Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Rock 'n Roll Man Half Iron Tri

Thanks everyone for the comments on my guitar award!

Here's the skinny for those who are short on time:

1.2 mi Swim - 44:41* (2:06/100yd), 7/12 New 1/2 iron swim PR!
*Includes run to T-area. My watch said 42:33 out of the water, a PR either way.
T1 - 2:17, 6/12
56 mi Bike - 3:10:04 (17.7 mph avg), 6/12
T2 - 1:40, 3/12
13.1 mi Run - 1:51:42 (8:32 avg pace), 2/12 New 1/2 iron run PR!

Total Race Time - 5:50:21, 3/12

Not a PR, but good enough for a 2nd place AG award because the first place F45-49 woman got a master's award.


So what were my expectations for this race?

Well, Rock 'n Roll Man was the 7th and toughest half iron course I've done to date and with high temps forecast around 88-89 degs, I figured a 6:00 finish might be possible, at best (say, with a 45-ish min swim, 3:15-ish bike, 2:00-ish run). Hopefully, I'd finish no slower than 6:15.

So what the heck happened???

For one, Mother Nature threw me another curve ball. I'd planned for the worst heat-wise and temps "only" got up into the low 80's when I was out there and the lower humidity (compared to what we've had in Orlando recently with all the rain) made it feel quite manageable. Two, I underestimated the X-factor. X-factor?

Yes, those things that could boost my performance but could also backfire, i.e., running a recent marathon and my monthly cycle.

But one thing for sure, I got the most awesome spot in the transition area, a rack right next to the bike exit *and* a spot on the end. The water temp was 73 degs and declared wetsuit legal so I was happily doing another one of my Body Glide dances :-) My period had not yet started but other signs (headaches, bloating, etc.) had been present all week and I fully expected it at any moment. Either way, though, I knew it meant my body was at its aerobic peak according to an article I read in the October 2007 issue of Triathlete magazine, a good thing although at times I felt like shooting myself. Sorry, again, if TMI.

On the walk down to the swim start, I noticed several pairs of slippers were left where the path met the sand. It was about 200 yards uphill to the transition area on a mostly carpeted paved path and then another 100 yards to my bike on asphalt. Why risk stepping on glass again on a swim-bike transition? My feet thanked me.

My new wetsuit made it easy for Dave to spot me coming out of the water (look for sleeveless blue top). I wore it once before last month for a practice open water swim but today the neck area was feeling really tight for some reason. Ugh, was my neck bloated too? Dave loosened it a bit but it still felt tight. Oh well, the women's wave, the fifth and final half iron wave, was about to take off and I didn't have time to do anything more about it. Hopefully it'd be better when I was swimming (the salesperson did say the wetsuit was meant to be comfortable when horizontal, not necessarily when vertical).

***** THE SWIM *****

The swim course was one lap around a big triangle. Basically, swim almost to the land way on the other side, make a right turn at a green buoy you can't see, another right turn at another green buoy you can't see and then head back. Water conditions were ideal but as soon as I got swimming, the tight neck felt like it was restricting my breathing. Not good! I thought for sure I'd have to stop along the way and pondered my options. I could undo the velcro at the back of my neck as I saw one woman had done to her wetsuit before the race. But that would create a lot drag and slow me down, wouldn't it? Better than feeling suffocated, no? Hmm ... Interestingly, panic never set in, which shows how far I've come in swimming. I used to be quite nervous about just swimming with others.

Speaking of others, where the hell is everyone? Oops, I'd been so concerned about breathing that I forgot to sight as often as I needed to and had veered way left (again). I began correcting gradually and was back on course by the first turn buoy. By then, I'd gotten somewhat used to the strangling feeling and figured if I'm not dead yet I could just keep going. I settled into a good rhythm and began lengthening my stroke. Lo and behold, I was at the second turn buoy when a funny thing happened: I began seeing a couple dark blue and white swim caps!

Now, of course, being a slower swimmer, I've seen different colored caps around me many times before in a race but never before have I been in the last wave. Which could only mean one thing ... Yes, I was passing folks who started before me! OMG!!!

Now I completely forgot about the tight neck and began swimming harder remembering (finally) my coach's instructions to try to negative split each leg of the tri. I swam till I felt sand in my hand, stood up (that's me with the bun head in the middle) and ran under the arch. I hit the lap button on my watch and saw 42:33, a 3 minute swim PR!!

But, there was no timing mat there. Boo! I ran to my slippers and pulled off my wetsuit (no wetsuit strippers at this race). Somewhere I'd read/heard it's a lot easier to take a wetsuit off when it's still dripping wet so better to do it upon exiting the water rather than in the transition area. Not sure about that but it was definitely easier with no sleeves to deal with and nicer to run uphill with no wetsuit on.

The timing mat was placed at the entrance to the transition area so everyone's swim times included the ~200 yd run from the water and T1 times were shorter than usual. Fair but it doesn't mean I have to like it.

1.2 mi Swim - 44:41 (2:06/100yd pace), 7/12. Still a swim PR but only by 46 seconds.
T1 - 2:17, 6/12

***** THE BIKE *****

The bike course was a giant continuously hilly loop with about 3000' of climbing. I'd ridden the course last month with Dave on dead legs and knew there were no really steep ascents or descents, but plenty of ups and downs to drive you nuts or keep things interesting depending on how you were feeling. Today I hoped I didn't need a 50 mile warm-up and could average 17-17.5mph for a 3:15-ish bike split. I chose to ride Genie, my new road bike, because she's more comfortable to ride on hills than my tri bike and being the new bike, well, she's spoiled and gets her way a lot.

Besides shooting for a negative split bike, my strategy was to push hard on the downhills to try to keep up with those who are "blessed" with more mass and momentum than I am. On the uphills, I'd stay seated and spin rather than get out of the saddle and fry my legs. On both downhills and uphills, I'd avoid looking at my bike Garmin (no need to see how fast or how slow I'm going as it just messes with my head). Periodically, the distance and time info would be useful for fueling, though, and the average speed to see if I was on track for my bike goal (one of these days I really should fix the cadence sensor). Just for grins, I wore my HRM strap for the first time in a tri. I actually wear one often in training but somedays I've found that a zone 1 effort can feel really hard and a zone 3 effort can feel quite easy. Coach and I have decided I'm one of those who's better off racing by feel and using HR info only as a guide.

I expected to see Dave riding somewhere out on the bike course and got worried when I hadn't seen him but did see an ambulance at mile 40 take someone away. It turned out he'd broken a spoke about 10 miles into his ride and had to limp back to the race start/finish area. Poor guy! Still, he was able to get some video of me starting and finishing the bike segment (33 secs). Thanks Dave!!

Yep, so I lost some time fiddling to get my shoe into my pedal but at least I had the bike in the right gear for the uphill start. The bulge in my back pocket is my cell phone (in a plastic bag) so Dave could track me on his Blackberry using Sprint's Family Locator service and have the camera ready when I came by. I condone that Blackberry use on weekends :-)

I actually averaged 18mph on the first half of the course thanks to some help from the wind. There was a noticeable-but-not-horrible headwind on the second half but I decided not to push for a negative split since I'd already gone faster than what I'd planned on the first half. Instead, I kept a steady effort and worked on fueling and hydrating for the hot run to come (at this point, I didn't know it was going to be cooler than forecast). For the first time ever, I took a water bottle at an aid station to supplement the fluids I had with me to make sure I didn't run out (it was going to be close). I consumed about 100 oz of fluids, 900 calories and 2 salt caps and came off the bike feeling the best I ever have.

56 mi Bike - 3:10:04 (17.7 mph avg), 6/12 A bit faster than I'd planned but I felt strong the entire way.
T2 - 1:40, 3/12

***** THE RUN *****

The first order of business for me on the run was to find a porta-potty. For some reason, this race did not have any in the transition area and you had to go around in the opposite direction of the run course to get to some. No way! Fortunately, I knew there was one about a half mile on the course and someone just came out of it as I got to it. I confirmed what I suspected was the reason for some cramps on the bike and came out fired up. AEROBIC PEAK!!!

But can you spot two things amiss with the photo below?

One, I'm carrying my bike gloves in my right hand. Two, no race belt.

But no cause for worry, I've got quick fixes for both of them. As I ran past Dave, I dropped my gloves onto the ground for him to pick up (or I could have stuffed them in my back pocket like I've done before when he wasn't around). Then after passing the bubbly volunteers in the photo below, I reached under my shirt and pulled out/down my race number. Voila! Now to catch everyone I can on the run. (No, it doesn't bother me to wear the race belt/number the whole time from the start of the race. What bothers me much more is possibly forgetting it in T2, like I often do taking off my gloves!)

Anyhoo, like the bike course, the run course was hilly (to me), nothing steep but lotsa rolls to drain whatever energy was left, especially on a hot day, which it was, although not as hot as I'd thought it was going to be. As usual, I brought some Nuun dissolved in water with me and was very glad I did. A couple times early on I missed getting fluids at an aid station entirely because I didn't slow down to stop or walk through them. This run course was shaped like a tree branch with three out-and-back legs so aid stations were always serving runners going in both directions. Many runners were taking two cups so if I went by soon after some others, sometimes the only cups were those on the table. Note to the volunteer coordinator: Recruit octopuses.

By mile 6, I'd passed a lot of folks who were struggling. Initially, I tried to say something encouraging to everyone I went by but it became too frequent and I began annoying even myself so I rationed my comments for those who really looked like they needed it. According to my watch, I was running about an 8:30 pace, which meant I was on track for a sub-6 finish provided I did not crash and burn. The effort level based on breathing felt about right but I was in uncharted territory (had I done any long brick runs close to this pace before? Uh, negatory) and I knew miles 8-10 were going to be tough, contrary to the lying elevation map posted on the race website (top image from the website, bottom image from Dave's Garmin):

Thank you Coach for recommending that we ride the run course the day before!

So I did slow down going through some later aid stations to take in extra fluids (my FB bottles were close to empty) and down some gels and salt (had brought 4 gels and 2 salt caps; don't rely on aid stations for anything except water). Doing so allowed one guy who I'd passed around mile 6 to pass me back at mile 11 (GASP!), but that was really the best thing that could have happened. He gave me something more to do than just keep trying to run strong on my own, which I'd gotten kind of tired of, to be honest. Now I had someone to chase!

And at the time, I was stalking a woman wearing an Ironman Florida top who had a "48" written on her calf (so she was in my age group) and debating when to pass her. She looked sorta like she might be able to run me down if I went by her too early. Maybe I could just ask her if she will? But she slowed to walk through the final aid station near mile 12 and Bingo! I knew it was time to make my move.

I grabbed a cup, kept running and focused solely on trying to catch the guy ahead (much easier than trying to hold someone off). At the last little hill, I turned around and didn't see anyone close behind me but there was still about a 1/2 mile to go and it was all downhill after that. I could have probably slacked off then but remembered being edged out at the finish line of the Fargo Marathon 3 weeks ago and was determined not to let that happen again, not by someone in my age group and not at this race, which was also a USAT Halfmax Championship qualifier, BTW.

So I kept running hard. In the finishing chute, the guy in front was joined by a couple of his kids. He was far enough ahead that I couldn't catch him even when running with his little ones, which is good as I'm not sure whether it's poor race etiquette to do that or not. Dude was the only person to pass me during the run and I should have thanked him for bringing me home strong. A picture of him will have to do.

13.1 mi Run - 1:51:42 (8:32 pace), 2/12. A new 1/2 iron run PR by 6 minutes!

Total Race Time - 5:50:21, 3/12

The little guitar award came with a little black guitar case. So cute!

The RnR race medal is pretty cool too. The middle part spins.

Thanks for reading! I'm behind on my blog reading but will be catching up on all of you this week.


DaveP said...

The BB let me track Shirley and stay in the shade until she was due to come by. It was really cool and made the day much easier.

Gotta Run..Gotta Ride said...

You rocked it with plenty of race pr's!!! Love the award. So is Dave building shelves for all of your future awards? He should!!

I hate the timing of a womans cycle sometimes. you get the signs at the worst times. Seems you handled it well.

Strong year ahead for you!

btw - THANK YOU for your donation. I am so blessed and thankful to be a part of this event. It is not an Ironman but it sure feels wonderful already!

Calyx Meredith said...

That is the only BB feature that has ever appealed to me! Shirley - your new wetsuit is darling and you just keep getting faster. What a great race!

X-Country2 said...

You are KILLING these races, girl.

Jenny Davidson said...

Great race, great report!

Brent Buckner said...

Wow, you really put it all together for that one - congratulations!

Petraruns said...

What an achievement honey - what a great report. Never TMI - it's very interesting actually! Love your strategy as well - you seem to plan things quite well and then follow through and it's all coming together for you. And you're looking fabulous as well!

Runner Leana said...

Wow, another awesome race Shirley! It is obvious that the work with your coach is paying off, as is your determined and amazing attitude. Unfortunate timing, but it sounds like things worked in your favor.

Keep up the great work Shirley!

Spokane Al said...

Very cool. Congratulations on a great race Shirley. You set the bar pretty danged high for the rest of us.

Missy said...

Way to rock it sista! I haaate wet suits - I've never found one that is quite right. The best I can do is sleeveless. At least it didn't choke you to death.

jen said...

Congrats Shirley!! Thanks for sharing your inspiring race report. I love the photos too! You really had a spectacular day. I'm so proud of you! Way to execute your strategy out there. You did awesome!!

Stef said...

Great race Shirley!! You must be pumped for the rest of your season! LOVE the medal.

Jade Lady said...

Congrats on your race! Sounds like you had a really strong race - now i see what the size of the guitar is!

KodaFit said...

I'm kinda with Jade Lady on the size of the guitar - for some reason, I thought it was bigger, but that shows you how much attention I paid to the photo on your last post.

Congrats again on a terrific race - looks like everything came together perfectly for you, and thanks to Dave for the photo's.

Truly inspirational!

Jim said...

Congratulations on a great race. I'll let Sheri know your results. Keep it up!

Sunshine said...

Your post leaves me absolutely in awe. Thanks for the fun pictures. YOU always look so good. Congratulations and congratulations again and again.

Your comment sent us all into side-splitting laughter. That isn't a word we've heard applied to me.. but, well, I guess I did go a little over the top Sunday.

aron said...

you are amazing as always :) CONGRATS!!!!!

Rural Girl said...

CONGRATULATIONS on a great half!
It's great to hear that your swimming has come so far.

Road Warrior said...

Congratulations, Shirley! Clearly the cross training and weight lifting has helped your performance. you really rocked that race!

Kevin said...

Great job on the AG Place. I really like the medal and the award. I think I may just have to do that race next year. I wouldve done it this year if I hadnt sprained my ankle in october

Formulaic said...

Awesome report!

Way to go out there.

You are smashing these races.


The half max championship...

I think that happens...close ;)

Irish Blue said...

Wow, two PRs. You are just amazing woman!!! And so damn cute too! I wanna be you when I grow up. Please?


Maddy said...

Great Race and Great Report! You are simply amazing!

Thanks for sharing with us! I love it!

The Alien said...

Congratulations Shirley!! That's an awesome time. And you handled extremely well your problems at the swim. I think if you had stopped to try and fix your wetsuit or had panicked you wouldn't finish so strong!

Vickie said...

Shirley! Great race and great report. Thank Dave for all the pics!

Vickie said...

I forgot a part of my comment before about the wetsuit. I've had the same problem over the years and think I finally found a solution for the tight feeling in the chest. First, you want to make sure it is pulled up as much as possible in the crotch area so its not pulling down, which is going to make it feel tighter around the neck. Second, once you actually get it up as far as you think possible, have your husband go behind you and pull it up more by the shoulders in the back. This way it gets pulled up farther over your butt, which obviously is going to cause some pull down in the back. This seems to get everything in place better and hopefully will give you easier breathing.

Rainmaker said...

Very nicely done, congrats!

It's good to hear that your race number was simply tucked underneith and didn't require backtracking!

COTY said...

You're such an inspiration Shirley!
My dream has always been to do a tri by the time Im 50. The Ironman Louisville to be exact. looks like I might not make it until Im 51 in 3 years. I still cant swim.But I will keep striving for my goal. :O)
Congrats on your Tri.
You rock girl!!!!

Karen said...

AWesome awesome awesome race report. You are such an inspiration! Thanks!

Smithposts said...

Great race AND race report! Thanks to Dave for the photos.

jeanne said...

Shirley you are my hero!!! You make it look so easy!

I never heard that info about the x-factor! Not sure if I believe it but it sounds good! What a fantastic job, and 2nd place!!! AWESOME!

jeanne said...

oh yes and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the wetsuit!!!

Dori said...

You're incredible! Really enjoyed the race report. I don't know how you are able to recover so quickly from a marathon. Whatever you're putting on your Cheerios, please send some to me. :-)

Susan said...

You are beyond amazing! Yep -- definitely one awesome gal!

Yuo have to have yur age proclaimed on your leg? Holy cow - I never knew that. I bet that gets interesting at times. I've said it before, but I like to watch the awards presentations after races because I am always AMAZED by the ages of the 60+ set. They DO NOT look their age.

RoadBunner said...

Congratulations!! Great job. I love the little guitar case, too!

PLANET3RRY said...

Kick A$$! Your 1/2 marathon time is awesome considering everything you did before the run. Plus... the swim... Not only did you get OFF course, but made a correction and still caught people WITH A I'M GOING TO CHOKE FEELING!

I loved the strategy with the other woman during the run... very calculating. You were still fresh enough to know what to do. And coach rocks for giving you some good advice about knowing the course before hand!

My take on Race Equitte:
If the title of the event does not have the word "Fun" associated with the event. Such as the Rock n Roll Man Fun Half Triathlon, then it's a Race: 1k, 5k, marathon, triathlon, duathlon. Therefore, being a race, you would not break any rule that you couldn't pass the guy with the kids with 1 foot to go. He's made the decision to slow down to accommodate BANDITS on the course (I say that because at the Flying Monkey in 2008, I ran with my two boys for the last 30 yards).

In fact, I would except, no less from you, to gain speed and HURDLE one of the kids!

Reading your race reports is getting me excited about participating in triathlons again... and maybe a half in 2010 (maybe)

Anonymous said...