Couple of presses of the Lap button and I’m now on the run.  I’ll use the times from the results to update my data as needed.

Felt good on the run overall, but that water bottle was bugging me. So I poured it on my head, drank some and then looked for a trash can on route.  I then had Rebecca Reynolds from Team Fleet Feet Tri join me for a bit, but I couldn’t keep up with her.  So I paced with some other runners to help give me some inspiration and motivation to keep going.  I had fun on the run by dodging the puddles and branches and focusing on not tripping on anything.  The race crew did an incredible job marking tree roots with bright orange paint to help minimize this!!!!

Again, taking time to thank the water volunteers, I paused to drink some water because I cannot drink and run without choking most of the time.  Finally hit the turnaround and was on the homestretch.  Kept a solid 8:40 pace most of the time, with spurts of faster times in there where I felt I could handle it.  The sun had started peeking out a bit so the humidity went to a nice 1500% it seemed but I knew I was almost done!

Rounded the long curve to the straightaway before the final turn to the finish and picked up the pace.  People I had been pacing off of were getting further away and I didn’t want that, so with about 200m left to go, I used what I had left and hit the gas.  Passed them all and drove to the finish line.  Final time for the run:  27:02 for an 8:42 pace.

Overall results:
119th place overall (was 206th last year)
12th in age group (out of 29, was 24th of 36 last year)
Final time: 1:05:14 (time was 1:08:59 last year)

So I improved in placement, time, and splits despite the wet weather.  I may not have stood on the podium, but I got to watch a lot of our team and my friends stand up there and receive their awards (while downing a hamburger and chips!).  A good day for me personally, and a great day for the team and my friends as a whole. 

I get it.  I’m in a very tough age group around here.  But I’m improving regularly and pushing myself and doing more each time I get out there.  So truly a win for me in my performance and my attitude.  I had FUN yet again.  From seeing my wife’s beautiful smile while racing to missing high-fives with Rick on the run course because I was looking for a trash can to cheering on the fellow racers, I truly enjoyed the experience.  I’m not racing to get hardware, though that would be a nice bonus.  I’m racing to improve myself physically and mentally.  I think emotionally too to some extent.

What did I learn from this?  The rain and fear of what may happen distracted me a bit.  Forgot my water bottle and had issues with the Garmin because I was focused elsewhere.  I need a better way to keep my transition stuff (shoes and socks mainly) drier when it is wet.  I have a plan for that!  But perhaps I’m learning to have more faith in my abilities that my friends and teammates say they see in me.  I sell myself short – frequently.  But Saturday showed me that I can do more than I give myself credit for and that I enjoy it a lot more when I focus on just doing my best, but having FUN while doing it.

It wasn’t the perfect day.
It wasn’t the perfect race.
But for me, it was the perfect experience.

I had my wife cheering me on.  I had my friends and teammates doing well.  And I had FUN the entire time.  What could be better than that?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wet Dog Race Report by Melissa Johnson

“First Race Report Ever” dedicated to Alex Clark

“If you're not “First,” you're “Last!” Well, I wasn’t last at the Wet Dog Triathlon, but I wasn't first either, more like 12th out of 23 in my stellar 45-49 age group. Props to all my Fleet Feet teammates and the other Amazing racers who won today. I won't bore you with how I rose from the water like a Baywatch Babe, tearing of my yellow Fleet Feet Cap and running into T1, hopping onto my bike has I raced through a pond of water to beat my competition. Only to come rushing back on my bike to once again run through the pond and head off onto my run. My first run, by the way, since being cleared from a stress fracture. Splits, negative splits, whatever you diehard’s keep track of, I have no record of that, because according to my Garmin, I had an amazing swim the entire race! Obviously, operator error.

But instead, I discovered, I’m not the “Die Hard” athlete, but the cheerleader to make another person’s race a little better. As I was passed countless times by people with the look of pure determination on their faces I would shout, “Great Job, Keep Going!” It was during my run when I passed the gentleman on crutches I said, “You are amazing, keep it up,” and he said to me “No, you are Amazing.” I didn't get it then, but I get it now. Sometimes we get so focused on the race we forget about all the amazing athletes out there and what they are capable of doing. And just a small acknowledgement can mean so much to someone who is struggling. Like the gentleman on crutches, or my teammate, I told to keep going when she had a side cramp, or the lady I cheered when she thought she couldn't finish, and the last place finishers that I cheered while ever one else was gone. I’m not going to deny it’s “Awesome,” to win and to get the recognition. But it’s the experience I take away from each race that is the real prize. The friendships I've made and the people I've encountered, will long last the prize that sets on my desk collecting dust.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ironman 70.3 Muncie - Jennifer Carroll

Ironman 70.3 Muncie – 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run – July 12, 2014 

I had traveled to Muncie, IN with Joanna Whisenant (who was also doing the race) on that Friday, the 11th. I had done this race in 2013 so I wanted to try it again with the sole purpose on trying to improve my time. We left out early Friday morning (around 5 am) because it was going to be about an eight hour drive up there. We drove straight to packet pickup, which was held at the transition area. Picked up our packets and then did the optional bike check in. I wanted to go stick my feet in the water just to see what the temperature was like so I did that. They said it was around 75 degrees which made it borderline wetsuit legal. The water felt great and it was nice and warm. We then drove to the hotel, which was about 30 min away because all the closer hotels were booked up. Ate dinner and called it an early night. Race Morning We got up at 4 am to start getting ready for the race. Got our stuff together and I ate my normal breakfast of oatmeal and a banana. I wasn’t really hungry when I got up but forced myself to eat because I knew it was going to be a long day. We gathered our stuff, packed up the car and headed over to transition. We got to transition around 6:15 so we had 30 minutes to get our stuff set up before transition closed. The water temperature was 74.5 degrees so it was definitely wetsuit legal. The only thing I brought with me was my speedsuit, I left my wetsuit at home. Oh well, the water temperature wasn’t that cold, in fact, it was rather warm. Since the race was wetsuit legal, I was able to wear my compression sleeves in the swim rather than trying to put them on later. At 6:45, the race officials kicked us out of transition and we headed down to get a warm up swim in. The water felt great and I was kind of glad I didn’t have my wetsuit. I would’ve gotten too hot.

Swim – 1.2 miles – 59:18
The pros went off at 7 am, our wave didn’t start until 7:45 so we had some time to kill. We got lined up around 7:30 and then we were able to get in the water and wade out to about waist deep. They fired the gun and we were off at 7:45. I stayed close to the buoys because I couldn’t swim a straight line if my life depended on it. Still the current was pushing me off course so I kept having to correct myself. The farther out I got, the choppier the water got. Every time I breathed, I kept getting a mouth full of water. The swim course however is pretty straight forward. Just a rectangle keeping the buoys to your right. I did get pummeled by the faster swimmers that were in the wave behind us. There were times that I got punched in the eye and kicked in the head. I was hoping to go below 50 minutes for the swim but I kept getting off course so that added time to my swim. T1 – 4:34 I came out of the water and ran up the carpeted hill to transition. I had to ask one of the volunteers to help undo my zipper of my swim skin. Ran to my bike, stripped off my swim skin, put on my shoes, helmet, sunglasses and race belt. Grabbed my bike and I was off.

Bike – 56 miles – 3:33:14 The bike course if fairly flat but extremely rough. Coming into and out of transition, I felt like I needed a mountain bike it was so rough. They changed the bike course from last year and this year it was 2 loops. A straightforward out and back twice. It was extremely windy that day and even though I managed to average around 16 mph, there were times when I could barely get to 13 the wind was so strong. I kept up my salt tablet intake every 45 minutes and ate a Honey Stinger waffle when I got hungry. I downed about 2 of those. My 2 bottles of water made it to around mile 45 when I had to get another water from the aid station. I felt pretty good about the bike portion, it just seemed to go on forever. I finally made it back to transition and survived the rough roads. T2 – 3:39 Came back into transition, racked my bike and pulled off my shoes. Got my socks and run shoes on, grabbed my visor and I was off.

Run – 13.1 miles – 3:11:29 I was really hoping to get under 3 hrs for the run even though this course is extremely hilly. I felt pretty good the first half of the run. I was only walking the aid stations, which were about every mile. After that I fell apart. I could barely run a quarter of a mile at a time after that point. The hills were relentless. After I topped the last hill, I could see the finish. I had enough left in me to sprint through the grass to the finish. Got my medal and hat and I was done.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tri'ing for Ole Glory - 7/5/2014 Race Report

The 4th of July weekend brought lower temps, lower humidity, and beautiful weather for the 2nd annual Tri for Ole Glory on 7/5/14.  As a sprint tri, it was a nice venue at the USSRC, and with it being a MOUNTAIN bike tri versus the regular road bike, I figured this would be fun.

Let me back up a bit though… I did cyclocross back in the early 80’s before it even had a name.  My friends had BMX bikes – Torkers, Diamondbacks, Mongooses, and a few custom bikes.  I had a Huffy 10 speed. Yeah, oops.  So to hang out with them, I took my trusty, heavy, and street-tire equipped Huffy over the hills, logs, and jumps.  So this mountain bike thing sounded like LOTS of fun.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Now back to the 21st century…

Wendy Tyler’s husband, Mike, led several of us around the Ole Glory bike course a few times in the weeks preceeding the race.  Since I didn’t have a mountain bike, I rented a Specialized Stumpjumper from Trailhead and got some mountain bike lessons from Grace Ragland, a friend and fellow Bike MS rider to get used to the dual suspension and riding terrain rougher than Wall Triana highway before riding with Mike, Wendy, and a few others.  I mean it had been probably 30 years since riding offroad in anything other than a Jeep.  Special kudos to Wendy and Mike for leading those training rides. They made a huge difference!!!

After doing a trail run with Rick Greif and Eric Charette (Dirty Dash for Dough) and face planting into a rock, I’ll admit I was very tentative on the bike during the practice runs.  Then on the 3rd, we did a run-through.  One of my friends out there got a flat so we got the flat changed.  Apparently, I got off the trail on that lap briefly and got a thorn in my tire.  As we were ready to roll again, I found my back tire flatter than the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.  OOPS!  Thus ended the training run. LOL and where's the beer?

A spare tire change later on the next day, I got practice around my neighborhood doing jumps off the sewers.  That training day got me a LOT of strange looks as most adults were used to seeing kids doing what I was doing, but I was loving it and getting comfortable with the bike – something I never really got on the practice runs (though I got quite familiar with the route thankfully).

Well now we’re finally at the 4th of July and I managed not to drink too much alcohol, ate good proteins (grilled chicken, self-ground beef burgers), baked potatoes, and minimized the bad stuff as much as I could.  Drank water ALL week to ensure I was hydrated just in case it was hot on race day (I didn’t trust/believe the weather forecast for cooler/less humidity).  I ensured I had the Sports Legs ready and had a Hammer Gel ready for my run.  On race morning, I had a good breakfast of an egg sandwich with a bit of cheese and some ham.  Heavy enough to sit well and keep my stomach happy but light enough that I wouldn’t bonk.  Loaded up my Infinit in my water bottle even though the bike had no cage on it, knowing I would use it before the swim and get drinks out of it during transition. 

Set up transition a bit different than usual since I didn’t have special bike shoes – just regular ol’ shoes and pedals.  And added some Deep Woods Off! for the bike portion… LOTS of ticks on those trails!  This would play a role later…

Downed the Sports Legs 30   Felt strong, relaxed, and happy, something that doesn’t normally happen before a race for me.  I started in Wave 3 after Waves 1 and 2 each went two minutes apart before us.  Jumped it with a mass start and went to the outside to avoid traffic.  I guess I went a bit TOO far left.  I couldn’t see the buoy because the sun was DIRECTLY over it, so I added some time there, but no worries.  Swim isn’t my strong suit unless I have my scuba gear on, and since that isn’t legal, I just focused on staying relaxed and not stressing about my speed.  I usually do about 2min/100m or so, and I felt I was hitting that pace pretty well throughout.  I have no idea how many got out ahead or behind me, but this was MY battle, and with the wave start, it’s hard to say where I was at that point.  I finished with a 6:36 I think and over 300m swam.  It was supposed to be about 200m but my Garmin showed .3 miles.  After talking with race folks, it was around 300m (give or take).  I can live with that.

minutes before start, headed out for a warmup swim with Wendy and felt ready to go.

Got into T1 after the nicely carpeted route from the water’s edge and dried off my arms, legs, face, and feet.  Got on my socks/shoes (with some baby powder in the socks), then the bib, helmet, and gloves.  I only used gloves on this one because of the riding position and demands on the upper body on a mountain bike.  Got the Off! going and proceeded to spray my legs, arms, and my face.  OOPS! Kinda forgot that it stings when getting in the eyes.  Battle on and kept going after essentially macing myself on to the bike leg.

Took off and hit the trails, thankful for Mike and Wendy’s tutelage on the route and what to expect.  With nobody directly ahead of me, I charged forward with my new-found confidence in my route knowledge and bike comfort.  Came up on some folks who graciously moved over and I hit the jumps head on and landed them without incident.  I came up on Wendy, who had smoked me in the water, as we pedaled up the power line trail through the grass and rock, thankful for my tri training and strength to get through that deep rock without issue.  We cruised together for a bit through the next bit of trail to the field.  The Sports Legs that I took before the race had kicked in, and I felt good, so I went ahead.  I slugged through the field to continue my ‘recovery’ and then hit the next set of wood trails.  I felt like Rudy the Rabbit (obscure Meatballs reference) on the trails and just kept going.  Passed a few people with numbers from waves 1 and 2, so I felt like I was making good time.  My only issue was that as a road cyclist, I’m used to pushing AND pulling with clipped in pedals.  On this bike, I’m having to do more pushing so I could feel the legs feeling a bit off, but not bad at this point.  Enough points that I was able to go into a conservative cadence safely while maintaining speed to let the legs recover.  Lap 1 done and I get X’d by Rick to show I finished it.  

Landing the jump and making the turn!
Second lap felt a lot like the first, but I got great air on the jumps this time.  Gregg Gelmis was there at one of them, but he wasn’t set up for my air time.  Asked him, “PLEASE tell me you got me in the air!” Nope.  Drat.  Oh well.  More trail to finish… But thanks for being out there to photograph the race, Gregg and We Run Huntsville!

Got into T2 and still felt good, but the legs were bit tired at this point.  Popped a couple more of the Sports Legs, put the Hammer Gel in my pocket and headed out.  NOW I was feeling the effect of all the pushing on the pedals.

VERY sluggish while I was waiting for the Sports Legs to kick in, so I decided to down the Hammer Gel (Orange) to help it along.  Okay, I forgot you REALLY want water to help down that stuff.  About yacked trying to get it down, but managed not to convulse too badly and stay on my feet.  From behind, it probably looked like a seizure and it didn’t feel far off.

Hammer Gel down, I settled into a pace I felt I could maintain and hit the power line trails towards the Davidson Center.  The uphill I felt great about riding up earlier on the bike got me on the run, so I walked a bit.  Feeling a bit fatigued and given my history on trails this year, I played it safe so I wouldn’t fall till I was past the rocks and started running again. 

I took some water for the head and some Powerade at the station (Thank You Fleet Feet for that!), and kept on my way.  My legs started feeling stronger and I quickened the pace a bit.  Being a bit downhill probably helped a bit too, but either way, I was feeling better.  My Garmin showed negative splits for each mile so it backs up the fact I felt better as I went along (and the course finished downhill LOL). 

According to the paper race results posted at the finish, I was 4th out of 6 in my age group at 1h:27m and some seconds (don’t remember exactly).

Very happy with how I felt overall, though I need to work on bricks some more - varying length and pace a bit.  Though I suspect if I had been clipped in, my legs would have felt different.  I feel good doing bricks after a road ride.  I just wish others in my age group had been a tad bit slower.

Many kudos to all the Team Fleet Feet racers and Tri 201 class members that reached the podium on Saturday!  It was a super-fun event!

One note about Mark Hudnall – Sir, you are a beast!!!! To ride a mountain bike nearly 8 miles over varied terrain while STANDING the whole time is truly impressive.  Granted, if you sat down, you’d have some serious issues since your seat was GONE, but still… truly amazing!  Kudos to you on that!

Things I would change about the event… I think the places where the bike and run courses overlap could use some work.  Some confusion on the course had runners and bikers taking wrong turns where they overlapped.  Also, if this event wants to grow, they’ll need to work out some logistics for parking for both athletes and spectators.  It was a bit crowded in the limited parking, so perhaps they would work out something with the gardens or the USSRC for better parking.

I missed last year’s race due to being out of town.  I won’t miss next year’s.  This was FUN FUN FUN!