RAIN Ride–160 Mile Ride Across Indiana

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The 3rd Saturday in July is traditionally the RAIN Ride which is a one day ride across the state of Indiana.  This year the event took place on July 20, 2019.  The start is at 7am in Terre Haute at St. Mary of the Woods College.  Event ends at 9pm in Richmond, IN at Earlham College.  One day.  160 miles.  Majority of the ride is along the Historic Route 40.

Packet pick up takes place on Friday at St Mary of the Woods.  Easy in and out.  SWAG includes a t-shirt and some ride glide.  Todd, Sara & I at packet pick up.  Easy in & out.  Hardest part was finding St Mary of the Woods. 

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Logistics for this point to point event are a bit of a challenge and that is one reason why I have not done it previously.  Oh yeah, and because I had to ride my bike 160 miles, in one day.  Sounds daunting, right?  Well, not as daunting as the logistics.

Options.  1)  Park your car in Richmond on Friday and take a bus to Terre Haute.  Bike rides on a truck, separate from you.  2)  Have some super awesome friends/family who love you so much that they will drive you to Terre Haute and then following you around while you ride your bicycle ALL DAY on Saturday.  I have some amazing friends and family but none that I could ask to do that.  Fortunately, Todd has better connections and a spouse that must REALLY love him.  She grabbed a friend and they became our Personal SAG Vehicle (PSV) for this event.  Meet Darla & Jen.  They said they felt like they were chasing a storm on Saturday.  So they will forever be called the Storm Chasers.  And we are now affectingly known as “Team Twister”.  A little 90s humor.  Smile

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The main concern in the weeks leading up to the event was the heat and the 160 miles.  The Midwest was having a heat wave and the ride was promising to be one of the hottest  in history. Fortunately, I’ve done a lot of endurance events and learned a bit over the years about heat, fueling, and salt/electrolyte intake.  Its never fun when the temperature climbs but it can be manageable if pace/expectation is adjusted and you are uber aware of how you are feeling and how your body is responding.

Time to ride!!!  7am start at St Mary of the Woods!  There were 6 of us and we started in the “Just Finish It” corral!  Lots of riders in front of us who might have been a bit more serious.

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And then there were 6!  From left:  Todd, Paul, Matt, Adam (back/orange), Sara & myself.  READY to ride!!  I have a lot of love for these people and have spent a lot of time with them.  Some more than others.  In fact, Matt may currently be looking for a new house since he lives on my primary ride route and I just pull into his drive and wait for him to come out and ride bikes with me.  Smile

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Off we go.  Big pack.  Police escort thru Terre Haute.  Everyone was locked in, two to three riders across.  Large packs continued all the way to the first official SAG stop at mile 39.  View of the first riders coming thru the tunnel in Terre Haute from the RAIN Facebook page.

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The official SAG stops were every 40 miles or so.  Mile 39, 63, 92 (lunch), 113 (water only) and lastly mile 131.  SAG stops had bathrooms, food, water, Gatorade, pickle juice, cookies, chips, trail mix, miscellaneous goodies, bike support techs and some had hoses or misting stations to cool the riders. Aerial view of the first aid station from the RAIN Facebook page.

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We were very fortunate to have 2 PSVs for the 6 of us.  Matt’s wife, Melissa.  Then Todd’s wife Darla and Jen.  The initial plan was for them to meet us at the official SAG stops for the initial 3 stops (miles 39, 63 & 92).  They did a lot of driving.  A lot of waiting. And a lot of managing our needs, both emotionally and physically.  Darla, Jen & Melissa ….. waiting.   Matt & I rolling into SAG stop 2.

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By the time we left SAG stop #2, things were really starting to heat up.  The packs were finally breaking up a little but there were still a lot of riders on the road around us.  We had 29-30 miles between SAG stop #2 and #3.  But it was hot.  Too hot.  We had already been relying on ice as our primary cooling agent.  We were putting it in our bottles, putting it in our cycling kits, and also using water to stay wet/cool.  We were going thru a lot more water than we normally would, since most of it was being used to cool us on the outside vs. for traditional hydrating purposes.  We were also being very cognizant of our fueling.  Any time the weather is extreme (cold or hot), the body uses additional calories (fuel) to function.  It has to have enough calories to cool the body and perform the task at hand, in this case cycling.  Things were starting to get dangerous.  Cyclists were overheating and stopping along roadsides, under shaded trees or beside tree lined fence rows.  I realized by the time we had traveled a mere 7 miles past SAG stop #2 that we would not make it to #3 without stopping.  We were also in the area around Indianapolis where our Storm Chasers had to jump on 465, to get around the city, to meet us at the 3rd SAG stop.  Our PSVs couldn’t get to us and we were riding thru a very populated area where we had to constantly stop at stop signs or traffic signals, which further slowed our progress and the time on the road between stops.  See ride route below.

RAIN Route

We stopped 2x between SAG #2 and #3.  Bought cold water & ice from a gas station first, then a CVS the second time.  Then a nice lady had a truck on route at one of the busy intersections and she was handing out ice, water & cold towels.  God always sends out  angels, be on the look out!  A few random riding pics below.

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As stated, we used additional resources 3x between the 2nd and 3rd SAG stops.  Hot. Hot. Hot.  My bike computer read a max temp of 116.6 degrees.

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Finally made it to SAG #3, which was also the lunch stop.  Indoor bathrooms.  Sandwiches.  Chips.  Lots of goodies.  We loaded up and were off again.

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After the lunch stop, the PSV route and the ride route converged.  Our Storm Chasers agreed to leapfrog us and meet us every 10 miles, or so, to make sure we had access to ice, cold water & fuel on a more frequent basis.  Sometimes, they found a parking lot in which to pull into, other times, we found them parked along the road with the trunk popped open and waiting for us.  So thankful for the extra stops!!!

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We had a few mishaps with tip overs, malfunctioning equipment, and my left cleat even lost a few screws at one point (no, I didn’t crash/tip over).   Thankfully Todd, or one of the other guys, always seemed to have a solution to the immediate problem and ultimately, we kept moving forward.

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As with all endurance events, the finish will eventually present itself, if you can just keep moving, avoid major mishap, stay fueled/hydrated, and manage your electrolytes.

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We received a key chain as a token to remember the day.  Both sides displayed below.IMG_0084  IMG_0085

Overall, RAIN was a great experience and a well ran event.  Because of the heat, I’m honestly not sure we could have finished without a PSV (or 2).  We knew from some previously HOT training rides that 20 miles is a push before refilling water/ice, and most of these stops were 30 to 40 miles apart. 

What to know if want to do RAIN in the future:

  • Be prepared for a long day.
  • Train.  Stack training by riding multiples days in a row, decent length rides without getting silly and riding super long rides, every weekend.  Its about time in the saddle as much as miles.
  • Cycling shorts over TRI shorts are recommended, due to the potential length of the day.
  • A PSV is recommended unless you are just super fast and do well in the heat.
  • Expect heat and humidity.  Its July in Indiana. 
  • Take extra electrolytes other than what’s in your fuel.  We used salt tabs/capsules, in addition to Nuun and Tailwind hydration products.  Nuun is all electrolytes, Tailwind is fuel with electrolytes.  Then we used the salt tabs, Huma gels, ate food at the aid stations, drank Coca Cola & used Sour Patch Kids & Swedish Fish candies to help keep the sugar moving into our system.
  • Talk to people.  Make new friends!
  • Appreciate your support crew.  They are hot and tired too!!

Great event and I thought most of the roads we used were in decent to good shape.  Lots of turns.  We had the option of uploading the route to our bike computers using Ride With GPS or we could have relied on the well marked route, following the RAIN drops.

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Lots of people do RAIN.  This year was no different.  1200ish registered.  1028 picked up packets.  642 finished by the 9pm cut off.  I will say that most of the issues we saw were heat and electrolyte related.  Lots of people cramping up because they just didn’t take extra electrolytes.  When you are taking in a lot of water, remember that you are flushing out electrolytes.  Managing the heat during endurance events is about so much more than staying hydrated.  My experience as a marathon runner and triathlete really came in handy for this event, even if my group was tired of hearing me nag remind them to drink/eat/take electrolytes.

Will I do it again?  I would definitely do it again.  I actually can’t even believe I just said that out loud (or put it in writing).  That being said, I don’t have a lot of people who could/would do a PSV for me, so ultimately, unless I can get in with a group who has a PSV and is willing to let me tag along, I’m not sure it would be smart.

Definitely give RAIN a try!  You’ll love it!!

Amanda – TooTallFritz

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Ironman Texas 2019–The Woodlands

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I’ve been MIA, training for Ironman Texas!  I didn’t really say much about it on social media or even to my friends/family until basically it was time to race.  I told my parents a mere month before it actually happened.  They worry and I was trying to keep Mom’s stress at a minimum.  Smile  As most of you probably know, I’ve been recovering from the bike crash/concussion that occurred in early September 2018 and my training started a bit behind, in comparison to others.  I didn’t know if I was actually going to do the race but started back training and attempting a build at the end of December to try to figure it out.  Thankfully, in December the doc gave me a nerve block to help with the rear occipital lobe pressure headaches (due to my occipital bone pinching/pressing on my occipital nerve) and I was off & running, quite literally within a day or so of the nerve block.  I’m still not 100% but I’m so much better than I was and I just adjusted training accordingly & thankfully my bestie, Julie  M. really helped with the driving and travel to TX to keep my fatigue going into race day as low as possible.  So I should really dedicate this race to Dr. Kidder and Julie for all her help.  Huge thanks to both!

The Woodlands, TX is a beautiful area but its also busy.  Think major suburb of a large city, Houston in this instance.  And its named appropriately because there are quite literally trees and wooded areas everywhere.  Hard to even know what businesses are around because everything is hidden by trees.  That being said, everything was smooth and getting around was easy thanks to Google Maps.  Packet pick up was beside the canal in a parking area.  Hardest part of packet pick up was deciding where to park.  But once we figured that out, we saved that garage location as a favorite on our gps unit and parked there for EVERYTHING.  Plus it was nice because we could walk along the canal, where we would eventually be swimming, to get to the Ironman Village.

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Packet pick up was fast and easy.  No lines.  No weight stations, like we had in Lake Placid where they took our weight and recorded it for medical purposes.  This was both good cuz I’m a little fluffy still from the weight I gained during the post concussion “fun” and also bad because the heat was high and I was concerned that medical might actually need the participants weights due to dehydration issues on race day.  Julie M. and I at Ironman Village. 

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Lots of hotel options around the race site.  If you don’t mind spending the big bucks, you could have stayed at the Westin or Marriott on the canal and avoided the need for a rental car, if you flew into the area.  We had a car (and a budget) so opted for a hotel about 10-15 minutes away, the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Shenandoah (beware –  I’m a Hilton rewards member but opted to book thru Expedia  and they were not pleasant to me at check in, definitely gave preferential treatment to their rewards members and made us wait past check in time for a room while members were being checked in immediately.)  We had a suite with a full sized refrigerator, dishwasher, stovetop, dishes & fireplace which was $600 for 3 nights.  Plus they had nice grills in a common area for guest use.  This enabled us to take our own food, grocery shop, cook, eat, drink and rest without having to eat out and run around more than necessary.  I don’t love eating out before big races because I have a sensitive stomach.  I was feeling good and I wanted to keep it that way.  So we only ate out once, on Thursday for lunch, before the Saturday race.  Huge win for me!!  The room and location was perfect.

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Friday – Practice Swim, Short Run & Bike/Bag Check.  The weather was perfect for hanging out.  We headed to the swim start at Northshore Park on Friday morning for a short swim.  The water looked and felt amazing, even thought we had heard there were possible water “quality” issues, plus it was so much cleaner than the canal!!  Beautiful area for running too, with lots of trails and paths around the park.  So much shade!  We loved the run and couldn’t wait to get out there for the marathon on race day.  Yes, we are sick like that.  Also saw lots of friends, Julie’s Endure It crew, my TriDot people and other friends who were racing. 

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The swim start was about a mile from transition so after the we finished at the park, we drove down to transition to check our bikes and bags.  Once again, we expected long lines and a wait.  Nothing.  We parked.  Walked our bikes/bags to transition.  They check our bracelets to make sure we matched the numbers on our bikes and bags.  They took a photo of our bikes (for security reasons).  We were asked if we needed help.  Then we we were able to rack our bikes.  It was such a process with long lines and big wait times in Lake Placid that we were quite impressed with how quickly and smoothly it went.  We racked our bikes, let quite a bit of air out of our tires so they wouldn’t explode in the heat of the day Friday before we came back on Saturday morning.  Dropped our bags, and left.  Spent the rest of the day hanging out at the hotel and resting/relaxing/hydrating/eating.

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Race Day – My race

Saturday was race day.  We were up bright and early, headed to transition to put nutrition on our bikes, inflate tires to the proper point and take care of last minutes needs before hiking the mile to the swim start.  Everything was smooth.  Everyone was calm.  I was easily able to borrow a pump. Put my tailwind on my bike. FORGOT to put my Nuun tabs in my Tailwind, which I realized when we were checking our morning clothes bag at the swim start.  Thankfully Julie had a ziplock with her stuff.  So I swam with a tube of Nuun (in a ziplock) in my Tri top (under my wetsuit).  That’s another thing … WETSUIT LEGAL!  Yes, just makes the start of my day easier.  Thanks to the Triathlon Gods on that one because I was prepared to swim in my swimskin and it was a pleasant surprise.  

Swim (2.4 miles) – Race started on time.  Pros were off at 6:25 for the men, 6:30 for the women.  Age groupers started with a rolling self seeded start at 6:40am and it seemed smooth and easy getting into the water. I was stress-free and just ready to start.  I had hoped for a fast-ish swim (for me) since it was a single loop but I had heard this was one of the slower Ironman swims.  Course was easily broken down into 1/3s.  1/3 out, 1/3 back, 1/3 thru the canal. See below.  Start is at the top.  Finish at the bottom, furthest point.

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It was slower than I had anticipated.  But I also didn’t anticipate my goggles not sealing.  I stopped numerous times (5-6) to dump water out of my goggles and attempt to reseal them but it didn’t work.  I contemplated taking them off all together but didn’t think that would be a better.  Ultimately, I just kept swimming with limited vision and dirty water clouding my eyes.  I was sighting the bright green swim caps around me vs attempting to really “see” anything.  Progress was slow.  It took me awhile to get into a rhythm and I never felt completely comfortable with the vision issue.  I was VERY thankful to have a wetsuit at that point since I was stopping on and off to clear water from my goggles, which was absolutely pointless because they immediately filled back up with lake water. 

The course was crowded and never really thinned out the way that I had thought it would.  Sun was in our eyes on the back side of the course and particularly when we were turning into the channel leading to the canal.  Plus it really bottled up going into the canal and I was just locked into place where I was, not able to really pass anyone or speed up toward the finish.  We were all just “in line“ basically trying to get out of the water.  Eventually, a couple volunteers just reached down and pulled me out of the water.  My vision was very blurred by that point from the water, my left eye was covered with some sort of film and I was disoriented.  Thankfully volunteers pointed me to the wetsuit strippers and those ladies literally got me out of my wetsuit, I didn’t even have it unzipped since I was disoriented.  Good times!  But onto T1. 

Photos of the swim courtesy of the Ironman Texas Facebook page:

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Transition –  All the bags were lined up, in order, on the ground, in a concrete area.  We ran thru, grabbed our bags & went to the changing tent.  Super easy. Changing tent volunteers were super helpful, sprayed me with sunscreen, picked up all my swim stuff & rebagged it for me.  I left them with my bag & was off to find my bike.  I pulled out my Nuun canister, emptied the tabs into my hand, tossed the canister into a garbage can, all without missing a beat.  Found my bike, added Nuun to the Tailwind already on the bike, and I was off ….. with slightly blurred vision but it was already improving.

Bike (112 miles) – Lots of turns getting out of the area but eventually we were funneled onto the Hardy Toll Road for the majority of the bike.  This is labeled as a fast & flat course; however, there are several bridges that we climbed and descended numerous times.  On the IMTX Facebook page, I heard that there were 18 bridges that we climbed/descended.  I didn’t count but there were quite a few.

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Flat & fast?  Well, not totally flat with the bridges but it had the potential to be fast.  Apparently the course was short last year but that was corrected this year so we had a full 112 miles.  Once on the Hardy, it was a straight out (21ish miles) and back, 2x.  The “out” was into the wind and slow going.  The back was with the wind and fast.  In addition to fighting the wind on the first “out”, I was also fighting some serious nausea.  I should have been down in aero to fight the wind better but I was seriously ill and when I was down in aero, I was in the perfect position to “toss my cookies”.  I knew that was not in my best interest because the heat was quickly rising.  So I was upright, chewing pepto tabs like candy and holding in the nutrition that I had already put into my body.  I hit the turnaround, the nausea was gone, I had the wind at my back and I gave some serious thanks to the universe.  I stayed in high Zone 2 and even crept into Z3 as the wind quickly pushed me to the turnaround. 

Then back into the wind and that’s when the fun began.  I was in good spirits because I knew I only had to go 21ish miles and I could get an aided ride back but ….. I started cramping.  Serious cramping, like the kind that wakes you in the middle off the night and you jump out of bed with a leg or calf cramped up.  Serious.  And this would not go away.  I felt good otherwise so it was frustrating.  I can only assume that due to the heat, I managed to flush my own electrolytes by drinking too much water.  I had a lot of electrolytes in my nutrition but the cramps kept coming.  I stopped 8x for cramping, legs locked up, pulling my bike off the road, attempting to get out of my pedals before I tipped over.  Then I’d rub out my legs, and get started again, hoping that was the end of the cramping.  I also stopped 5 or 6 times at aid stations to get extra fluids & fuel (Gatorade & bananas).  I went thru all my Tailwind/Nuun concoction, used 8 Huma gels and drank 4 of the large Gatorades on course.  I knew I had an electrolyte issue and didn’t want to be ruined for the run.  There were not any salt tabs on the bike course because its not normal to need them out there.  I had salt tabs in my run bag.  I just needed to get back to transition to access them.  The last time my leg locked up at mile 105 and I just prayed to get back to T2.  I finally made it.  So thankful!!!  Grabbed my run bag in transition, headed to the run tent, immediately took 6 salt caps, changed, volunteer took my bag, I ran out.  Transition in Texas was easy.  They have a great set up. 

Photo below from somewhere on the bike course, thankfully not while I was grimacing in pain from leg cramps.

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Run  (26.2 miles) – 3 loop course.  So thankful to be running but it was hot, hot, hot.  A volunteer said it was 87 at one point when I hit an aid station.  Not that I asked, didn’t change my plan to merely survive this darn thing so I could get back home to my kids.  Just keep moving forward, right?

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The run course was full, mostly of athletes walking and spectators were everywhere, spilling out onto the course.  If you like people yelling at cheering for you while you run, then TX may be the Ironman course for you!  Lots of people.  Mostly drunk people, but lots of people.  It was hard to maneuver the course sections along the canal because of all the bodies.  The fast Iron people were done and meandering back to their hotel or car, with their crew of family/friends.  Some spectators were cheering and high fiving and entertaining the runners and crowds alike.  Kids.  Dogs.  Strollers.  Restaurant goers.  Bar patrons.  It was crazy.  But once we got away from the canal, it calmed down and the crowds thinned.  We ran a lot of shaded paths and trails thru the woods.  Those were my favorite parts, the quiet spots, away from the sun and the people.  And lots of room for me to just run.  And run, I did …. but slowly and with stops at every aid station for water, ice, pickles, coke, and chicken broth.  Ironman run aid stations are like a buffet.  Eat, drink, be merry.

Loop 1 was fun.  Loop 2 was long and I was in the nomads land of “am I ever going to finish this thing?”.  Loop 3 was a celebration for a long hard winter of trainer rides and questioning my own sanity.  But as always, if we just keep moving, the finish line finally comes into sight.  So sweet!! 

SWAG:

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Coveted backpack which Michael claimed for school as soon as he saw it:

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So how was it?  I liked it.  Organizers, police and volunteers did an amazing job!  Did I like it better than Ironman Lake Placid?  Hard to get better than Lake Placid.  Although the course is harder at LP because its in the mountains, its undeniably beautiful.  Always something to look at scenery wise in the swim, bike & run.  While I certainly can’t comment on what I “saw”during the TX swim, the bike was pretty blasé on the toll road.  Nothing to see, just keep moving. Wind was a factor which was a bit of an equalizer, in my opinion, for the lack of elevation. The run was entertaining in TX but a 2 loop course suits my personality better and since I’m a runner, I want to run with as little interference as possible.  I liked the TX run course because of the variety and overall, I think the run course was the best part of this particular race.  This would have been a great race for my mom & kids to spectate.  If you want more info on spectating IMTX, please go download the Crushing Iron Podcast #263 where Coach Robbie Bruce from C26 Coaching talks about his experience spectating. 

What You Should Know, If You’re Considering IMTX

  • Hot weather race.
  • Take extra fuel & electrolytes.  Plan to carry extra electrolytes on the bike.
  • If you are from the Northern or Midwestern states, plan to ride your trainer all winter long.  And then you’ll have to ride some more. Plan on IMTX being your first outdoor ride of the season.
  • Expect extra soreness/fatigue in your neck & shoulders from being outside and having to pay attention with your head up for the first time since last fall.
  • Water quality may be questionable (I’ve heard a lot of people got sick).
  • Expect wind on the bike.
  • Easy transitions.
  • Spectator friendly.
  • Great Finishers area, accessible to friends/family/spectators.
  • Easy bike pick up after the race because its possible to navigate around the race course to regain access to transition & the bikes/bags. 

Overall, a great race.  Definitely give it a “TRI” at Ironman Texas!

Next up for me:  1)  Revel Mt Hood Marathon in Portland OR on June 29th.  2)  Super Marathon in Snoqualmie Pass, WA on June 30th. 4) RAIN Ride, Terre Haute to Richmond IN on July 20th and 5) Ironman Arizona on November 24th.

Stats:  Ironman Texas was my 2nd full Ironman, which also included my 53rd marathon.  I’ve ran marathons in 31 states so far.  Texas was not a new state for me but it was for Julie, which is why we went.  Still slowly chipping away at my 50 states goal.  

** Happy Running & Racing  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Ironman Lake Placid – 20th Anniversary – Race Report

I’ve been MIA for months & months.  Not racing.  Not socializing.  Just training and going thru the motions of life as a busy working parent.  The buildup to Ironman Lake Placid was the longest I’ve ever done without interspersing races to alleviate the boredom.  I usually run 10-12 marathons per year, in addition to racing 3-4 half ironman distance TRIs.  In 2018, I did one marathon prior to Lake Placid.  1 Olympic triathlon.  1 half iron distance triathlon.  Then IMLP on July 22, 2018.

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I trained for 25 weeks.  I had a couple cycles within the training plan, a little time off here and there to manage life. I did the best that I could, on all fronts, with this volume of training.  I hit most of my workouts, not necessarily as prescribed but usually managed the time or distance requirements, with a few exceptions.  I had a coach.  Do I recommend having a coach?  Yes.  Have I ever had a coach before, or felt like I needed one?  No.  However, the added volume required for this distance necessitated a clean buildup without any BS or extra workouts.  I didn’t want to mess this up in case I never had the opportunity to do it again.  As it was, I waited over 9 years to sign up for my first full iron distance race.  I didn’t want to blow it!

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Pre-Race!  Ironman races require packet pick up, pre-race meetings and bike check-in, all before race day.  As a result, this adds to the cost of the trip and the $$ that you’ll spend while visiting the area.  Lake Placid is one of the most expensive venues on the Ironman circuit.  If you are heading to Lake Placid, save your pennies and some dollars too!  We arrived on Thursday for the Sunday race.

Friday – Early morning practice swim & the Bacon Meat & Greet by Lake Mirror. Both were optional.

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Mirror Lake is very clean and clear.  Some of the best water I’ve swam in to date.  There is a famed cable that runs between the buoys.  If you can get on the cable or close to it, there isn’t much need to site on race day.  This makes the Lake Placid swim fast, if you can use the cable!  Beware, the buoys are connected to the cable.  If you are swimming over or “on top” of the cable, then be prepared to swim under the buoys!

Packet pickup & pre-race meeting – Mandatory.  We did both of these things on FRI.  Packet pick up was quick but did have a few extra steps, like weigh in.  Volunteers weighed each athlete & wrote the weight and which scales were used on the back of our bibs.  If there was a medical emergency, like dehydration, they had our pre-race baseline.  Scales used at packet pick-up are then transferred to the medical tent for consistency purposes.  Serious stuff.   Also serious, the pre-race meeting. Don’t miss it.  They have several and each venue is different.  This is where they give new info, tell about changes to the course, or make note of places that are dangerous.  And maybe, just maybe, Mike Reilly will make an appearance to toss out a few words of encouragement and motivation!

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Bike check-in is also mandatory, the day prior to the race.  I’d highly recommend taking the bike for a short spin before checking it in for the night.  Lots can happen in transit.  Make sure you don’t need any last minute adjustments before race day.  Lines for bike check-in were long.  We waited probably 20 minutes to get to the point where they took our bike, put it against a white screen, then photographed it.  Then it was returned to us, we waited another 15-20 minutes to get into transition, where each athlete had a volunteer escort them to their transition spot.  Then we said goodbye to our bikes.  Hung our Bike & Run bags on the hooks.  And walked away.

View of bikes, all racked in the Olympic Oval.  Source:  Ironman Lake Placid Facebook page

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View of my bike, seat sitting on #628.  Not a lot of room for the bikes since we didn’t have a normal transition set up.  Volunteers in T1 would go get the bikes off the rack & bring it to the end of the row for you.  Then there were “bike catchers” after the bike segment who would take your bike back to its transition spot.

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Race day!  The clouds were dark and rain was on the way!   We dropped our nutrition with our bikes.  Pumped tires.  Put our clothes & shoes in the “Morning Bag”, dropped it on the hook below our run/bike bags.  Then headed to the swim start.  It was a wetsuit legal day.  Meaning water temp was 76.1 degrees or below.  Happy Dance!!!  2.4 mile swim, here we come!

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Pro field took off at 6:20am.  Age groupers had a self-seeded, rolling start beginning at 6:40am with the goal of having everyone in the water by 7am.  2 loop swim course.  Between loop 1 and 2, athletes had to exit the water, run across the beach & re-enter the water.  Photo source:  Ironman Lake Placid Facebook Page (I don’t think this is the 2018 start).

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A couple things about the swim.  I don’t want to scare anyone but I think its important to address.  Mirror Lake is possibly the best water I’ve ever swam.  Until race day.  The water was still awesome but the athletes were VERY aggressive. I was at the back of the 1:11-1:20 group.  I thought I’d swim about 1:20.  I swam a 1:16. Maybe I should have been in the middle of this group, instead of at the back, but it shouldn’t have mattered much.  The people around me beat the crap out  of me.  Plus we were constantly passing swimmers who had started ahead of us, and who really wanted to swim the line.  It was total carnage.  I heard of people being punched (purposely), I head of lifeguards threatening to pull swimmers who were being too aggressive.  I saw swimmers hanging onto boats & rafts before we even got a couple buoys into the swim.  I saw a green swim cap on the bottom of the lake and am guessing the poor soul’s goggles were under the water, somewhere near the cap.  It was rough.  I erroneously assumed that if I held my line (which wasn’t even on “the line”) then I’d have clear water on the 2nd loop.  Well, I didn’t.  And it was worse cuz then we were passing the slower swimmers.  I gave up my position and navigated myself out of the way.  I lost 2+ minutes on that 2nd loop, I’m kinda mad about that.  But maybe it was the right thing.  The swim is supposed to be the easy part.  Relaxing.  Fun.  I was just mad and felt like I should have taken boxing classes to prepare.  IF by chance you are  not a strong swimmer, please swim very wide to avoid the crunch.  Apparently the swim gets crazy like this every year due to overcrowding.  My friend said she swam wide and was fine. So take note, swim wide.

Out of the water.  Run maybe 3 blocks to transition.  Grab Bike bag.  Go to changing tent.  Volunteers may be available to help you get changed.  When I was there, the tent was full and the volunteers were busy.  I got ready by myself, then ran out of the tent with my bike bag.  Wrong.  Don’t do that.  Thankfully a kind volunteer outside the tent offered to take it for me!  Run thru transition toward bike.  Yell out bike number.  Volunteer gets your bike & brings it to the end of the rack.  Run bike out of transition.  Mount bike at Bike Mount Line.  Transition 1 – 7:25.

On the bike.  Yikes.  Here come the mountains.  And the rain.  Hello rain.  Pelting rain.  Off for 2 loops – 112 miles total.  According to Ironman, each loop had approximately 4,182 feet of climbing, so total climbing on both loops = 8,364 feet.

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This was my weakest area.  I knew it. I’m a poor climber.  I rode every hill in my area, many, many times.  But nothing can compare.  I suffered.  I didn’t go fast.  I couldn’t go fast.

Downhill out of Lake Placid.  Toward the Olympic Ski Jumps, then the Keene Descent.  The infamous Keene Descent, which consisted of the majority of our descending for the entire loop, was something I was actually looking forward to but the pelting rain, and crazy winds took the fun out of it.  I’m a good downhill rider but I was upright, holding on for dear life, hoping the wind wouldn’t blow my wheels off the road surface.  Upper Jay.  Wilmington.  Out and back on Haselton.  Yay, got to see the family on Haselton because we stayed out that way!  Hello family!  Goodbye family!  Thru Wilmington toward Whiteface Mountain.  Turn on 86.  Detour thru the Whiteface Mountain Ski area.  Back on 86.  Goldilocks “hill”.  Momma Bear hill.  Baby Bear hill.  Papa Bear hill.  Just finished the “3 Bears” which wasn’t near as bad as some of the other “unnamed” hills.  Big hill up Northwood Road, back into Lake Placid.  Pass Lake Placid Lake.  On to loop 2.

Aid stations on the bike were every 10-12 miles.  Water, Gatorade, potties, bananas, oranges, Cliff products.  Medical support was usually in this area too.  Roads & intersections where we had turns were staffed by police or volunteers.  Some spectator support interspersed along the course.

It’s a tough bike course. Also breathtakingly beautiful.  This was one of my favorite areas going toward Keene.  My friend Elina G took this photo.  The entire area is amazing and definitely helped pass the time on the bike.  And I was on the bike forever.  7 hrs & 35 minutes, which was 35 minutes longer than I had even predicted.

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But I finally got my axx over the 3 Bears on the final loop and was headed back toward transition.  I cried a few tears.  It was about a minute of ugly cry.  I was so grateful to be headed toward my run shoes.  I wasn’t unduly chafed.  I wasn’t hurting.  I was just ready to get off the bike.

Rolled up to T2.  Dismounted at the Bike Dismount line.  Volunteers took my bike.  I walked to my Run bag.  Walked to the changing tent.  I was barefoot and there were a lot of rocks.  And I was tired.  Into the changing tent a volunteer helped me with sunscreen and getting ready to run.  She filled my bottle and mixed my Tailwind.  Then I was off & running. Yes, finally!  Lake Placid was my 50th marathon so it was a bit of a celebratory run for me.  T2 – 5:23

Two loop run course.  26.2 miles total.  Out & back course so I got to see all my friends multiple times.  Run out of town was awesome.  Downhill, my favorite!!  Saw Leslie B spectating.  She got this photo!  Thank you!

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Lots of people spectating, drinking and having a huge party along the run course.  Past the crowds, past the Olympic Ski Jump, out toward River Road.   Quiet, peaceful.  Nice views.  Some hills.  Ironman listed elevation as 1,604 per loop.  So that was a total climb of 3,208 ft.  To be honest, it didn’t seem that bad to me.  But then maybe I was just THAT happy to be off the bike.  There were some hills, yes.  Some big ones.  I would run part of the hill, then walk the rest of the way up.  My general strategy was run to the aid station.  Aid stations were every mile.  Walk THRU the aid station and make sure I got enough ice, water, coke, oranges, etc.  I really was in survival mode.  Keep moving. Keep the sugar going in to avoid low blood sugar.  I had a couple twinges in my quads while running.  Each time, I stopped immediately and took some salt capsules.  I was very focused on what my body needed to keep moving.  That was all that mattered.  I knew the finish would eventually present itself IF I just kept moving.

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Run was finally coming to an end.  That 2nd loop was a bit of a celebration for me.  And then once I got back to the big climb to get back into town, I was just happy knowing I was almost done.  I walked up the giant hill.  With all the spectators yelling and cheering.  Turned the corner for more climbing.  All while walking.  Then everything flattened out for a tiny out and back along Mirror Lake Drive.  Then into the Olympic Oval for the finish.  I was really cruising at this point.  I know everyone says to “take it all in” and not go too fast at the finish but I really just wanted to be finished.  I passed a lot of people on the carpet toward the finish.  I did have to slow at the finish because of a lady in front of me.  I knew I could pass her but then I knew she would probably be upset because she might not get her moment.  So I slowed up but then finally was finished.  Done, Done, DONE!!!  Yes!!  That’s me in the back with my hands up as Mike Reilly called my name.

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And just like that I’m an Ironman!  5:00 marathon for #50.  New York was my 30th state too in my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states.  I’m an Ironman.  A dream that was 9+ years in the making.  14 hrs & 5 minutes was my official time for the full day.

Lots of SWAG:

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Ironman Lake Placid is a great race.  This was the 20th anniversary and they have a rich tradition with Ironman.  I liked the race a lot.  Its difficult to set up a race of 140.6 miles and have things go pretty smoothly.  And I think overall the process from start to finish was smooth.  There were 2092 finishers and many who were not able to finish for a variety of reasons.  The distance is not something to take lightly.  It takes something more than being fit and a good training cycle to finish something like this.  It takes heart & courage.  And luck.  There are so many things that can go wrong that have nothing to do with the athlete or their preparation.  I’m very thankful that I was able to finish something like this.

The training cycle for the 140.6 distance is long.  And not so fun.  I was very thankful my friend Julie M was going thru this at the same time because she was my sounding board or “complaint department” when I was tired or grumpy or frustrated or just needed to talk.  Thanks, Julie for ALWAYS being there.  So happy that we took this journey together, even if we took different paths to get to the finish line!  Julie M  YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!  Congrats, girl!  So proud of you!!!

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And that’s a wrap!  Thanks to hubby for managing the house/dogs while I was training and racing this cycle.  Thanks to mom for coming on the trip with me and managing the kids when Julie & I were out and about doing Ironman things.  Thanks to Julie’s hubby, Joe for all he did for us in Lake Placid:  getting our bikes, entertaining the kids, driving the parents/kids to the finish.  Thanks to my coach Diana S for dealing with my hectic schedule and putting together a plan to get me to the finish without blowing me up before I got to the race.  Thanks to the Masters Swim coaches (Dave & Bill) at Jorgensen YMCA in Ft Wayne IN for making me a decent swimmer who can apparently take a beating.  And lastly, thanks to Ron K from FNA Outdoors in New Lenox IL for keeping me rocking & rolling on the bike for the last 5+ years.  Nobody can be an Ironman without an awesome bike … that also works great!

Thanks to YOU for reading this long report.  And if you made it this far, you might be wondering if I’ll be doing anymore Ironman races.  If you talked to me while I was training, I for sure said “one & done”. Yeah, well, I think I’m going to go to Louisville next year with some friends.  So yeah, I think I’ll do it again.  I have a few months to change my mind but I’ll probably sign up for Ironman Louisville, October 2019.

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Next up:  Dam to Dam Century Ride in Wabash IN (9/9/18) and the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (11/3/18).

** Happy Racing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Grand Rapids Triathlon 70.3 & The USAT Athena/Clydesdale National Championship – 2018

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The Grand Rapids Triathlon is held the 2nd weekend of June in Grand Rapids, MI.  This year, the race was on June 10, 2018.  The GR TRI has also been the host of the  Athena/Clydesdale National Championship race for the last several years. 

What’s an Athena?  An Athena or Clydesdale is a classification by USAT (USA Triathlon) that is defined by the weight of the athlete.  The athlete must be 165(+) lbs as a woman, or 225(+) for a man.  This type of classification is not found in all triathlon races.  Ironman races will NOT have an Athena/Clydesdale division.  Most other “non-branded” triathlons will follow USAT guidelines and offer it as an option.  If you are an athlete who meets the weight requirements you get to CHOOSE if you want to race in that division.  Its not a requirement.  You may race your normal age group, if you want.  If you choose to race Athena/Clydesdale, you are pulled out of your normal age group and added to the Athena division for which you qualify.  For Nationals, the divisions were:  39 & Under, 40-59 and 60+.

Is there an advantage to racing the Athena division?  Depends on the race.  This can be a very competitive group of athletes.  Just because an athlete is 165 lbs or more, does not mean they are not fast.  We all come in a different package.  We have different strengths & weaknesses.  We are individuals.  I think options are good.  Over the last 10+ years, I’ve seen so many of the non-branded races disappear and get gobbled up by the big dogs.  I like to support non-branded races so that we have more options.  As a result, I felt like it was also important to support the Athena/Clydesdale division at Nationals because if we don’t race that division, it too will disappear.  So, I raced Athena at the USAT National Championships in Grand Rapids.  Race Review below.  Feel free to discuss your opinion on the Athena/Clydesdales division in the comments.  I know its controversial and I’d love to hear your opinion. 

Grand Rapids Triathlon Race Review

I needed an early season 70.3 this year to prep for IM Lake Placid in July.  The early season race that I did a couple years ago (Cutting Edge Half Triathlon 70.3 in Effingham, IL) was no longer in operation.  My options were Grand Rapids or the IM 70.3 Wisconsin in Madison.  Grand Rapids was closer.  Non-branded.  Cheaper.  And home of the 2018 Athena/Clydesdales National Championships. It was an easy decision for me to try Grand Rapids and I am so glad I did! 

It was a 2.5 hour drive to Grand Rapids from the Ft Wayne, IN area.  Straight to packet pick-up.  Plenty of free parking.  Decent sized expo.  Several vendors.  Organized packet pick up & race meeting.  Lots of SWAG.  Race number tattoos!!  Plus a separate area for the Athena/Clydesdale athletes to go for packet pick up and weigh in.  Yes, we all had to weigh in to participate in the championships.  Since my predominant distance is the 70.3, there aren’t a lot of non-branded races that offer that distance.  Therefore, I race Ironman more often than not.  In Ironman, as mentioned above, there is NOT an Athena division.  So I haven’t had much opportunity to race this division.  I was not surprised that I had to weigh in but I was surprised that they had the scales behind a privacy screen.  Everything was very nicely done & respectful in regards to recording our weight.  If we did not weigh in at least 5 lbs over the minimum (170(+) at the expo), then we would have to reweigh on race morning, in our race kit.  Shoes off for the weigh in!  They were very determined to make sure that everyone met the weight requirement.  Not an issue for me.  I did not have to reweigh on race morning. Smile   Photo below from GR TRI Facebook page – if you are one of these lovely ladies in this picture, let me know so I can tag you!

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Race morning.  There were various parking areas around the race site in Ada, MI.  We parked at the Amway Headquarters, then put our transition bags on our back and rode to the race site.  Maybe a mile or so.  The other option was walking or being dropped off, if you had spectators/shepras.  Spectators could take a shuttle but no bikes on the shuttles!  We did ride to the race site in the dark but it was drama free on closed roads which were partially lit.  The weather was cool & overcast.  And there was nothing but smooth water looking out at the inlet of the Thornapple River where we would be swimming. 

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Transition was LONG and narrow.  Very long.  The 70.3 athletes were positioned closest to the “bike out”.  Good news for us.  Transition spaces were not marked individually, just a series of numbers per rack.  First come, best spot!  I got an end spot!  Leslie B’s mom got a picture of a few of us setting up transition.  I’m in the rear right of the photo, my side/back is to the camera.  I’m in a navy & orange kit.

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Team Stella Fly got this photo below of transition, from the front.  I was down the line much further, past the yellow port-o-potty.  This might be 1/3 of transition.  Maybe.  I was WAY past the potties.  But great shot! 

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Swim started at 7am sharp.  1.2 miles.  The Athenas & Clydesdales were in the first wave and we had fresh, calm water ahead of us!!  Of course, it didn’t take long for the 2nd wave to catch up but it was still nice.  5 minutes between each wave.  Start is below (from the GR TRI Facebook page):

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Heading toward a yellow buoy hidden by the trees.  Maybe I’m in there somewhere?  Photo courtesy of GR TRI Facebook page.

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Out of the water in record time (for me!!), even though I swam a little extra.  Smile  Straight to the wetsuit strippers.  Such a nice perk!  I love races with wetsuit strippers.  Since I hurt my back a couple years ago, getting in and particularly OUT of my wetsuit is a real challenge.  The “strippers” really help me so much!!  Thank you!!!!

Long dash to transition, then THRU transition.  Trying not to crash into anyone from the shorter races who were leisurely walking thru the area before their races.  Heart rate was definitely up by the time I got to my spot!  Wetsuit & swim cap down.  Goggles …..ooops, lost my goggles somewhere.  Helmet on.  Glasses.  Shoes.  Go, go, GO!  Out of transition.  Bike mount line.  Plenty of room but its always important to focus on getting on the bike, clipping in correctly and not rushing too much and hurting yourself or anyone else.  I’ve seen so many accidents on or around the bike mount line over the years.  And the people who do the flying mounts, well …. good luck, I’m just going to move to the side and safely mount my bike.  I’m not “flying” anywhere.  Winking smile 

Bike course is an out and back.  56 miles. Lots of volunteers.  Most roads had police or volunteers to direct traffic.  Thank you!!!  A few hills.  2 aid stations (that we hit 2x).  Headwind going out.  Tailwind coming home.  6 miles of VERY rough road at the turnaround.  OUCH. 

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Slow first half.  Faster 2nd half.  My legs were toast the entire time. Quads were BURNING.  I had a poor bike split.  Whether my back is to blame.  Or my training volume for Lake Placid.  Or maybe something was just off, not really sure, but it was a tough day on the bike.  I wasn’t 1/3 of the way into it and both feet were numb & my left hip/glute/hamstring were screaming at me.  I had to be VERY careful when I dismounted my bike and ran back into transition on numb feet.  I was wondering how long the feet would stay numb.  It was a very odd sensation, one I haven’t had before, but alas it passed once I put on my run shoes & got going.  So thankful!  Awesome volunteers below as we were approaching T2.  Pic courtesy of the GR TRI Facebook page.  I just love FB, don’t you?!?!

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I hustled thru T2 as much as possible with numb feet, dodging people who weren’t in as big of a hurry as myself.  But it wasn’t horrible.  Bike back on rack.  Helmet, glasses off.  Shoes on, slowly cuz well, my feet where NUMB.  WTHeck?!?  Race belt.  Visor, no, I don’t need the visor today.  Go, go, GO! 

Out of T2 & onto the run.  Thank the good Lord, I’m off that damn bike.  I have a love hate relationship with the bike.  I love my bike.  Its good to me.  It’s a great bike.  I just want to be better.  A lot better.  And I don’t really understand why its so freaking hard for me?!?!  But I’m running now.  2 loops.  Out and back course.  Aid stations every 1.5 miles.  4 total aid stations on course, which we passed 2x.  Lots of support out there.  Lots of food. Ice.  Water.  Coca Cola.  2 hills, which we passed 2x.

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I like loop and out/back type courses specifically when I have friends racing.  I did get to see several people on the run, some I saw 2x.  I was motivated to not let one of my fast teammates pass me on the run.  So I did push a bit faster than I probably would have normally, just trying to get around that first loop before he passed me to finish.  I made it.  Whew!  Overall a great day.  It was overcast most of the day which helps me a lot.  I melt in the heat.  It wasn’t cool but it wasn’t hot.  And I had the overcast skies on my side. 

Overall, I thought Grand Rapids was a top notch race.  I’ll definitely go back.  I was impressed.  Great area.  Well organized.  Lots of support and volunteers.  Vendors.  Lower fees than branded races.  GREAT swag!  And I was fortunate to be part of the Clydesdale & Athena National Championships where I placed 2nd in my division!  WhooHooooo!

SWAG – Race Tank, Finishers Visor, Event poster, Athena/Clydesdale National Championship water bottle, Quench Gum, HexArmor Cold Rush cooling towel, plus a few other things from the expo.  See photo below.

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2nd place Athena – 40-59 Division.  Me, Leslie B & Nikki W on the podium.  My friend Andé from IL, also got 2nd (with a MUCH faster time) in the 39 & Under Division.  Great to see old friends & make some new ones!

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Up close.  Green medal is the finishers medal for the GR 70.3 with the Clydesdale/Athena National Championship lanyard.  USAT medal for placing top 3 in the National Championships.  2nd place plaque for my division from GR TRI. 

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The Grand Rapids Triathlon is partnered with MI Titanium.  They offer a Double Down Challenge for anyone who does both races.  I guess I’m headed to MI Titanium now on August 19th.  Gotta get that Double Down medal and check out the MI Titanium race.  I’ve heard great things and am looking forward to another race with this group.  Hope to see you there!  Like Grand Rapids TRI, there are a lot of distances & options to choose from, even Aquabike & Duathlon if you don’t like to swim!  See you in August!

Next up:  Ironman Lake Placid on July 22, 2018.

Happy TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

CASS Housing Charity Bike Ride

The 2nd Annual Cass Housing Charity Ride was Sunday, June 3, 2018.  They offered supported 60 & 30 mile rides and a 10 mile fun ride on paved trails.  Ride start times were staggered so that everyone finished around the same time to enjoy a potluck lunch afterward.   The event was free with a request of donations to help support CASS Housing

This is the start of the 60 miles ride.  Lower turnout than last year due to the forecast of storms at the start.  Approximately 70 riders in total.  Photos courtesy of the Cass Housing Facebook Page.

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60 mile route started in Ft Wayne by the Jorgensen YMCA.  We broke into groups.

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Out to Roanoke, then Ossian for our first stop at an aid station at someone’s parent’s home.  Our parents love us.  What they do for us & our crazy endurance friends! 

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Quick photo before the group broke up.  This was the last I saw of the fast group!  I aspire to finish with them next year!!

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Zanesville.  Back to Roanoke.  Aid Station at a park in Roanoke.  Then back to Ft Wayne.  Easy ride.  Flat.  Decent country roads.  Low traffic.  This was a new route from 2017 and I really liked it.  See my Strava map below!

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The CASS Housing project is a charity for developmentally disabled adults who need housing.  The Indiana laws are not great for disabled persons and currently an individual can not get assistance with housing until their parents turn 80 years old or have passed away.  The CASS Housing project is trying to help.  This ride helps raise awareness and funds for their program.  Great charity and I’m happy to ride & support them in this small way.  I hope to see more people out for the 2019 ride.  I’ll for sure be there if it fits into my calendar.  Great event.  Great people.  FUN ride!! 

And a t shirt too.  I didn’t stay for the potluck lunch but it looked like everyone was having fun and they even had Normatec Recovery boots to try!

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** See You Next Year ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Fort 4 Fitness Spring Cycle – 2018

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Last weekend I participated in the 7th annual Fort 4 Fitness Spring Cycle event. This was the 3rd year that they offered the Metric Century (100K = 62 miles).  I participated the first year they offered this distance, 2016, and again this year. 

The event started at 9am for the 62 & 43 mile events.  Then there was a 10am start for 32,16 & 10 mile rides.  Ride day packet pick-up was an option.  Easy in and out in front of the Ft Wayne Art Museum.  The ride then started in front of the art museum with plenty of potties & a row of vendors to scope out before/after the ride.  Plenty of room for riders to line up for the start.

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The 100K ride left Ft Wayne for Antwerp, OH, then returned. Roads were well marked and busy intersections were covered by police & volunteers. 

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The ride out of town & to Antwerp provided a nice tailwind that really pushed us along.  But of course, the return trip gave us a headwind that wasn’t quite as much fun.  Smile Then the black clouds opened up and we had a some rain for a bit.  Mostly country roads with a few busier roads mixed in for connections.  Roads were in decent condition but we traveled thru Amish country so there were some rough patches and spots with horse manure. 

Multiple aid stations provided bathrooms, food & hydration, along with bike support if needed.  I believe there were 3 or 4 stops on 100K route.  Everyone: riders, volunteers & police support alike were in a good spirits and happy to be out and participate.  Riders were spread out pretty well except for the last 15ish miles of the 100K.  Once the 100K riders joined the shorter distances, there were more people but since the course covered low traffic areas, it wasn’t an issue, we just had to be more vigilant .

As we rode back into town to finish in front of the Art Museum, we wound thru some neighborhoods and traffic increased.  The police handled it well and they got us thru all the busy intersections.  I noticed a positive change to the course toward the end.  We did not ride down the Greenway to finish, but instead came thru town in a designated bike lane.  Great improvement from the inaugural ride where it was congested & dangerous at the end as we finished up on the Greenway and were sharing space with non-event riders who weren’t expecting the extra traffic. 

Overall, great experience.  This is definitely an event that I love because it has so many  options for cyclists of all ability levels.  I love that it’s a family event and even the little ones can participate. 

There was an after party in front of the Art Museum.  Beer.  Food Vendors.  Tent with seats.  Fun to be had.  No “free” food this year but our bibs each had a $3 off ticket that could be used at the food trucks.  I heard some complaints on this but a lot of people loved it because they had more variety than usual at a post event party.  I personally don’t have an opinion.  I rarely eat the free food & I didn’t utilize the food truck vendors either.  My schedule was tight.  I was in and out pretty quickly. 

SWAG = Cotton T-shirt & Finishers medal.

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I really like cycling events.  Very low key.  You can go as fast or as slow as you like.  You can stop at every aid station or pass them all.  You get to ride new routes that you would never ride solo.  I’d recommend checking out a local ride this summer!  They aren’t races, so no need to treat it as one, unless of course, that’s just how you roll, then go kill it.  You won’t be alone.  Smile

The next local ride that I plan to attend is the CASS Housing Ride on June 3rd in Ft Wayne, IN.  It’s a charity ride.  No official entry fee but they are accepting donations.  Register now.  GREAT ride, I did it last year. Hope to see you there!

** Go Ride ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Muncie May Triathlon – Muncie, IN

It can be a bit challenging to find an early season triathlon that gives you everything you want and more!  I registered for the Muncie May Triathlon this year after my beloved Pokagon Triathlon was discontinued.  This race is put on by American Multisport & is in Muncie, IN.  This group puts on several triathlons throughout the year, of varying distances, with races taking place at the Prairie Creek Reservoir.  This is the same location as the IM 70.3 Muncie event that is held each year in July.  Great way to check out the venue in a low key setting.

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The Muncie May event is in mid May, May 12th for 2018 and May 18th for 2019.  One of the first open water events in the Midwest.  However, the Prairie Creek Reservoir is on the shallow side so the water heats up quickly with a few nice days.  The race this year was wetsuit legal with water temp around 63 degrees.  That being said, many events at the reservoir are NOT wetsuit legal, so watch for current info on their website & Facebook page

So what’s the scoop on this race?!?! 

The Muncie May TRI is a great event for athletes of  varying abilities.  They offer an Olympic distance, Oly relay, Sprint, Sprint Relay, Super Sprint, Duathlon, Du Relay, Sprint Du, Sprint Du relay, & Aquabike.  That’s a lot of options and I hope I didn’t miss anything! 

Race starts at 9am with a race day packet pickup option.  Therefore, you can easily drive in the morning of the event if you are within 3 hours of Muncie.  Packet pick-up was easy & quick.  Body marking on site.  Practice swim area open and available to those who want it.  And the water is usually pretty calm.

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Small intimate venue at Prairie Creek Reservoir.  Indoor bathrooms & showers.  On site parking.  If you’ve only been to the Reservoir for the IM event, then go back for an American Multisport event.  Totally different atmosphere.  Small parking area.  Small transition area.  Very low key race at the same great venue. 

Races start at 9am.  Super sprint first, then sprint, then Olympic.  I did the Olympic and the times estimates were a bit off as to when we got in the water.  They waited for everyone in the previous category to get out of the water before the next group got started.  Safety first!  Then we self seeded and got into the water in pairs.  Very easy.  No drama. No fighting.  Nobody swam over the top of me.

Once we hit the water, it was noticeably rough on this particular day.  The wind was really blowing and the current in the water was pushing us off course a bit.  Tougher swim that usual at this venue.  The swim was counter clockwise too, opposite direction of the IM event.  1.5K swim for the Olympic, which is 1600 yds.  I swam 1800 though just for fun, or maybe I had trouble staying on course with the wind & waves.  Smile

Once out of the water, there was a short run to transition.  Small transition but it wasn’t chaotic.  Smooth sailing in and out.  Then on to the bike course which had some new pavement!  Olympic distance was a 2 loop bike course.  The wind which gave us some hassle in the swim was in full force on the bike.  Yes!  Love a challenge, right?  A few tiny hills but only 577 ft of ascent on the two loops and a total of 25.3 miles. 

Back to transition for T2.  Just as easy as T1.  Not crowded.  Easy in and out.  On to the run which was an out and back course for the 10K.  Same route as the IM event in July.  Small rolling hills.  213 ft of elevation gain for the 10K.  Warm.  Its always warm. There is a bit of shade on the back side of the out/back but overall, its usually sunny in this area.  Make sure to not forget a hat or visor.  This venue is good about having ice due to its notoriously warm runs.  So ask for ice, even if you don’t see it out.  I did and they did have some in coolers.  Took me an extra minute at a couple of the aid stations but it was worth it because I heat up fast. 

Overall a GREAT race.  I’ll definitely be back.  Registration is open for 2019 and I’m considering registering early for that event.  I’m also looking at my calendar to see if I can fit in another American Multisport event before the year is out.  Lots to choose from between now & September.  And bottom line, if we like our “non-branded” events, we need to support them by showing up and racing so they stick around for years to come.  Too many great races have been discontinued because of lack of participation!  So let’s race American Multisport!!

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Other than a great race, they also provide great SWAG.  See below for the pullover & finishers medal.  I’m wearing the pullover right now.  Lightweight & perfect!

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My next race is the Grand Rapids TRI.  Another “non-branded” event.  Sprint, Oly, 70.3 & Aquabike in each distance. Still time to register!  Race is on June 10th.  Hope to see you there!!

** Give it a TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

2018 – New Goals

My primary goal is to run a marathon in every state.  However, I also love triathlon.  I’ve been meshing my love for running and triathlon for many years now.  I believe my first triathlon was in 2004 and then I really started doing more events in 2007.  However, Mr. Michael made his appearance in 2009, shortly after I caught the Ironman bug.  Little man is 8 now!  Time flies …..

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As a working mom with two kids and a hectic life, Ironman was put on hold.  I didn’t even ride my bike for several years after Michael was born.  I ran.  Because that is something I can do anywhere, for any amount of time and it helps me relieve stress. But the time on the bike was just too much for me as a working mom with a new baby.  So my bike sat on the trainer for 1309 days without seeing the light of day.  I rode occasionally for workouts but never outside. Once I dusted off my bike, I decided to focus on races that I could manage with the family, job and my other responsibilities.  I decided that I would “specialize” in the 70.3 distance.  Not register for an expensive race and haul all my gear unless it really counted.  It had to be worth it for me to be away from the kiddos.  Once Michael arrived, that’s kinda how life went.  Cut the crap.  Keep what’s really important.  I didn’t want to lose sight of myself but I also didn’t need to run every 5K in town unless there was another reason to go, like when Aby started running.  Aby’s first 5K below in spring 2011.  This race had free daycare for Mr. Michael.  So freaking awesome (Ringing In Spring 5K, Valparaiso, IN).

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This was also the time that I really started embracing the long run.  Michael was a crazy baby.  He was not happy unless I was holding him and to be honest, I just needed to get away sometimes to clear my head and leave the screaming behind.  I loved my little man but yes, I needed a break.  To this day, I see women who refuse to leave their babies to even go for a run, and I cringe.  Most mom’s need time away from their babies to think and reflect.  I could never do that while pushing a jog stroller, constantly handing the little one snacks, stopping to pick up juice cups, etc.  There were times that I ran with the stroller because the choices were treadmill or stroller run.  I’ve also ran plenty 20 milers on the treadmill for lack of other options.  I did what I had to do but honestly, I cherished my solo long runs more than anyone could possibly imagine.  Through this time, my love for the longer distances really developed.  Hey, the longer I ran, the longer I had quiet time, it didn’t matter if I had to run in the dark to get it.  Eventually, I cut most other distances to focus on the marathon.  Best bang for my buck and the marathon is ALWAYS a challenge.  I didn’t want to leave the kids unless it counted.  So I pared down my races to the distance I felt was worthy of time away from the kiddos. 

Enough chit chat.  Now, what’s the big goal for 2018?  I’m sure you’ve already figured it out.  Ironman.  I registered for Ironman Lake Placid, July 2018. 

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My first, and quite possibly only, full Ironman.  Yes, I’ve been waiting for this since 2008.  Yes, the time is finally here.  In case you’re not familiar with triathlon type races, this is a 140.6 mile event.  2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, 26.2 miles of running.  There are non-branded triathlons which cover the same distance; however, Ironman has made a name for itself as offering some of the best triathlon races in the world. 

I picked Lake Placid almost by default.  I wanted a race that I could drive to so that I didn’t need to ship my bike.  I wanted a race that was not during XC/Football or Track/Baseball season.  That really narrowed things down.  Lastly, I wanted a new state.  The marathon at the end of the Ironman counts as a state for the 50 States Marathon Club.  This made the outrageous registration fee a little more palatable.  I get to tackle something new, a bucket list item per se, but I’m also still moving me forward in my 50 State goal.  Win, Win.

So if you’re in Lake Placid, NY over Ironman weekend, look for me.  I’ll try to post more as my training gets under way.  Until then, if you need me, I’ll probably be riding my bike.  You will find me at a couple warm up races this spring/summer.  But everything is in prep for the big day in Lake Placid on July 22nd:

At some point, I’ll figure out post IM season.  But for now, this is it. 

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Cheers to a Happy, Healthy 2018.  I hope that you get to try something new and move something from your bucket list into the DONE column. 

** Life is All About the Story ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Dam to Dam Century Ride – Wabash, IN

Sunday, I rode my first Dam to Dam Century Ride in Wabash, IN.  It wasn’t only my first D2D but also my first EVER century ride.  I had zero expectations.  My plan was to show up, ride & finish.  Mission accomplished.

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Easy drive to Wabash, IN which is about 80 minutes from my house.  The start/finish & packet pickup were at the local YMCA, plenty of parking and space for the riders.  Packet pick up and breakfast was in the gym.  Well organized.  Fast.  We all received a wristband with a number to call in case we had issues with the ride, our bikes or needed help.  It was a nice touch and one that I certainly appreciated.  I’ve done several organized rides but never one where I felt confident that if I had a problem, someone would actually be able to help. 

I started with the 7:30am crew.  We hit the course early, while the main group started at 8am.  I was happy to get moving. It was cold, low 40s.  Plus, I knew that riding 100 miles would take me just short of forever.  Might as well get started!  We left the Y and started weaving thru Wabash.  I immediately noticed 3 things. 1)  Holy Hills.  We were climbing before our saddles even got warm. 2)  The course was well marked with directional arrows BEFORE the intersection where we would need to turn.  3)  I would be riding 104 miles NOT 100 miles.  Small detail but something I noticed immediately.

It was a beautiful morning.  Cool.  Foggy.  Breathtaking views.  I was happy to be out.  Happy to be riding.  Happy to be tackling something that had been on my bucket list for several years.  Even stopped for a few pictures. 

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And a selfie!  Thanks to Ron at FNA Outdoors for helping me out again this year.  Great guy.  Great bike shop.  Cool gear.  Awesome bike. 

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I rode the 104 mile route.  Aid stations were located about every 20 miles.  Closer in some spots but never further.  The aid stations reminded me of ultra running.  Food, food & more food.  Pic below of the first aid station.  Trail mix, PB&J, cookies, water, Gatorade, tomato juice, pickles, bacon, chips, etc.  Every aid station had different food items, but the food was always plentiful.  If you like ultra/trail runs because of the food, you’ll love century rides! 

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Best part of the day, in my opinion, a field of sunflowers.  So many.  Sunflowers as far as the eyes could see.  I took this while riding and am thankful it wasn’t blurry!

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We rode thru the countryside, across several bridges & dams.  Thru the Salamonie Reservoir & State Park. Red Bridge State Recreation area.  Mississinewa Reservoir.  Past the Stockdale Mill. 

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Once I hit Stockdale, mile 64, I was pretty flat.  I had 3 weeks of building for marathon training & also 3 weeks of building on the bike to be ready for the century.  I was starting to feel it.  I wasn’t exhausted but definitely tired & I had been riding solo for about 10 miles without seeing many other riders. 

After Stockdale, things went downhill fast, mentally.  I was alone.  Fighting some heavy winds.   Mentally breaking down.  I knew it was a mental thing but that didn’t help me get thru it any faster.  From Stockdale to North Manchester, it was a real slog.  As soon as I hit the city limits of North Manchester, a big pack of cyclists passed me.  Then we all hit the aid station at mile 82 together. Riders kept pouring into that aid station while I was there.  Obviously, I hadn’t been out there alone.  I sat for a few minutes, ate 2 brownies, hit the potty, texted a friend that I was on the brink of the “ugly cry”.  Then rolled out, about the same time as 10 other riders.  8 disappeared immediately.  2 were in my sights.  I was not alone.  So I tried to keep those 2 gentlemen in sight.  Helped me focus.  Rolled down the miles a lot faster just knowing someone was close.  Passed thru Largo, then back to Wabash.  We were directed onto a bike path for a short stint.  I was alone again but it was very pretty. 

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Then I made my only directional mistake of the day once I got off the path.  I misinterpreted an arrow.  I crossed the road and started a huge climb up a very ugly hill.  Then I was in a busy part of town.  Then I noticed there weren’t any more arrows.  I messed up.  Thanks to Google Maps, I found my way back to the YMCA.  107 miles total.  Just shy of 7 hours on the bike.  Wow.  Longest. Ride. Ever.

Overall, I was very impressed with D2D.  I’d definitely go back and ride it again.  I’d like to be able to do it as an annual event.  It wasn’t super close to home but manageable.  And it was just a good event from start to finish.  Great directional info, signs, and volunteers.  The aid stations were on point with lots of goodies.  I loved that they were pretty close together, especially when I started to struggle, it helped to know I only had to make it to the next aid station.  The majority of the roads were decent too, which I appreciate.  Great experience, I hope to return next year. 

** Happy Running, Riding OR Whatever YOU Enjoy ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead–2017 Edition

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This year was my 3rd consecutive showing at the Ironman 70.3 Steelhead event in Benton Harbor, MI.  The race was Sunday, August 13th.  It was my “A” race although I certainly did NOT show up recovered & rested enough to perform at “A” level.  It was my own fault.  Not enough time between IM 70.3 OH and Steelhead.  I “possibly” should have picked one race, or the other, rather than doing both.  Smile  Regardless, Aby & I and a few others headed to Steelhead to have some “fun” in the sun.

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We hit the expo on Saturday around noon to listen to the Athlete Briefing, pick up packets & do a quick warm up swim.  I personally wasn’t planning to swim.  I had pulled something in my shoulder earlier in the week (while sleeping, of all things).  I didn’t want any additional strain on it until I had to hit the water for real.  However, once we arrived at Jean Klock Park and finally caught a glimpse of Lake Michigan, we noticed that the water was rough.  Really rough, white capping with big rolling waves that were 5+ feet, plus there was a small craft advisory.  My crew opted out of the warm up swim for fear that it would create additional anxiety.  Normally the water calms down over night, that’s what we were hoping for because we came for a 70.3 triathlon, not an abbreviated event.  Crossing our fingers!

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Race day arrived bright & early.  Race site was buzzing with energy.  Air was cool. Water was calm with gentle rolling waves.

This year, Steelhead had changed the swim start.  They moved to a self seeded rolling start that would allow us to start with those of our own ability level vs the normal age group start.  I was happy with this decision.  I thought it should result in a smooth swim without us swimming up on slower swimmers who had started before us and it would prevent faster swimmers from doing the same to us.  Good deal, right?  Overall, I think it went well but the water was still rocking and rolling and some underestimated how long it might take them to do the swim.  So I was still swimming up on quite a few but it was less chaotic than normal.  I took 3 swim lessons before this event.  I’ve swam in triathlon for 10 years now, without lessons, without a coach & without any real guidance.  I’ve met my goals in that time span and am happy with what I’ve accomplished; however, I have not improved in the swim over that period of time, in fact, I’ve gotten slower.  So …… swim lessons!

After the 3 swim lessons, I felt lost.  I knew everything I was doing was wrong.  Its impossible to correct everything at once, and I’ve basically been swimming in SLOW MOTION in order to focus on a few things.  As a result, I didn’t know how the swim would go for me.  I am happy to report that I felt in control.  I really focused on keeping my head down & that allowed me to cut thru the waves vs ride the up & down roller coaster that Lake Michigan provided.  I was pushing thru my stroke.  I still don’t have the catch right but I did push thru my stroke & I think it was working (at least better than normal) because when I would get beside someone, I’d be past them quickly with one or two pushes thru my stroke.  So it went well.  I swam until I could dig sand, then stood up.  I looked at my watch even though I wasn’t out of the water.  44:00 flat.  Then it took me almost a minute to fight the waves and wade out of the last little bit of water.  But I was still faster, in Lake MI, with the waves, than my last two 70.3s this year, which were both slightly over 45 minutes.  Happy dance!!

It should have just kept getting better once I got out of the water but I hit transition and immediately recognized that it was busy.  Really busy.  I normally get out of the water with my age group.  We are all in the same area of transition.  You know how you did in the water based on how many bikes are on the rack vs gone.  This time, since we did the self seeded start, transition was total chaos.  People were everywhere, sitting, standing, in various states of dress or undress.  I was dodging people & wetsuits just getting to my transition spot.  Now, transition in Steelhead is along the beach.  Long and narrow.  So be prepared to run & definitely know your spot.  Bikes as far as the eyes can see.  Further actually.

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This year, I felt like we had more space on the racks between bikes.  But the rows seemed tighter.  Or maybe it was just because there were more people in transition when I got there?  It was tight.  Regardless, got out of my wetsuit, got my bike & was running out of transition dodging people.  One person even told me to slow down.  What?  Finally got out of transition and the bike mount line was on one half of a round-a-bout.  Not a big one.  It was about the width of half a road.  One lane of traffic.  And EVERYONE in front of me had stopped on that mount line to get on their bikes.  What?  I was trapped.  And the people directly in front of me could not get clipped into their bikes.  Total chaos.  After waiting, and waiting, and waiting, I became impatient, picked  up my bike, ran thru the round-a-bout, dodged spectators & put my bike down on the edge of the road away from the mount line.  I titled my bike to get on & a spectator yelled to me, “hey, you dropped your chain!”  What?  Me?  Is he talking to me?  I didn’t drop my damn chain.  I haven’t even been on my bike yet.  This bike doesn’t drop its chain.  What?  I look down (opposite side of the bike) & my chain was hanging.  What?  A bazillion things went thru my mind.  I moved to the other side of my bike.  Moved myself & my bike further out of the way so as not to interfere with those who actually were able to clip in and start riding.  And I was just standing there, staring at the chain.  Probably with a stupid look on my face because a spectator came up to me & said, “let me help you with that”.  Huh?  And I stupidly stared at him while he put my chain back on the bike.  Like I didn’t know how to put a chain back on my bike?  Right.  I’ve done it a thousand times.  But apparently I had the “damsel in distress” or worse look on my face.  He got me fixed up & I was on my way.  Still wondering what had happened.  But I’m on my bike, riding gently to get the gears settled back into the right spot.  Immediately I hear/feel a catch somewhere on the bike.  Something was catching/rubbing.  Either every wheel turn or pedal stroke, I couldn’t quite figure it out.  I looked down to make sure my brakes weren’t rubbing.  Not that.  No idea what was going on but decided to ride the bike til it broke or I couldn’t ride it any further.  It was a long ass 56 miles.  The bike was not smooth.  I could feel the rub/catch continuously thru the ride.  Then the course was pretty rough.  I had been up & rode the course on Memorial Day and was surprised as to how much the roads could deteriorate over 10 weeks time.  We did have a reroute due to road construction but that road wasn’t any smoother.  The entire ride, short of the out & back on 63, was just rough.  Add that with the catch in my bike & it made for a slow, not so fun ride.  Plus my legs were definitely fatigued from OH.  I usually pass A LOT of people in the last 20 miles.  Not this time.

Finally back to transition.  Onto the run.  Let’s just finish this!  But by this time it had heated up and we just ran.  At whatever pace we could manage.  I ran between aid stations except for a couple decent hills that I walked.  But otherwise, I ran.  Slowly.  And just kept moving.  I’d walk thru the water stations to get the water/ice that I needed.  Then moved on.  I like the Steelhead run course.  Starts through a beach  community.  Past a golf course.  Up a hill, to the main loop that we run twice.  Past the fire station, down some nice community roads where there is always a family handing out beer shots.  Always makes me giggle.  Do people actually drink the beer shots?  Aid stations every mile or so.  Port-o-potties, first aid, pretzels, chips, cookies, candy, oranges, bananas, gels, coke, red bull, water, ice.  Whirlpool campus.  Some shade, paved & grassy/dirt trails.  Big hill.  Back to 63 for a short jaunt, then back to turn by the fire station to start loop 2.  After the repeat of the loop, then we head down the hill & back toward the finish.  That’s when the smile emerges & I know I’m about done.  That I have once again conquered the 70.3 distance.

I think I’ve done 13 or 14 at this distance now.  Its still not easy.  There is so much that goes into Triathlon between the 3 disciplines.  The longer the race, the more variables to add.  The bike, which is the longest distance, has additional issues.  Flats, mechanicals, other racers dropping things in front of you or veering into you.  Triathlon is not for the faint of heart but I do believe that anyone can do it.  If they have the desire.  If you have been thinking about it, I seriously encourage you to give it a TRI.  Smile  You can always email me with questions at amanda@tootallfritz.com.  I will respond.  I’m happy to help with questions regarding gear/races/training.  But I’m not a coach.

SWAG & finishers medal below.

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My beautiful bike, which was indeed “broken” during Steelhead.  A bolt in my stem had snapped. I’m lucky I didn’t crash.  Although it has since been fixed, the front wheel now has too much “play” from side to side.  Paint has also been chipped off the front fork/head tube area where someone must have slammed into my bike while trying to get thru transition.  That’s probably how my chain dropped too.  I just didn’t notice because I run my bike on the opposite side of the cassette & chain ring.

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Cheers to the 2017 TRI season.  Its in the DONE column.  I had considered trying to get in one more 70.3 to try to maximize my training and make another go at my “A goal” but there just isn’t time.  I’m riding the Dam to Dam Century Ride on September 10th.  I just got my bike back this week but I definitely need a couple longer rides ASAP. And its marathon season once again.  Marathon season where its you, your body & the elements.  Less drama.  Less chance of unknown mishaps.  Never predictable but so much easier in so many ways. So I’ll be seeing you on the road.  Soon.

If you want more info on IM 70.3 Steelhead, see my report from 2015 & 2016.  I hope you are having a great season.  Let me know which fall marathons you’ll be running & maybe I’ll see you.

** Happy Running & TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **