Ironman Louisville – Volunteering & Spectating Tips

This year, I did my first volunteering & spectating stint at Ironman Louisville.  This is the closest full IM event to my home.  I wanted to go, take it all in and support a few friends who would be out on course.  Since the goal was to volunteer & spectate, I got up early to volunteer as a swim pointer.  My shift was from 5a to approximately 8:30a. 

Welcome to Ironman Village before the sun comes up!

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The swim pointers were ready to receive athletes when they arrived, get them lined up & help them with whatever they needed.  We were also instructed to keep the lines tight and orderly.

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To be honest, I was surprised how early some athletes go to the swim start.  Transition did not close until 6:45am.  Race start was 7:30am.  There was a 15-20 minute walk from transition to the swim area.  We had people lining up for the swim, right after 5a.  As a triathlete myself, who is not a super fast swimmer, I’d have been walking out of transition about 6:45 to head to the swim start.  Apparently, I’m in the minority.  These athletes were on it and ready to rock & roll! 

There was a nervous energy in the air.  Most people were ready to go; however, a few had small issues like lost swim caps, questions about where to put glasses & morning bags.  But overall, the athletes were prepared, respectful of the area and I was super impressed that they didn’t leave behind a bunch of garbage for us to clean up.  Best athletes ever!

The Pros took off at 7:20.  Age groupers soon to follow at 7:30 in a self seeded rolling start.  Easy.  Smooth.  Everyone was in the water before we knew it.  We cleaned up.  Then headed back to transition, walking along the river (pic below) to see our athletes head out on the bike.  If you want to volunteer and not miss much of your athlete’s day, the swim pointer position is great!

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Back at transition the Pros were heading out and we made it in time to see the first of the age groupers.  Fast swimmers!

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After our athletes left on the bike, we headed to the car to find a spot to see them on the bike.  If you are looking for a great place to park for the Great Lawn transition area, look around Floyd Street.  Find a spot, walk toward the water & you’ll run right into transition after crossing Witherspoon Street!

Since we were parked on N Floyd Street, we had easy in and out.  No issues with race traffic.  We were close to the expressways and didn’t have to cross the path of the bike or the run. Winning!

Prior to the race, I did a little research and learned that most who spectate the bike go to Lagrange.  But I also learned that the area is congested & on a downhill section of the course where it is particularly difficult to see athletes as they zoom past at high speeds.  Several users from the Slowtwitch forums suggested driving out and finding a spot along the route before Lagrange.  So that was the plan.  A loose one.  We took 71 North out of Louisville heading toward the intersection of KY 393 & KY 146.  I missed Exit #17 for KY 146.  Took the next one, Exit #18 for KY 393, toward Buckner.  And dumb luck put us in the perfect spot with a Park & TARC parking area on the corner of Commerce Parkway & 393.  We used the parking lot & hiked it up the hill to the corner of 393 & 146.  Not crowded.  Easy to spot athletes because they just turned from 393 onto 146 and they weren’t at full speed quite yet.  Great spot.  See my yellow highlighted arrow below to see about where we ended up.  Bonus, there was a gas station on the corner of 393 & 146 in case anyone needs a potty or snack break.  Smile 

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We stayed in this location to see our athletes on both loops of the bike.  Everyone was having a good time.  Darla E & Beth P taking a selfie below.  Clint P photo bombing.  Random Ironman athletes in the background. 

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After seeing our athletes a couple times, we headed back to town for lunch.  Parked on N Floyd again.  Walked straight down to Witherspoon & watched the athletes coming into T2 from the bike.  Once they came in, we walked over to Run Out.  Saw them again.  Then we headed out to the run course.  Lots of spots to see the runners within walking distance of transition.  However, the majority of the spectators go to the finish area on 4th Street.  The finish area is also the beginning of loop 2 for the run.  So cruel, right?  Yep.  Welcome to Ironman.  Anyhow, lots happening at the finish area.  Food.  Drinks.  Starbucks.  Need I say more?  You can cheer for the Pros coming in on 4th Street, as well as the athletes going out on their second run loop as the turn onto Muhammad Ali Blvd. 

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Great day at Ironman Louisville 2017!  Thanks to Sara & Clint P for making the trip down with me. 

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Thanks to Darla E for some of the photos that you see above.  As always, Ironman delivers a great day whether your racing, volunteering or spectating.  Its worth the trip.  And in case your wondering, we logged over 24 miles spectating.  Not for the faint of heart.  Probably the best tip I can give, wear real shoes.  You’ll thank me later.  Smile 

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

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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 **

Ironman 70.3 Ohio Race Review

Ironman 70.3 Ohio is in its infancy and I think we all want to know what kind of race Ironman is delivering in Ohio.  I was interested to see how it compared to other 70.3 events in the Midwest.  I was also interested to see what Delaware, OH had to offer.

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Delaware was about 2.5 hours away from my home in the Ft Wayne, Indiana area.  I was flying solo for this trip so packed & pulled out as soon as I could get Mr. Michael over to hang out with my parents.  Minivan/Bike selfie for the win!  Love being a minivan mom!  When I’m old & wrinkly I’ll probably still be driving one around cuz my bike REALLY  likes riding inside.  Smile

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3 hours later, I pulled into Delaware, OH.  Home of Ohio Wesleyan University.  Easy enough drive.  Cute town.  Beautiful church in the downtown area .  Typical small college town with a main street area lined with shops & restaurants.

The expo was on the Selby Stadium campus.  Big merchandise tent with A LOT of IM 70.3 Ohio stuff.  The merchandise tent was much bigger than Muncie & was larger than what I usually see at Steelhead too.  Not sure why, but it was impressive & I’ve done quite a few IM 70.3s.    Smallish expo otherwise but the highlight was free sunscreen from Ohio Health, then both NormaTec & Rapid Reboot had recovery boots for people to try.  I’m part of the Best TRI Club Ever (BTCE) & we get a discount with Rapid Reboot so I was happy to try out a pair of those to see how they compared.  LOVED them!!! I think they would be great for Aby & I to help with recovery.  Maybe Santa could bring a pair for us to share?!?!?!

Saw one of my BTCE teammates at the expo & we got to hang out, drop our run bags together, then we eventually did dinner.  Thanks, Laura!

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What makes IM 70.3 Ohio slightly different than most 70.3s in the Midwest would be multiple transition zones.  Transition 1 was by Delaware Lake at Delaware State Park.  Transition 2 was inside Selby Stadium.  Below.

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Hard to see all the bike racks because they are sitting on the white lines.  We had to pack our run bags the day before & drop in our T2 spot so that we would have what we needed when we brought our bikes in for the run.  Those bags are the red spots you see on the white lines.

Then after we dropped our run bags, we headed 6 miles away to Delaware State Park to drop our bikes in T1.  I didn’t love this but it was mandatory due to very little parking at the park & a need to shuttle athletes in on race morning.  Last year, there was a tornado that touched down in the park overnight while the bikes were in transition.  Yes, that was definitely in the back of my head.

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Race day started bright and early as we all needed to board a school bus to be shuttled to the swim venue.  We were able to park in 2 different locations.  I picked the one closest to T2 since I would  need to get my bike & all my gear (sans transition bag) back to my car solo.  My parking area was about 0.6 mi from Selby Stadium.

Good news was delivered via Facebook right before we boarded the shuttle. Wetsuit legal!  We boarded buses.  As soon as a bus was full, it would leave.  Lots of buses.  I didn’t have to wait at all.  Easy ride to the venue.  We were dropped near transition.   Went thru body marking.  Then finally had access to our bikes again.  Everything looked fine, just damp with dew.  Biggest challenge was pumping tires when we couldn’t carry in a pump unless someone we knew could carry it back out for us.  We were not returning to T1 after we left on our bikes & there wasn’t room in our bike bags for an air pump.  Luckily, someone loved the lady beside me & she had her tire pump in transition.  She was kind enough to share with me!  Much appreciated!

I set up my spot and prepared my bike bag for when I returned for the swim.  Everything from our swim needed to go INSIDE our bike bag & then volunteers collected the bags & transported our swim & morning stuff to the T2 area for us to retrieve after the race.  Quick picture with Laura before we left our phones in the bike bag.  Then out of transition by 6:45a when it closed.

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Our swim waves were at 8:04 & 8:08a.  Long wait.  I was definitely stiff, tired & ready by the time my wave went off.  The lake water the day before was a bit choppy but smooth by race morning.  We waded into the water & treaded water as we waited for the start.  4 minutes between waves.  Seemed like we swam somewhat parallel to shore to start but according to the map, we swam in a triangle.  First segment to the red turn buoy was 500m, then a long 800m stretch into the sun.  I don’t think any of us would have hit those last 2 buoys on the long side without help from the guards.  The sun was in our eyes & we could see buoys over on the other side but not the ones “in front” of us.  I kept hearing the guards yell, “swim right, swim right”.  Finally we made it to the final turn buoy for a 600m kick to shore.  It was kinda carnage. We could see again but the course narrowed, basically there were more swimmers & the guards were in closer to the buoys so it seemed like we didn’t have much room to swim.  The people in front of us who were struggling were just lounging, kinda stopped in the water.  Or going very slow.  The people behind us were trying to swim over us to get out of the water.  I got smacked in the head & my goggles were dislodged but I didn’t lose them.  The gentleman was very nice about it but I couldn’t get my goggles to reseal after that.  Oh well, just keep swimming, right?

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Finally out of the water.  Almost an identical swim split as Muncie even though I felt like I did better.  It seems like the harder I try and the MORE I want to do better, the slower I go.  Is that even possible?   The mysteries of the swim elude me!

On the bike.  Splitting headache & nausea the first 22 miles.  Maybe that guy hit me harder than I thought?   After some ibuprofen & pepto, I was good to go, just in time to turn out of the wind.  Smile   First half of the course was super easy, very few turns.  Good roads & we were frequently separated from the cars by traffic cones.  Last 20+ miles had a lot more turns & the “where are we going now” feeling.  I wouldn’t call this a particularly fast course because of the number of turns toward the end.  And the roads were open.  So we had cars to deal with the majority of the time.  There were several times that the riders were having to wait on cars, or a car would pass us, then have to slow because they couldn’t get around the next group of riders and we’d have to brake to keep from running into the cars in front of us.  Traffic got increasing more congested as we were nearing town for T2.  So as we were navigating the course & all the turns at the end, we were also fighting real traffic.  Very unsafe at times.

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Hit the ground running at the dismount line, onto the track around the football field, onto the astro turf for transition. HOT.  The astro turf was burning hot on my bare feet.  I fortunately wasn’t too far into the rack for T2.  So I grabbed my run bag (that had been sitting since the previous day) & realized that my shoes were burning hot too.  Fun.  It was upper 80s probably by the time we got off the bike.  Quick T2 cuz well, I wanted to get away from the astro turf.

Onto the run.  Two loops.  Still hot.  Some breeze.  Some shade.  A few nice people who brought out water to spray on us or splash us.  One spot where kids with giant water guns were having fun spraying us.  However, the aid stations weren’t as prepared for the heat as most IM events which I have done in the past.  There was ice in maybe 3 or 4 spots over the 13.1 miles.  What little ice they did have would go fast & I didn’t get any on the second loop until I was headed back to the stadium with about a mile to go.  It made me feel really bad for those behind me.

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Great volunteers on the run course.  No vehicular traffic that I remember.  Varied elevation but mostly flat with a few small hills.

Finish.  The sweet finish.  We ran back into Selby Stadium.  Did a partial lap around the track & we were done.  Yes!!!  Nice finish.  I went to pick up my morning/bike bag.  Hands were full!  Then I went to the food tent.  They were grilling hamburgers & chicken but it was gone when I got there & they were waiting for more.  I didn’t feel like waiting.  Went to T2 to get my bike & the rest of my gear.  Quite the balancing act getting the bike & all the gear back to the car without my transition bag.  If I had thought about it, I should have left my transition bag inside my run bag so it was there when I was ready to pack everything up at the end of the race!  Or maybe another backpack.  That would have been helpful.

Overall a good race.  Nice venue at OH Wesleyan. The two transition locations was not ideal for me but I still enjoyed the race.  Volunteers, police & spectators were great as usual.  Plenty of SWAG, pictured below.

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Thanks to Delaware OH for letting us invade your town.  Great hospitality.

** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Ironman 70.3 Muncie – 2017 Edition

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Saturday brought the 2017 edition of the Ironman 70.3 Muncie event in Muncie, IN.   My third time participating.  I must say I’m not even sure why I signed up because my first and second experiences at Muncie were less than stellar (torn tendon in my foot in 2012 & ruptured discs in my back + a broken bike in 2016).  But several of my friends were going.  Peer pressure?  No.  Its just more fun to race with friends.  So I signed up with mixed emotions.  Spoiler Alert:  Muncie delivered a good race for all of us!

Muncie is a Saturday event.  So we went down Friday afternoon to get our packets.  It rained the entire drive.  Some thunder.  Some lightening.  Lots of rain.  We got to the venue.  It was REALLY muddy but not raining.  We parked pretty far away and hiked in so that I had a chance of not getting stuck.  Quick check of the water to see that the buoys were out and the water was calm.  Pretty normal for Muncie.  The swim is in the Prairie Creek Reservoir, so warm water without much chop is the norm.

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Packet pickup was smooth & easy, as are all Ironman events that I’ve ever done.  Packet, check.  Event bag, check. Race shirt, check. Activate chip, check.  Then we hit the mandatory pre-race meeting and had a hard time paying attention because the skies were turning black and a new storm was rolling into the venue.  We ended up cutting the meeting short & hiking back to the car, just in time to pull out as the thundering rains came down.  Rain.  Thunder.  Lightening.  Hail.  Downed trees.  Tornado sirens.  This went on for hours & Ironman ended up shutting down packet pick with a  plan to resume early before the race start on Saturday morning.

Opening packet pick up early, really affected all of us, not just those who didn’t have their packets.  Although transition didn’t open until 5a, they were opening the venue at 4a for packet pick-up.  Since the venue was really muddy before the big storm on Friday night, there was an extra level of anxiety for some of us, okay ME, that we would struggle with parking and/or get stuck getting parked or getting out to go home!  Although many people did get stuck on Saturday morning, the boy scouts were helping push people out.  And we parked further back, where there was less traffic and we got in pretty easily on race morning.

Transition closed at 6:45 since the first swim wave started at 7a.  We left our shoes, grabbed our swim gear and wetsuits.  The bonus of a stormy Friday was wetsuit legal temps on race day!  First workout of the day, wiggling into our wetsuits!  Then my wave took off at 7:45a.  Get ready to swim, bike & run!!!

Swim started with five minutes between each wave.  But it was a madhouse as usual.  128 ladies in my division/swim wave.   I was pretty much right in the thick of it when I would have preferred to be swimming alone.  I breathe bilaterally, which works in my favor cuz I can see who is trying to beat the crap out of me on both sides.  I’m not a fast swimmer but I can swim a long time.  I don’t need to start at the front but if I start too far back, I get trapped.  Placing myself in the swim is never fun and I never seem to put myself in the right spot.  I held my own with the fist swimming ladies in my age group.  Let the fasties go, and we started swimming up on the wave in front of us pretty quickly.  That’s when things get dicey.  We got to them about the same time the fasties in the age group behind us got to us.  Lots of extra traffic.  But I was just swimming from buoy to buoy & looking at all the kayaker lifeguards to see if any of them were my friend Sheryl.  Didn’t see her.  Sad smile

Swim course was set up like an inverted triangle with 2 long sides and a short “leg” in between.

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As we swam around the second turn buoy, heading back to shore in the final leg of the swim, the sun was in our eyes.  So blinding.  I’ve done this race 2 other times but the sun seemed so much brighter this time.  I couldn’t see the buoys at all.  Had to stop several time to see if I was on track.  This last leg should have been where I picked it up but I didn’t since I couldn’t see.  In fact, I was so blinded that about half way thru that final leg, I swam up on a gentlemen from one of the waves in front of me.  Scared the poo out of me.  I froze, popped my head up & apologized.  Well, I must have really tightened up when I hit him because my left calf cramped  & I was dead in the water.  Quite literally.  Clutching my cramped calf in one hand, trying to swim with one hand out of the way of all the bazillion swimmers who were fighting to get around me once I stopped.  Not fun.  I couldn’t get the cramp to pass & was trying to massage it in the water.  Hundreds of people passed me as I was sidelined & then I was eventually able to start swimming again & get out of the water.  Yes!  Victory.  Back on land.  Better yet, there were wetsuit strippers!!  Life savers because with my back in its current state of disrepair, I really struggle getting out of my wetsuit.   Super thankful for the lady that helped me & helped pull me back up off the ground since I was struggling there too!

Muddy run/walk up to transition.  Found my bike.  My friend Sara got out of water at the same time as me and was particularly speedy.  I felt dull in transition, like I didn’t know what to do.  How many times have I done this?!?!?.  Put down my swim stuff. Thanked the Big Man (once again) for my end spot in transition. Put on my bike glasses.  Sprayed myself with sunscreen, put on bike shoes.  Grabbed my helmet.  Started to open a bottle of water but realized I would have plenty of time to drink on the bike.  Go, Go, Go!!  And Sara zipped by me at this point as I was getting my bike off the rack.  Side note:  I always struggle getting my bike off the rack because my bike is so much bigger than most.  I have to tilt it sideways to get it in and out and be careful to not mess up anyone else’s transition area.  I also have to be careful  to not lose my nutrition in the process.  Not graceful.  Not fast. But at last I’m rolling.

Jogging out of T1 with my bike, hop over the giant river of mud to the road, roll to the Mount Line.  Hoping there isn’t a lot of mud stuck in my bike cleats to prevent them from clipping.  Finally I’m clipped in and rolling.  Slowly.  Everyone is flying past me.  My legs feel heavy.  I wonder what the day will bring and if my legs will shake out.  I’ve felt nothing but heavy & fatigued on the bike for about a year now.    Ever since I ruptured 2 discs in my back last summer.  But recently, I had been feeling better.  Then I had 2 really bad rides the week of the race after vacation.  Maybe I’m not getting better?  Maybe it was wishful thinking?  Hmmmm, only time will tell.

Rolling.  I knew I had about 6 miles of rougher type roads before we hit the main drag where we would loop 2x.  I just settled in, took in some Tailwind for calories & tried to relax.  The work would start on the main drag & I felt like it wasn’t worth wasting too much energy hitting it too hard before the road smoothed out.

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Once I hit US 35, the main drag, there was new pavement, spectators & other riders hitting it hard.  Relatively flat course with a few rollers.  Total of 1021 ft of elevation gain for entire bike course.  First section on 35 before the turnaround was from mile 6-17.  I wasn’t really sure how far it was to the turn around (rookie mistake!!) and I thought the wind was at my back but I wasn’t sure about that either.  I should have been pushing way harder in this section but I was still riding pretty easy.  Once I hit the turnaround, somewhere after mile 17, I started looking for my friends, fighting the wind & figuring out my strategy.  Yeah, a little late, right?  Miles 17-28ish.  Into the wind.  Hit the turnaround for the final loop around mile 28 & then I put the hammer down.  My legs had come back.  Like many endurance athletes, the beginning of a run or ride may be yucky but the body knows what’s up and will eventually get on board, once it warms up.  Just takes me awhile!  So I pushed a lot harder on the second loop and passed some people.  I grabbed water at every aid station.  As always, the volunteers at the bike aid stations impress the heck out of me.  They are smart, pay attention to the riders & deliver into my hand whatever I call for as I’m approaching.  Great job, volunteers!!!  Thank you!!!

I was hoping to get my bike split back under 3 hours but I started too slow to make it happen.  Decent bike though & the best bike split I’ve had in over a year so I was happy  and know what to do for next time.  No back pain during the bike!  HUGE win!!!

Transition 2, back to my lovely end spot.  So lucky!!  Tilted my bike to get it under the rack.  No need to worry about losing my nutrition and my rackmate wasn’t back yet so I didn’t need to worry about disrupting her bike/gear.  Shoes. Sunscreen.  Visor.  Race belt.  Go, go, go!   I left T2 in a jog.  A jog is about all I’ve got these days regardless if I want to go fast or slow.  So away I went in my one and only gear.  Slow.

I was looking forward to the first aid station on this run.  Last year they had a water hose & were spraying people down.  I saved my “thank a volunteer” bracelet for whoever was on the other end of that water hose.  It was heating up.  Probably close to 80 by the time I got to the run.  The temps were cooler than normal for Muncie but still hot for me.  I knew the run course had some rolling hills.  Nothing too bad, only 161 ft of elevation gain, but one of the issues with my back is that nerve damage prevents me from raising my feet off the ground too far when I’m running, so hills are a challenge. Even little ones.  My plan was to just keep moving, regardless of the pace.  Just keep moving.

Course was an out & back.  Aid stations & potties about every mile.  Closed course.  Lots of spectators.  Decent roads.  Some shade.  Slight breeze at times.

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I love a good out & back course because I get to see my friends.  Racing is about challenging myself, staying motivated to push my limits, & the friends I meet along the way.  An out & back lets me see those friends who are racing with me!  Yay!

The finish eventually presented itself. Finish Line = Pure Joy!   It was a good day of racing for me & the people I knew who went to Muncie.  Bonus, the wind that slowed us a bit on the bike, and cooled us a bit on the run, also dried up a lot of the mud so we could get out of our parking spots.  Yes!

Shout out to my bestie, Julie M.  She completed her first half ironman only 5 weeks after her first EVER triathlon.  Racing with this chick makes things fun.  So happy she drank the Triathlon Koolaid!

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Shout out to FNA Bicycles.  They hooked me up with a badass Felt bike this year.  I had to save my pennies for a long time for this bike but it was worth it.  The geometry on this bike is so much better for my body.  And the electronic shifting ….. worth the $$.  It still amazes me that when I shift, even under a load, everything just moves.  So nice to have equipment that works!

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Lastly, thumbs up for Muncie.  They continue to deliver a great race, year after year.  Amazing volunteers.  Great venue.  Best post race food in the Midwest on the IM 70.3 circuit.  If you are looking for a race that is good for beginners & experienced racers alike, Muncie might be for you.  It is in the middle of nowhere but its worth the trip.  Expect a non-wetsuit legal swim, flat bike with a few rollers, and a hot/humid run with some hills.  And the SWAG is below.  Cute bag, cute gender specific shirt & I’m loving the medal this year!

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Next up, Ironman 70.3 Ohio – 7/30/17.

** Give It a TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Race Review – 2016

It’s no secret that Ironman 70.3 Steelhead is one of my favorites.  In fact, I’ll sign up for 2017 as soon as the event opens for registration.  Its “my” race.  Its in a familiar place.  I have friends in the area.  And I love Saint Joseph MI.  In fact, I raced this year, even though it was on my 17th wedding anniversary.  Oooops.  Sorry, honey.   Or I should say, thanks, honey. Smile

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Steelhead is set in a picturesque, beach town on the shores of Lake Michigan.  The venue is Jean Klock Park which has a Benton Harbor address, just one mile north of Saint Joseph, MI.  The views are breathtaking and the park is public so you can go visit anytime.  Take a swim in Lake MI.  Ride the marked bike route.  Go for a little run.  Fun!!

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I arrived at Jean Klock Park for packet pick up on Saturday morning around 11am.  It had stormed on me the entire 2.5 hours that I spent driving to the location.  The sun was out on the shores of Lake MI but “something” definitely hung in the air.  It was hot.  The wind was blowing.  And the waves were rolling.  Looks like a perfect day at the beach but not perfect enough for me to rack my bike.  I have been having issues with my bike all season, the gearing & derailleur, no need to leave it out in the weather overnight in less than ideal conditions.

I quickly grabbed my packet, which isn’t as quick at an IM event as you might think. They are very organized but there is a process of checking identity, updating information & walking thru the various stations for bib/swim cap, shirt, & chip that takes a bit more time than a normal packet pick-up.  Fortunately, I got thru just in time for one of the pre-race meetings.

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Always fun.  Nothing had really changed from last year course wise, just a few rule changes.  But then they dropped the big bomb that the water temp was almost to the point of being too high for wetsuits.  Since it was a very warm day, we should stay tuned for a last minute call on if the race would be wetsuit legal.  Honestly, I didn’t think much of it.  The swim is in Lake MI and I’m pretty sure it’s never NOT been wetsuit legal.  The water stays pretty cool, even in the summer.  Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.

Packet picked up.  Race meeting attended.  Walked thru the expo quickly.  Bought some TriSlide ….. cuz that’s the way to make sure you can definitely wear your wetsuit, have extra lube so you can get into it!!  Found my spot in transition for reference.  Off to check into Hotel de Jude (not a real hotel in St Joseph – I always stay with a friend).

As the rest of the crew started filtering into Hotel de Jude, the air was light.  Most of us were on a repeat trip to Steelhead and knew what to expect.  We went about our business of cooking dinner, getting bikes ready for race day (cuz nobody from our group actually racked their bike), prepping nutrition & focusing on last minute rehab.  I’m thankful for friends who have all the cool toys that I can’t afford and I took full advantage.  Normatec Recovery Boots?  Yes, please!  Ed modeling his boots, I’m using Ryan’s.  Thanks, Ryan.  If they go missing, it wasn’t me.  I swear.  Smile  Super compression from the toes to the hip.  I’m in love.

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Left my legs looking very “compressed” and super scary!  IMG_0664

Car buffer to rub out sore muscles.  I can afford that, $30 at Home Depot & I’ll be getting one soon!  There are also high tech muscle “massagers” that are more official for a much bigger price tag.  But this is essentially the same thing and much more affordable in my world.  Weird sensation!

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I was all in on the recovery front.  As a little background, I had spent the week hitting up the chiro and the massage therapist trying to bring my legs back from the dead.  The Chiro has figured out that due to some low back damage from my college years, then a fresh round of irritation this summer, my low back muscles are not firing properly.  My glutes aren’t working.  As a result my quads are overworked and apparently underpaid cuz they are revolting.  They are dead all the time.  It is a struggle to even climb the stairs at home.  When I get on the bike, all that is magnified and basically I’ve got zero power on the bike,  despite better training and better nutrition.  So, it is what it is and I have exercises to help correct the issue but it’s a slow process.  I was hoping to have a great race at Steelhead so invested some extra time & $$ into recovery.  Did it work?!?!?

Race day is always early.  The crew was up by 3am.  Pre-race prep and we had to put Hotel de Jude back to its original state of perfectness.  Off to the race site by 4:15am for a long day.  We were rolling our bikes into the venue when we heard the announcement.  Water temp was 77+degrees.  NOT wetsuit legal, the cap for wetsuits at IM races is 76.1 degrees.  The news did not hit the crowd well.  In fact, I wasn’t real happy either and I know I can swim the distance without a wetsuit.  It’s the waves.  The up and down of the waves that slow us “recreational” swimmers.  We don’t cut thru the waves but rather ride them up and down.  The wetsuits help our buoyancy, confidence & swim split.  But not at Steelhead 2016.  No wetsuits.

Transition set up quickly.  Then we wait.  Donna, myself & Wendy waiting for transition to close at 6:45a and the race to begin at 7a.

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IM races always start on time.  The three of us (above) were in the 40-44 category and our wave started at 7:24 am.  The other ladies warmed up with a quick swim, I just stood on the beach socializing, awaiting my wave start.  Lots of nervous people on race morning.  The normal nerves were intensified by the “no wetsuit” call.  I spoke to several people who had never swam without a wetsuit.  Some who were so nervous they couldn’t hardly even speak.  I felt bad for them and still wonder on how they did.  I’m hoping once they got into the water, they just got down to business.  The 1.2 mile swim course is very user friendly.  5 yellow buoys out, red turn buoy, 3 more yellow buoys, then 3 orange buoys (once you hit the orange buoys you’re half way), then a red turn buoy, then 5 more orange buoys to the beach.  The swim was not easy but I’ve had worse.  I’m not a fast swimmer even with the wetsuit so I was happy to see my swim split of 55 minutes once I got out of the water.  That’s a decent swim for me, especially without a wetsuit & considering the rolling waves.  The waves were rolling so high that spotting was difficult.  Normally I don’t have to lift my head real high to see the next buoy but I wasn’t timing my siting correctly and each time I lifted to site, I could only see the wall of the next wave coming at me.  Oh well, I just tried to be patient and focus on the next buoy.  Just keep swimming, right?  Made it out of the water with a smile on my face.  Saw Valerie who had VIP access right next to the swim exit & she captured my happy exit from the water.  Yay!  Thanks!

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On to the bike and the real test as to if my attempt at recovery did any good.  I knew within the first mile that it was going to be a long bike.  I had 56 miles in front of me.  And my quads felt horrible, very fatigued, just like every other day for the last 3 months.  I’ll be honest, I was scared.  I keep getting slower & slower with every race and I just didn’t want to have bad race at Steelhead when I love the race so much.  Took me a minute to think but I basically had a realization.  I remembered something that someone told me when I first started riding.  They said, “when your legs get tired, pull UP on your pedals instead of pushing down”.  So I refocused my efforts on pulling up vs pushing down and I had an instant turnaround in power output.  I wasn’t able to harness as much power as last year, or the accompanying speed, but I did well with the new pedal stroke.  This used different muscles and pulled power from my hamstrings vs my tired quads.  Worked for me!  3:04 for the bike, 18.1 mph average.  Best I’ve had all year and in case you were wondering, my gears did fail.  I only had big gears.  The shifter on the left side slid out in my hand within the first few miles.  So I didn’t bother trying to use it, for fear of breaking down.  I just used the big gears, pounded down the hills as quickly as I could, rode the wave of the up as long as possible, then I stood up from the saddle and rode the remainder of the hill when things got tough.  I’m always willing to improvise to avoid catastrophe.  Side note – Felt send new shifters for me, so I’m hoping the next couple weeks of training (and REV3 Cedar Point 70.3) will go more smoothly.

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I want to toss out a huge thank you to the bike aid station volunteers.  They always impress me so much.  They are very attentive.  We call out what they want, then they basically hold steady so we can grab water/gatorade/banana/gel, etc.  Or they run with us for a second to help us connect with what we need.  Nerves of steel!  Thank you for being brave and so attentive.

Pro Tip:  Do NOT pass someone 2 seconds before an aid station on the bike.  This goes double if you plan to STOP at said aid station to get something from the very first volunteer, after cutting in front of me someone 2 seconds prior to stopping.  The way the  aid stations work, there is always spillage from water & gatorade bottles.  The ground is wet.  I had to lock up my brakes at the very first aid station in an attempt to not hit a person who passed me, then stopped immediately.  I didn’t crash.  I didn’t hit him.  But I’m quite confident the scenario could have easily gone a different way.  I’ve been riding for a long time.  There are a lot of people out on the course who are less experienced.  We got lucky.  Our race could have easily been over at mile 15 of the bike course.  Thankfully, luck was on our side.

Bike aid stations – 3 – every 15 miles on the one loop, 56 mile bike course.  Great layout.  Great volunteers.  Potties, food, fluids.  Smooth roads the majority of the race.  Well marked course (that is marked year round).

Run course – 2 loops – a couple decent hills.  Aid stations every mile.  Varying terrain, we even get to run some of the trails behind the Whirlpool Center!  So cool!!!  By the time we got to the run, it was really heating up.  I definitely struggled but just focused on getting from aid station to aid station.  Then I made sure to hydrate, take ice & just stay calm.  Good run considering the heat.  2:23 for the 13.1 miles.

Finish was 6:31.  That’s 7 minutes slower than last year but to be honest, it felt like a huge win.  I haven’t had a decent TRI all year.  I’ve been fighting the good fight and focusing on getting thru the races to which I committed, but it’s been rough.  Overall, the TRI Gods came thru for me and delivered a better race than I could have hoped for and I’m very grateful.

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SWAG – Cuz that’s what everyone wants to know, is great.  IM does some of the best swag in the business.  They went kinda cheap last year with the backpacks and the same shirt for every event.  However, I think we all let them know that we were unhappy in our post race surveys.  This year, the swag improved considerably.  Different shirts for each race and the backpacks had the name of the event vs just a generic IM 70.3 logo.  Yay!

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Overall, a great race.  I love it.  I definitely hope to make a repeat visit next year.  Here is my 2015 race report, if you want more info on IM 70.3 Steelhead.

** Happy TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ironman 70.3 Muncie – 2016

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Last weekend was Ironman 70.3 Muncie.  Close to home, within 2 hours of where I currently live in NE Indiana.  2016 is my second appearance at this event, the first time in 2012 just after I tore a tendon in my foot.  That year, I showed up to swim & bike, then I took a DNF since I couldn’t run.  This year, my only goal was a finish.  Little did I know, that’s all the cards had in store for me.

Packet pick-up was at the race site this year verses the convention center like it was in 2012.  Loved it!  The race is kinda “out of the way” at Prairie Creek Reservoir.  Definitely not a venue that you’ll stumble across unless you have Google maps loaded!   It was nice to see the venue in the day light.  I immediately noticed that the water looked calm & clean, despite the wind.  I also noticed the site was much better groomed than it was in 2012.   No pesky rocks this year.  Lots of nice grassy areas.  Clean beach.  Yay!!!

I arrived at the venue after 5pm because I was waiting for as long as possible to leave home so the kids didn’t kill each other weren’t home alone too long before hubby got home from work.  I’m so bad about looking at the event schedule.  And the last pre-race meeting was at 5pm.  I realized this as I was picking up my packet.  Good news, packet pick-up was fast since everyone else had already been thru and I was on to the meeting very quickly.  Cool SWAG this year.  Ironman 70.3 Muncie backpack & gender specific tee, plus we got a Cliff Bar.  This year they put the race specific logo on the bag & I really liked that.  The last several years, IM has given out generic bags that just say “Ironman 70.3”.  They in turn give that for each 70.3 event.  So if you do multiple 70.3 events, you get the exact same bag for each race.  Boring.  Happy to see the change for this year.

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Race day started early.  Transition opened at 5am.  Transition closed at 6:45am for a 7am start.  I was concerned about parking so got to the reservoir pretty close to 5am and was happy I had cuz parking filled up very quickly.  Set up transition quickly but it was still visibly dark.  And visibly chaotic.

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Hit the potties & was surprised that it looked like there were only about 20 potties for approximately 2200 athletes (and their families/friends).  The lines were long.  Like really long.  Fortunately, I was there early enough to wait thru that line 2x.  Hydrate much?

Race started at 7am.  My wave started at 7:59am.  I believe there were 5 minutes between waves this year, which was a little better than the 3 minutes from when I participated in 2012.  This event was not wetsuit legal, the water temp on race day was between 77 & 78 degrees, which is typical for this event.  USAT rules do not allow wetsuits when water temps are greater than 76.1 degrees.   No wetsuit, no problem.  I must say, I was calm.  I’m not a fast swimmer but I can swim for a long time.  Like Dory, I “Just Keep Swimming”.  Once in the water, it seemed cool & refreshing.  Not much turbulence.  I always start toward the back of my wave (cuz that’s where I finish the swim) and always get jammed up in the beginning.  I may be slow but its inevitable that the breast strokers start ahead of me and I have to figure out a way to get around them.  I felt strong on the swim.  I was focused, stayed on course, pulled thru my stroke. I didn’t have the moments of panic that have visited in the past.  It was difficult heading into shore on the last 1/3 of the course cuz the sun was in our eyes and I just couldn’t see the buoys in front of me.  That resulted in me spending too much time checking my position but overall, I was happy with the swim and hoping my time would show as much.  It didn’t.  50:30 swim for 1.2 miles.  I was hoping for 45 minutes but overall happy cuz I was comfortable in the water and in my opinion that’s a win!!

On to the bike!  As I moved into transition, I forgot about the swim and started focusing on the bike.  I was really hoping for a good bike split.  My last 70.3 at Cutting Edge in June had a slow bike split and I was hoping that was a result of 1)  the high temps and 2) still being fatigued from my double marathon weekend at the beginning of May.  I spent a lot of time resting in June, plus the temps at Muncie were much milder (70s & 80s).  So I and hoping my time would show as much.  It didn’t.  I couldn’t get any power/speed.  I wasn’t fatigued per say.  I was well fueled (thank you Tailwind Nutrition!!!).  I was hydrated.  I just couldn’t get any speed.  Why?!?!?  No idea.  I’m not going to lie, I was frustrated out there.  But I did see Sharon S. out on course & that probably the bright spot in my bike!  She got the first pic below.  Second pic was from an Ironman photog.  Great aid stations on the bike, every 15ish miles.  Food, water, Gatorade, gels, & potties.  It always amazes me how steady & brave the bike aid station volunteers are to hold out the water or Gatorade so we can grab it as we zoom past.  Smile

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Then my bike broke.  Initially, I thought the chain had just popped off, which was odd cuz that had never happened in the 3.5 years I’ve had this bike.  But it wasn’t just that.  My derailleur was also broken and my chain was jammed behind the brakes.  It was stuck.  Nothing I could fix roadside.  At that point, I kinda laughed to be honest.  I was already 38 miles into a poor bike split.  I figured, if the bike is going to break, I was super thankful it broke on  day when I was already having a subpar performance!!  Then immediately, my thoughts went to “OMGosh, am I going to have to DNF this race AGAIN (like in 2012)?”  Thankfully, I did not have to DNF.  Ironman SAG support came rolling up after a short while.  It took the dude a minute to figure out the problem, then he pulled out a giant wrench.  He removed the crank arms that held on the chain ring so he could get to the chain.  Fixed the chain, adjusted the broken derailleur and told me to take it easy and not shift much as I limped back to transition.  That did the trick to get me back to transition!  And my bike has been in the shop since Tuesday awaiting a new derailleur.  Hoping to pick it up tomorrow.  Anyhow, slow for me bike split:  3:40:39.  I was hoping to go under 3 hours but I was WAY off that before I broke.  I’m guessing that SAG found & fixed me within 20 minutes of the break, which is AWESOME.  I could have been there for an hour or more.  Thank you Ironman SAG!!

On to the run.  Smooth transition.  Sprayed down with sunscreen again.  Took off on the run.  I had heard the run was hilly.  That was accurate.  At this point, I had nothing to gain by trying to rush, so I took my time.  Didn’t stress about the hills.  Or the heat.  Just ran. Walked up the bigger hills Walked thru aid stations, which were every mile apart.  Lots of run support.  Great aid stations.  Lots of potties. I tried to enjoy it.  One loop run which is unusual for IM 70.3 courses.  It was good.  Got to the turnaround and cruised back at whatever pace I could manage without pushing. Run Split:  2:31:32.

Total time:  7:09:20.  Not where I was hoping to be but hey, a finish is a finish.  My goal for the year is to go under 6 hours for the 70.3 distance.  If I don’t figure out how to freshen up these legs & find my power on the bike, that goal is going to be impossible.  I’m also having issues with my saddle this year.  I’ve swapped it out 3x already and just can not get comfortable (I’m flat out miserable).  UGH.  Hoping to get everything dialed in by Steelhead so I can make an honest attempt at the sub 6 hour finish.  Only time will tell if that’s a realistic goal (for this year) but I’m focusing on me this month.  Nutrition.  Rest.  Chiropractor.  And I’m going to get a massage the week before Steelhead to try to flush out any nastiness from my legs pre-race.  I must say, I was frustrated Saturday after my finish.  It was not the race I envisioned but honestly, there are so many people who would give anything to be out there just DOING something, that I must thank my lucky stars for my health, my motivation and the constant drive to keep moving, even when life isn’t perfect.  And who has a perfect life?  I, of course, have a lot to focus on other than my fitness but I continue to make fitness a priority while simultaneously managing the family, work and life.  So that’s a WIN in my book.  And the finisher medal to prove it.

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** Keep TRIing, Even When Things Aren’t Going YOUR Way ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ironman 70.3 Steelhead Race Report

As I previously mentioned, life around the TTF household has been slightly chaotic thus the lack of a timely race report.  In fact, it’s been down right stressful!  But we keep on keeping on, right?  Yes!  So I showed up for Ironman 70.3 Steelhead overweight, undertrained but ready to tackle whatever the day tossed at me.  Remember, I do this for fun.  I run, train, TRI as a stress reliever and for a little bit of “me time” amongst the chaos.  Total bonus is when I get to spend time with friends.  Aby and Julie M were my race weekend support crew and we rolled into Saint Joseph & Benton Harbor MI with smiles on our faces!

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We hit packet pick up, listened to the pre-race meeting, figured out the new swim course, racked my bike and hit the expo while Aby constantly reminded us that she just wanted to go to the beachIMG_7760

There is something final about leaving your bike in transition.  Most of us are on our second or even third or more bike.  We started at the bottom with a low level road bike and worked our way up.  We have an emotional attachment to our bike that is hard for people who do not ride to understand.   Most of my friends actually have a name for their bike, I do not.  But I still love it.  And I spend a lot of time with it.  And it never sasses me or talks back.  Smile  So I bid my bike farewell and it sits in transition, awaiting my return and trying to soak up the calm before the chaos of race day begins.

When I return it is race morning.  It’s full on chaos.  Transition is packed.  It’s still dark.  Trying to set up transition in the dark, with 2499 of our new friends, just begs for things to be forgotten at the bottom of the transition bag!  But we are finally set up and started inching our wetsuits on for the swim start.   Wendy, myself & Judy getting ready to head to the beach for our 1.2 mile swim!

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Swim waves went out in 4 minute increments.  Judy was in the first wave at 7:00 am and Wendy and I were 12 minutes behind at 7:12am.  There was a last minute change to the swim course to keep the swim start & finish close together on the beach.  The change resulted in us having to swim further out into the mammoth body of water known as Lake Michigan.  What Lake MI delivers on a given day is just a surprise so I was ready for the worst like IM 70.3 Racine in 2013 and hoped for the best.  New course:

Steelhead Swim

Water was calm at the start!  Yes!  But the course wasn’t as nice as the pretty picture above.  We were swimming at an angle and it seemed like every buoy turned us a bit and we had to reposition.  It wasn’t as easy as it appears, plus I felt VERY crowded in the water, both by the ladies in my wave, as well as the fast swimmers behind me.  It took me a good 3 buoys to get myself together and just do my own thing but then as soon as I’d get in a groove I’d have a swimmer in front of me swimming perpendicular to me.  I need to be more aggressive in the water but I’m not at this point.  Swimming is the easy part of the TRI and I don’t really rush.  When someone is swimming the wrong way in front of me, I stop and let them clear my path.  Doesn’t make for a very speedy swim but keeps me comfortable.  Something I need to work on for the future!  Anyhow, I finally navigate the swim course, it was marked well and easy to follow.  No clock when I got out of the water, which was odd, but I could make out the start line clock, that read 8:00 am real time.  That put me in the water for 48 minutes and I was happy with that considering my lack of swim training.  However, Ironman clocked me at 55 minutes via my chip so I’m not sure how I messed that up.  Or why I was in the water so long because overall the swim was decent, I wasn’t panicky, there were some rolling waves out on the back side of the course but nothing too crazy.  I kept moving but yes, I did stop numerous times to avoid “random” swimmers.  But it was a beautiful day and I kinda enjoyed the cool, crisp, clear water.

IMG_7767

No wetsuit strippers but I managed to get unzipped and unsuited.  On to the bike!  The bike as you know, can make or break you and is the longest segment of any triathlon.  This race is a half ironman, AKA 70.3 race, where all the mileage equals 70.3 miles at the end of the day.  1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike & 13.1 mile run.  I had been having bike issues most of the season.  Issues with my shifters.  Issues with getting out for longer rides.  Too many issues.  I really had no idea what I could do on the bike so the plan here was to hold back on the first half, eat, drink and relax.  Get thru the nasty/bumpy section of bad road, then try to be somewhat “fresh” for the last half and all those uphill sections (which suck the wind and energy right out of me).  One loop course, which is my preference.  I hit the half way mark (28 miles) right at 1 hour 30 minutes and vaguely remember thinking, “wow, if you keep this pace, you might break 3 hours”.  But then I dismissed the thought immediately because I knew that there were some nasty uphill sections to come.  I really didn’t have much of a strategy.  As I’ve said, I’m super bad riding uphill, I was down into single digits so many times, 9mph was very common.  But I USED the downhill.  No matter how tired I was when I got up the hill, I was ready to rush the down.  And I did that to the best of my ability. At the end of the ride, when my butt hurt so bad I wanted to toss my bike I was tired, that’s what held me together, crushing the downhill.  Then eventually the thought that just possibly, if I kept pushing, I might, just might break 3 hours on the bike.  And I did.  2 hours 59 minutes on the bike.  HUGE triumph for me after a summer (full year really) of trials and tribulations.  Happy girl.

IM Steelhead_bike

After a phenomenal (for me) bike, I hit the run.  I hadn’t done one brick all season and my legs had trouble spinning off the bike.  Took about 3 miles to get in my groove.  Course had two run loops.  There were 3 big hills on the first loop.  2 on the second.  I walked the entirety of each hill.  I also walked thru each of the aid stations and made sure that I got enough fluids, ice and refueled with coke and small bites of banana.  Run went well.  I wasn’t dead but not speedy.  I thought I’d run a 2:15 but at the end of the day I was at 2:21 with the walking.  It was a good day.  We had cloud cover, which was  a HUGE help (especially to those who melt in the heat, like me).  Temps were in the high 70s at the finish (78 degrees).  It was a bit sticky with humidity but manageable thanks to the clouds.

IM Steelhead_Finish2  IMG_7773  IMG_7791

I’ve now participated in all 3 Midwest Ironman 70.3 events.  Muncie in 2012, where I took a DNF due to a torn tendon in my foot (race was also downgraded to Olympic distance due to extreme heat – 108 degrees).   Racine in 2013 where the monster waves and bumpy roads stole the show.  And now Steelhead.  There were things I liked about each of these events.  The bike course at Muncie was FUN and the hills seemed manageable.  Not too steep but big enough to produce some speed.  The run in Racine was beautiful with scenic views of Lake Michigan.  But Steelhead was different.  It felt like home.  My family goes up to Saint Joseph MI on occasion for day or weekend trips, year round.  My friends Judy & Julie M both have “cabins” within a reasonable distance of the race site.  In fact, we actually went up and I was able to ride the course once before race day.  So, yes, it’s a big fancy race, but one that felt like it was on our home turf.  And there is no denying the home field advantage.  And that’s how this race felt, like I had an advantage cuz I knew where to hold back on the bike and where to push.  I really enjoyed Steelhead.  Great race.  Great volunteers.  Plenty of aid stations on the bike (3) and on the run (5 each loop).

In closing, I’ll address the full Ironman issue one more time.  I’m frequently asked “when” I’ll do a full ironman.  First, a full Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run) just isn’t for everyone, so it’s important to realize that it’s just not what some people call fun.  But for myself, I’ve been dreaming about the full distance since my first half in 2008.  Then I was blessed with a bouncing baby boy in 2009.  Baby boy is growing, CRAZY and is becoming more self sufficient each and every day.  In fact, he started kindergarten this year and will be turning 6 in just a couple weeks!!!

Aby & Michael - First Day of School - 2015

I think we are finally at the point where I could tackle it, IF I could justify spending the money to register.  In fact, I’ve been upgrading my equipment for years so that I’ll be ready when the time finally arrives.  However, the last year has brought us a lot of change and financial strain.  We have taken steps to rectify the problem (Hello, NONPAYING IL renters, I’m talking to you.).   Then, maybe, I can tackle the full ironman.  It’s something that I think about every day.  I even think about it when I should be sleeping.  It’s definitely “on the list” but I need to make sure that its something the family can endure in terms of time commitment to my training and also the $$ commitment of the registration fee and travel expenses.  Plus, I need to find a race that will NOT interfere with Aby’s Cross Country season.  So those are a few of the reasons as to why I’m not YET an IronWOman.  But I’ll get there and it will be all the sweeter when I do because I waited for the right moment.

just because

Keep Pushing For YOUR Dreams – Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ready Or Not ….. Ironman 70.3 Steelhead

I didn’t ride my bike or swim at all in 2014.  The move (packing, finding an IN house on a tight time table, finding renters for the IL house, and actually getting all of our stuff from the old house/barn to the new one) was quite a project.  I ran when I could but that was pretty infrequent too between April & September (2014).  When spring 2015 came around, I had a real itch to get out on my bike.  However, I wasn’t real familiar with all the roads in my new area.  Drivers here had ran me off the road while running more than once.  And I knew of 2 ladies who were hit and killed while riding their bikes in IL (different areas) early in the season.  I was a bit nervous about getting out on the road.  Actually, I was scared.

fear

I finally got my bike out after the local coffee shop, Jeremiah’s Brewed Awakenings, ran a promo for Bike Month in May.  I think the promo was that they would give a free coffee to anyone who completed 7 items on the bike month promo sheet.  I never did turn in my sheet but I did dust off my bike toward the end of the month and take it for a spin.  And I was a happy lady.  I started riding around my area.  Even found a couple good routes with a few hills.  Set my basement up for some marathon bike trainer sessions because I was  having trouble getting out the door between kids, work and Aby’s Cross Country schedule.  Signed up for Ironman 70.3 Steelhead.  And then my basement flooded with my bike trainer in it and all plans were halted.

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When there is a crisis at home, mom doesn’t leave to go ride her bike.  So all swimming and biking stopped with the basement flood.  It was emotional.  It was exhausting because we (hubby, kids & I) had to clear out and demo the basement.  Insurance didn’t help much at all.  In fact, it didn’t even help enough to pay for the replacement of our geothermal heat/air unit.  And when it rains it pours, right?  So it was at this exact same time that’s our IL renters decided they weren’t going to pay rent anymore.  Now our home is in a partial demo’d state with no heat/air.  Current basement pic below.

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We’re paying for 2 houses and an eviction lawsuit to try to get the renters (can I call them that if they aren’t paying???) out of our IL house.  Lot’s going on and not much to do with training or triathlon.  But over the last three weeks I’ve tried to get my shit together mentally & physically salvage my training because the IM registration fees are pretty high and am hoping for another 70.3 finish.

attitude is everything

I’ve only managed a couple swims but I’ve ridden numerous times, mostly 25 milers but I’ve been riding.

IMG_7699  IMG_7698  IMG_7662

I even took a day off work to go ride the Steelhead course with a few amazing athletes.

IMG_7661  group

We took a practice swim that really sucked in Lake Michigan but at least Laura N. was able to get my wetsuit zipped  This is a real win because of course, I’m now “a bit” heavier than the specs of the suit recommend.

IMG_7664  IMG_7665

So the good news is that I won’t drown because my wetsuit technically fits.  And I should be able to cover the 56 miles on the bike because I’ve trained for almost a full 3 weeks.  Smile  And well, I can run a half marathon.  So I guess I’m ready to do a half ironman!  Right?  Right!

So there it is, all laid out.  Steelhead, I’m coming.  Whether I’m “Ready or Not”.  I wasn’t going to win anyhow, so I’ll just keep ticking off the miles until the finish line is in sight.

success occurs

** I TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Ironman 70.3 Racine (2013) Race Report

As the evidence of a hard fought race fades away, race reports stand the test of time and are here for years to come.  For that very reason, I wanted the race to settle a bit before I began to talk about it.  This was my second Ironman brand event.  The first was last year in Muncie where I showed up with a torn tendon in my foot and full knowledge that I couldn’t run and would need to take a DNF.  In actuality, the weather did not cooperate and produced dangerously high temps resulting in the race being downgraded to Olympic distance but I still took the DNF since I couldn’t run.  Details of Ironman 70.3 Muncie 2012 are HERE if you are interested.

I didn’t care much for the venue in Muncie (although I loved the town) so I decided to try out Ironman 70.3 Racine this year.  The weather leading up to Racine was hot, Hot, HOT and I couldn’t help have a feeling of déjà vu.  However, as the weekend approached the winds picked up and things started to cool off!  I rolled into Racine on Saturday afternoon for packet pickup, athlete briefing and to get my bike into transition before the 5pm cutoff.  Not all triathlons, or even Ironman brand races, require you to rack your bike the day before but some do and if you’re not in by the time it closes, then just kiss your registration goodbye cuz you won’t be racing.

Packet Pick-up was organized and smooth, the “expo” had a few vendors and a large Ironman store to purchase goodies.  The race goodie bag included a blended cotton type performance shirt, a bag, the swim cap & race numbers.

IM Racine 70.3_SWAG

Athlete briefing was not required but I always think it’s important to attend.  It was lengthy and boring but the view was nice.  Then I was off to rack my bike in transition which was a couple miles away.

IM Racine 70.3_bike rackedTransition is always a little hectic but I also love it because it’s where all the athletes are in one spot, all on an equal playing field and I kinda love the chaos.

  IM Racine 70.3_transition IM Racine 70.3_transition2 IM Racine 70.3_run out

Fast forward past the shitty hotel & the shitty pre-race dinner to race morning and we awoke to a beautiful day.  Nice wind and cooler temps.

IM Racine 70.3_pre race  IM Racine 70.3_morning

However, that wind brought with it some waves.  My girl over at Finding My Happy Pace posted an amazing pic of what the wind brought us in terms of “choppy” waters and little wave action.  I touched on it briefly yesterday.  This was our swim.

IM Racine 70.3_waves_finding my happy pace

It was tough getting out even far enough to start swimming because the waves kept pushing us backward.  It was tough to gather enough courage to put our heads down and attempt to swim.  It was tough to keep trying to move forward with the never-ending swells.  We needed to travel 1.2 miles in these conditions.  How far did we actually swam fighting the waves?  We’ll never know.  I commend every single athlete who was brave enough to get into the water.  You had to really want it to even step off the beach.  Seriously, pat yourself on the back right now.  You’re officially a badass.

My swim didn’t go well.  Shocker, I know.  I wasn’t scared.  I even took time to encourage the athletes around me who were visibly panicking struggling.  I thought I was doing okay but I was just having trouble keeping my head down and taking more than a few strokes at a time.  If I took 5 strokes before I put my head up and rechecked my position, that was a lot.  Then my calf cramped, which was a big issue.  Thankfully I was within site of the finish when that happened so I was able to finish after taking a bit of a break while chatting up a lifeguard with a handy surfboard.  When I finally made it out of the water, I saw that it took me nearly 55 minutes to swim 1.2 miles.   Yikes, that’s bad!

Once I stumbled up to the beach, I started taking off my wetsuit and a kind man just told me to sit down and he pulled it off me.  Thank you, sir.  I know you weren’t an official “wetsuit stripper” but you have no idea how appreciative I am of your kindness.  Then I walked into transition with my wetsuit.  Attempting to recover from the swim.  Attempting to wrap my head around the fact that the race had barely started and I was in fact EXHAUSTED.  I was so tired, that I in fact walked on the wrong side of my transition rack and had to circle back around.  But I was too tried to care.

The bike portion started up a big hill.  Many people crashed before they even got half way up.  I was mounting my bike (off to the side) and a lady came rolling back down the hill with her bike.  Yikes.  So I was being extra careful, clipped in and pedaled up in an very uneventful manner.  I knew immediately that I was in for a long ride.  1)  My new aero bottle canister was not sticking to my handlebars.  It took me several miles to get it locked back into position (then it came back off in the last 1/4 and we fought again!).  It just wouldn’t stick, and it kept knocking into my computer and changing the settings.  I thought about tossing it to the side many times but I knew that I needed it.  Finally got it to stick after a couple miles.  2)  My calf was still sore from the in-water cramping.  3)  As soon as I got down into aero my neck and shoulders were already tight and sore from fighting the waves during the swim.  Not ideal.

The bike course was one loop of mostly country roads that seemed to always be going up or down.  I didn’t see any hills bigger than the one in and out of transition but there were small rollers almost all the time.  And the country roads were bumpy, very bumpy.  Aid stations were stocked with performance drink, water & gels every 15 to 20 miles.  It always amazes me how brave the volunteers are standing roadside holding a drink out for us to grab.  None of this would work if it weren’t for the volunteers so I am very thankful for their hard work and dedication.

The first half of the bike was decent although I was much slower than normal.  However, the second half was just rough bringing more hills (or maybe they were the same ones, just looking bigger due to my fatigue) the wind, and more bumpy roads.  My neck and shoulders were BURNING with pain & fatigue.  All of this really took a real toll on me and I fell way off pace.  But I made it back to transition.  56 miles on the bike DONE.  3 hrs & 29 minutes.  Super slow but DONE.  Screen shots below from FinsherPix, the Ironman photog:

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Transition 2 was all good.  Such a relief to rack the stupid bike and be back on my own two feet.  At this point, the race is over for me.  I know that I can run, walk or crawl 13.1 miles if necessary.  BRING IT!  The run was an out and back course with two loops.  The temps were well into the 80s by this time.  However, I did enjoy looking for my friends amongst all the other runners.  It helped with the monotony being able to look to see if I could spot people I knew.  The aid stations were well stocked with water, ice, bananas, pretzels, oranges, energy gels and performance drinks.  The residents of Racine ROCKED in the spectator department, bringing out their water hoses, sprinklers, kids with squirt guns and just doing what they could to help keep us cool.  I will also acknowledge that the course was well shaded in many places and the wind that caused so many problems in the water and was a nuisance on the bike, was now a welcome relief.  And the views of the water in several spots were breathtaking.  Screen shots below from FinsherPix, the Ironman photog:

image   image  image

Not what was in the plan but I finished in 6 hours & 50 minutes and I was super happy to hit that finish line.  Swim – 53:46, T1 – 5:02, Bike – 3:29:19 (16.05 mph), T2 – 2:54, Run – 2:19:52 (10:40 pace)

Ironman picked a great venue in Racine.  Beautiful area & race site.  Aid stations, volunteers and medical assistance were plentiful.  However the race is very expensive ($225 to $250) and they ran out of food at the finish, which I think is unacceptable for the cost of the race and the duration for which the athletes compete.  In fact I left as soon as I finished my race because I needed to go find food to refuel.

Finisher medal & Hat:

IM Racine 70.3_finisher swag

All in all, I think it was a well ran event, minus the food snafu at the end.  The athletes were all very nice, even the fast ones.  The race officials were serious but helpful.  The volunteers were amazing.   However, I probably won’t go back to Racine for an Ironman event.  It’s a long way from home, traffic to Wisconsin stinks and I’m still not convinced that the cost of the brand endorsement is worth the extra money to race.  I’m a small town girl and like small town races with small town price tags but as with everything, it’s all in personal preference.

** Get Out and Give It A TRI **  Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Ironman 70.3 Racine, The Aftermath …. What Hurts?

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Yesterday, I tackled the Ironman 70.3 in Racine Wisconsin.  Going in I was neither particularly nervous or particularly excited.  I knew it was going to be a hard day.  I knew that I was undertrained compared to my fellow athletes.  I knew that it would test my limits.  I knew that I would want to quit.  I knew that I would have to “dig deep” in order to finish.  I knew that I REALLY wanted to finish.

What I didn’t know was that the wind, which brought in that cool front, would be blowing hard and that Lake Michigan would be a total beast.  It was the kind of day on the lake where hubby and I wouldn’t have even bothered to take out the boat.  Large rolling waves which resulted in white caps up near the shore.  I knew that was bad.  I knew the swim would be super hard for me since it was already my weakest event.  I kept wondering if it were even safe to swim out there?  But they were sending out swimmers, wave after wave after wave and eventually it was my turn.  I entered the water toward the back of my wave because I am a slower swimmer.  We walked out, no running today because the big waves were coming in so fast that they were knocking us backward.  We walked out to the point where it was inevitably “time to swim” and a few people got started.  The ladies in front of me however were a bit “nervous” and just looking at one another.  I yelled, “Let’s DO THIS” and that seemed to get us down and  into swim position.  The swim course wasn’t very technical with only two turns and long parallel to shore swim.  This should have been somewhat easy.

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Yet, it wasn’t easy.  I can’t really say that I swam much.  I would take a few strokes and then have to look up to see where the waves had pushed me.  I  would readjust, take a few more strokes, get swamped by more waves, then put my head up to look again.  I was either floating up, or down, or to the side.  My stroke was more of a flail than an actual swim stroke.  Had I been a person prone to seasickness, I would have vomited.  We were definitely rolling up and down with the waves.

Then when I could finally see the end, I started to kick.  Hadn’t done much kicking before that point, and I almost immediately got a nasty cramp in my left calf.  I had to roll over onto my back and massage it out, only to start swimming again and have it come back within minutes.  I was not happy and was trying not to panic because I was SO close to the end.  I just wanted to get out of the damn water.  The lifeguard came to me with a surf board and let me hang on until the cramp passed.  Not cool.  Not normal.  Not fun.  Sad smile

I did finally got out of the water and walked slowly to transition.  I was thankful that I got out of the water on my own power.  I was trying to catch my breath.  Trying to recoup a bit.  But my calf was very sore from the cramp and today it feels even worse.  So the first, and most painful What Hurts? award definitely goes to my sore calf muscle.

The second What Hurts? award goes to my neck and shoulders.  Apparently, all that flailing around in the water, keeping my head up to see where the heck I was going, and just the general roughness of the swim put the hurt on my neck and shoulders, which already suffer from limited mobility on a “normal” day.  This was very noticeable as soon as I got on my bike and got down to ride in aero.  OUCH.  Now magnify this over 56 miles and 3.5 hours and wowzers, I can’t move my neck much at all today.

The third What Hurts? award goes to my left knee.  Apparently my left calf muscle checked out after the swim portion of the race.  It didn’t get the memo that I would be needing it for the entirety of the 70.3 miles.  So since it withdrew from the race early, my left knee took over in the bike portion.  Well, left knee started screaming at me about mile 30 and it hasn’t stopped screaming as of yet.  Left Knee and Left Calf are having a major battle right now, playing the blame game and just being generally very pissy with one another.

The last What Hurts? award goes to the chafing department.  What chafed?  Hell if I know but I felt like I got burned while I was in the water.  Both underarms are red, raw & have swollen patches.  It could have been my sleeveless wetsuit, which has never previously caused a problem.  It could have been my tri kit, which has never previously caused a problem.  It could have been the waves beating the living shit out of me.  Who knows but it hurts to wear clothes and put my arms down.  No worries, I’m going to work “nakie” today and plan to hold both of my arms up in the air and pretend like I just don’t care!!!  The super sexy photos are below if you care.

IM Racine 70.3_chafing      IM Racine 70.3_chafing2

I’m going to take minute here to thank Mission Athletecare for protecting my skin so that I don’t have a 5th What Hurts? award.  I do have a little bit of a burn on the back of my neck but I did swim 1.2++++ miles, bike 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles over the course of 6 hours & 50 minutes in addition to running thru 10+ sprinklers/hoses, getting shot by several water guns and dumping at least 24+ cups of water over my head.  All that with one application of sunscreen.  So I’m super pleased that I’m sunburnt too!  Thanks, Mission  Athletecare!

This was a long day.  I must say that I can normally walk away with minimal soreness and nothing really lingers.  Today however is a bit different than the norm.  No worries, I’ll be back at it soon enough but not today.  I am resting, relaxing, hydrating and eating whatever the heck I want.

** Everything Hurts ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **