Great Illini Half Iron Distance TRI – 2013


Half Iron Distance TRI = 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run

Last weekend I returned to Mattoon, IL for another multisport event.  I have fond memories of Mattoon as my first ever multisport venue and also the first place I ever attempted the daunting 70.3 distance (2008).  The 2008 Great Illini Challenge offered both a full and half iron distance race.  I did the half.  Great experience.  I had hoped for a repeat last year but the event was canceled due to weather.  All of the 2012 registrants then received a rollover registration for this year and although it didn’t really fit into my schedule I crammed it in anyhow still went so that I didn’t “lose” my registration fee.  It also gave me something to look forward to after the 70.3 in Racine didn’t necessarily leave me feeling happy fulfilled on the half distance front.

One of my favorite things about Great Illini is that it’s small and not branded by a particular company.  This brings a smaller field, a lower price tag and a  majority of participants who tend to be a bit more relaxed and in it for fun and fitness rather than prize $$.   Your transition”mate” may be a new triathlete, an experienced racer who doesn’t buy into the “iron hype” or possibly someone looking for redemption from a less than ideal performance earlier in the year.  I highly recommend talking to people and finding out what brings them to a particular event.  You just may find a bit of inspiration or last minute motivation that could propel you to a new PR!

Packet pick-up for Great Illini was offered on both FRI afternoon/evening AND race morning.  Takes a bit of stress out of the equation when you can pick up the packet on race morning.  The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the venue was the nice, calm water in which we would swim.  Lake Mattoon.

Great Illini_lake mattoon

Then I asked about the water temp and was told it was 82 degrees, which is not wetsuit legal.  Bummer.

In less than 3 minutes, I had signed my waiver, picked up the packet, walked to the beach to take the above photo look at the water and was back in my car and on the way to the hotel.  It really doesn’t get any easier than that.  Swag – black cotton unisex tee, swim cap, pen, Hammer Gel & Recoverite and a small Hammer canister which I assume is to carry an electrolyte powder.  Please note that this is swag for a $135 half distance entry free vs a branded race which “may” cost up to $250.  Big difference but how badly do you really need that nylon backpack?

Great Illini_swag

Race morning was just as smooth.  Transition opened at 5:30am, race started at 6:45am.  I picked up my chip and was thru body marking in less than a minute.  No bibs for less hassle faster transitions.    I parked less than a 100 meters from transition and was set up in no time with plenty of space and friendly people all around.  I was able to use the bathroom without waiting.   I attended the pre-race meeting, heard that wetsuits would be legal so just walked over to the car and grabbed the wetsuit.  No fuss.  No stress.  No worries about missing the start because I needed to hike a mile to my car.  Very relaxed atmosphere and I was very thankful to be back at a small venue.

I was even able to catch up with  a couple of friends who were also participating, including Jen who was tackling her first Olympic distance event!  Yay, Jen!!!

Great Illin_Jen & I

Then it was time to roll.  The event was a double loop course on all fronts: swim, bike & run.

The swim course was marked by 5 orange buoys which were set-up in a “somewhat” rectangular pattern.  Two waves, men first and then women 3 minutes later.  Worked perfectly.  The sun was in our eyes initially (and when we re-looped) but everyone was calm, nice and although I did bump into a few people, I was able to just move a bit and then had plenty of room to swim.  Very calm and relaxing swim in clean lake water.  Nice!  I was a bit surprised when I got out of the water at how long it took me to move thru the 1.2 miles but whispers around me told of a long swim course that was just at 1.4 miles.   Okay, that makes more sense.

The bike course was also a double loop.  Aid stations were pretty frequent, probably 3 per loop and also at the turnaround.  Each time I went thru they handed me a generic bottle filled with water which I squeezed into my aero drink canister then tossed.  I also saw bananas at the half way point but didn’t have enough time to grab both water and a banana.  Aid stations were small & tight.  The race had advertised Hammer Gel and an electrolyte drink to be on course too but I never saw (or was offered) either until I stopped at the last aid station and asked.  By this point the heat was high and the volunteers were pretty melted, some sitting, some standing in a wilted position.  They were stationed out on country roads, beside corn fields with zero shade in an effort to support us on the bike.   I was moving, and had a bit of a breeze from the bike, but was really struggling with the heat so I felt really bad for the on course volunteers who were standing out there waiting for us!

Personal Note:  My bike segment was slow, like really slow.  Decent speed in the first hour but the heat started getting to me pretty badly in the second hour.  I used two of my own gels in the first 30 miles, then stopped for a third gel at mile 44 (aid station).  I knew electrolytes would be absolutely necessary if I had any chance of finishing.  To be honest, I wasn’t feeling good on several fronts and by mile 30, I was ready to go back to transition, pack up and head home.  The sun and high temps were melting the tar on the country roads and I could hear a “sticking” sound coming from my tires as they pulled up from the tar on each rotation.  I was hot.  Very hot.  The breeze from the bike was stifling and the hot air in my face was miserable.  To add to the heat misery, I had a very bad headache.  My vision was a bit blurred from the headache (or maybe the heat?) and I had so much pressure in/on my head that I actually loosened up my helmet in an attempt to give my head some relief.  Didn’t work.

The run course.  Two loops.  Out and back.  Flat country roads.  Full sun.  Some gravel.  Lots of melted tar.  3 aid stations which we hit x2 on each loop.  They offered cold water, ice, coke, pretzels, Hammer Gel, & Heed electrolyte drink.  The volunteers had tents but I still felt horrible for them being out there that long.  However, they were all VERY KIND, let me stand under their tent for a bit of shade and were super helpful.

Personal Note:  I couldn’t run.  I was beyond hot.  My legs wouldn’t move.  I wanted to quit.  A lot of people did quit.  I finished but it took so long since I couldn’t run that I might as well have signed up for a full iron distance race.   I’d say this was a “personal worst” but that would absolutely minimalize how horrible it went.  Not looking for a pitty party here, I’ve already covered that, just stating the facts.

I did finish and only 54 other people managed to do that for the 70.3 distance.

Great Illini_medal

As I look back, I did a couple things right.  Since it’s always nice to end on a positive, I’ll share.   1)  I left my spray sunscreen in transition and resprayed myself when I got off the bike.  I do have some wicked tan lines but I’m not burnt.  2)  I hydrated, hydrated, then hydrated some more.  I wouldn’t have had a chance had I not consumed so many fluids before the race and also during.  The ice helped a ton too.  I chewed a lot of ice.  I  also stuffed chunks of ice into my clothing.   3)  I used extra gels.  When the heat is high your body will process fuel faster.  You’ll need extra fuel.  I always tell people to take more fuel then they really need.  I should have listened to myself but fortunately was able to score extra fuel at an aid station.

This is a good race.  Although the thermometer in my car read 101 when I finished the race, this should not reflect on the race itself.  Good race.  Good venue.  I do think organizers should have called off the race for the safety of the participants.  Some people will refuse to quit and you have to call it for them and for your insurance coverage  but I am pretty sure the race director was “afraid” to call it early since the race had been canceled in 2012.   Reputation is everything and if people don’t get to finish sometimes they get mad.  Then they talk. I understand.

I highly recommend giving a smaller venue a TRI.  See what YOU think.  It may not be big and fancy but it will most likely offer a quality race for a much smaller price tag.   It may even be a refreshing change from the monster TRI  you’ve already done 10x.

Amanda – TooTallFritz

Who’s Tired?

I’m at the point of marathon training where things are getting rough.  My legs are tired.  If you are training for a fall marathon then you can probably relate cuz I know your legs are heavy too.  The mileage is starting to creep up to the point where we will soon peak, then start to taper back down.  For the Chicago Marathoners, we basically have another 4 weeks of hard training, then we are done, ready to taper, and  absolutely prepared to run the full 26.2 miles on October 13th.  So take a deep breath, just get thru the next four weekends and you will be in the home stretch!  You can do it!!!

In addition to marathon training, I’m also finishing out TRI season.  Not brilliant planning but then I didn’t plan it this way.  I have a rollover registration from the 2012 Great Illini Challenge 70.3 which was canceled, so they rolled all of our registrations from 2012 to this year.  I considered downgrading to the Olympic distance so I can just go out, smash the distance and go home but I’ve decided against that.  I don’t want to downgrade.  I don’t want to waste the registration fee.  I don’t want to waste the opportunity to tackle the distance.  I’m trained for it even if I have only swam 1x since Racine so it just feels like a cop out to go shorter.  Therefore, on Saturday, I’ll be going the distance and pushing thru the last TRI of the 2013 season, which just happens to be a half iron distance event.

Marathon Training + Half Iron Training + CrossFit + Allergy/Head Cold + IBD flare-up = One wiped out momma this weekend.

Me & Lib_8-18-13

As a result, this week is all about recovery so that I can be fresh on Saturday.  I took a rest day yesterday.  I’m pushing my water, allergy meds and probiotics to help get rid of my “extra” issues.  I’m using Nighttime Recovery and Bio Tools to help repair my tired muscles.  And I actually slept last night thanks to both Michael and Libby (my weim) being tired too.  So it will be a good week and I will be rested by Saturday even though I had to pull out my bag of tricks to aid my recovery.  At least I’ve been doing this long enough to have a bag of tricks, right?   Smile

Feeling tired is a natural part of marathon and TRI training but make sure you are able to recognize the difference between being tired and having extra factors that are also draining you.  Don’t stress if you need to skip a day of training, or two, to get some of your energy back.    Rest.  Relax.  Listen to your body.  If you “run” yourself into the ground, then you will get sick or injured or both.

** Resting up for Great Illini ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Great Illini Challenge – CANCELLED

Yesterday, I should have been TRIing my heart out in Mattoon, IL at the Great Illini Challenge.  Earlier in the week I had decided to drop down to the Olympic distance race so that I could finish something this season and try to end on a positive note amidst a summer of injury and rehab…….. but as the weekend approached, I was doubting my decision.  I was questioning whether I would be disappointed that I didn’t do as much as I could do, that I didn’t do as much as I had trained for all summer long.  I contemplated racing the 70.3 distance up to the last lap of the run where I would have needed to step off the course and take another DNF. 

In my heart,  I knew I would be disappointed either way so I really couldn’t decide which dose of disappointment would be best.  I was undecided right into Friday morning when I got the email that the race was cancelled due the possibility of inclement weather in the area from Hurricane Isaac.  Cancelled.  I know I was supposed to be disappointed but I laughed.  It was the absolute perfect end to my season.  I just giggled thinking about the Ironman 70.3 Muncie in July being reduced to an Olympic type distance race and my not even being able to do the full bike/swim there and having to take a DNF without even running one step.  Then I hung all my hopes on this race only to realize one week prior that my foot was not healed up enough and I wouldn’t be able to complete the run and would need to take another DNF.  I was all done with disappointment and relieved not to be worrying about it anymore.  So I’m done TRIing for this year and look forward to hanging up the 3 sport genre for a while and just relax and focus on healing and increasing my speed on the short distance run. 

So instead of spending 3-5 hours on the swim/bike/run on Saturday morning, I instead hit the road with Aby for a few miles.


She, of course, bitched the entire time enjoyed spending some quality time with her momma.  She even tolerated my photo requests.


Aby and I running together is very difficult but I hope that we will eventually look back at these years and laugh.  Of course, that may be many years from now but I know that at some point in her life she will actually appreciate the fact that I could actually get out there and hit the road with her and push her pace past the comfort zone.  Maybe, like when she has her first child, we will laugh about these years, right?

So although, the weekend wasn’t what I had planned, it was still good.  No, it was great!  And tomorrow, I’ll hit the trail at the Turtle 10 and run 6 miles of their 10 mile event.  Yes, another DNF although, not such a big deal at this laid back event.  Why are all the good runs/races so long?  The bottom line for me, I race to keep myself motivated and my mind focused on fitness.  It doesn’t really matter if the race happens or not but if I keep moving over the prescribed period of time “because” I want to be my best on race day, then the purpose of the goal has been accomplished regardless of the finish time or the cancellation of the event.  This is about health & fitness for me, not race results.  I hope I can always keep my eye on the ultimate prize…….fitness……and not lose sight of my priorities amongst fancy finisher gifts, age group awards and results.

** Fitness First ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Big Girl Decisions…..

I had to put on my big girl panties over the last couple days and make some tough decisions.  As most of you know, my entire summer has been formulated around the Great Illini 70.3 which will occur this Saturday, September 1st.  


Things became much more difficult when I tore the tendon in my foot on June 2nd but we pushed forward in rehab with the only goal being that I complete the 70.3 on September 1st.  In order to make this happen, the plan was to run the first loop of the run portion (6.55 miles) and then run/walk the second loop at whatever pace I could manage.  No time goal, just a quest to finish.  This focus to finish, to not let anymore bibs die, to not add another DNF to the roster, to not give up and just go sit on the couch and gain weight has propelled me forward this summer when honestly, I was pretty empty and upset inside.  I remained positive overall but I was bummed out!

I also spent a lot of time on the trainer inside due to mechanical issues and not being able to run scheduling issues and that didn’t help my attitude mood!


So week after week, I rode, swam, did rehab exercises and then at the beginning of this month we brought back the run.  The run, the glorious run, that is so freeing to the soul and puts a smile on my face even in the most trying times.  Things were good again.

devil dash 2012_me2

But not really.  Although the foot is “better” as in better than it was, it is a long way from normal.  Even further from being pain free.  So last Friday, during rehab/therapy, it was laid open like this,  “Well, you do what you want and I’ll fix whatever damage comes from it…… but this is probably not a good idea”.  Awesome. 

The bottom line is that I “could” finish the 70.3 on Saturday but why risk causing further damage?  Why chance making this rehab process even one day longer?  Or worse yet, re-tear the tendon which is in healing mode and have to start completely over.   Or rupture the stupid Plantar Fascia which screams at me daily.   There isn’t a reason in my opinion.  I have nothing to prove.  This process for me has always been about my health and gaining a higher level of fitness and it would be counter productive to move forward with the 70.3 on Saturday due to the fact that I am not properly trained or healed up for the 13.1 mile run.

I am, however, perfectly able to participate in the Olympic distance event (.94 mile swim, 24.9 mile bike & 6.2 mile run) without causing further damage.  I’m certainly not running fast at this point but I can cover the distance and that’s what I plan to do in order to get a FINISH and be proud of the fact that I didn’t just give up when it would have been the easy thing to do. 

I saw a TRI necklace on CafePress and it was titled TRIumph


I really feel like this is what 2012 is to me, learning to TRIumph when the cards aren’t stacked in my favor.  Learning that being tough, or a BAMR, isn’t about pushing thru the pain but rather taking a minute to listen to the body and focus on myself so that I can heal and be better in the future.  So Great Illini, I’m still coming, just downgrade me to the Olympic distance, please!  I mean, if it’s good enough for the Olympians, it’s good enough for me!

I’m so happy to put a close on this season Saturday and start fresh again.  New strategies and goals are on the horizon.  It’s a new dawn, a new day……

** Happy TRIumphing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Looking Back…..

I’m now only a couple days out from the Ironman 70.3 Muncie, therefore I decided to look back at the notes I recorded after my last 70.3.   My previous 70.3 occurred on September 6, 2008.  It was before the TTF blog, before Facebook and during a time when people were emailing back and forth as a manner of communication.  My audience was small but I still sent my family & friends LOOOOONNNNNGGGG emails on every detail that they didn’t care about of the race.  Thanks to Mom, Abby S & Lisa E for reading those and many other emails!

The Great Illini Challenge on September 6, 2008 was my first and most current 70.3.  I have not raced a triathlon since that day.  I do, however, have a crazy beautiful toddler which hubby and I started raising in my time off triathlon.  See hubby, Michael & Aby below.  family_stars & stripes_2012

Some might wonder if I’m nervous since I haven’t raced triathlon for so long.  No, I’m not yet.  Triathlon is where it’s at for me.  I feel at home there and things just click. 

Some might wonder why I picked a 70.3 distance as my return to triathlon.  Timing.  I would have preferred to start with an International/Olympic distance race but timing didn’t work out.  I don’t have a ton of $$ to be racing so I picked just two triathlons (Muncie 7/7 & Great Illini 9/1) for the 2012 season and those were both the 70.3 distance.

Photos & Notes on the Swim/Bike from Great Illini 2008:

Copy of IMG_0287      IMG_0291    IMG_0293  

I tried to be calm and smooth on the swim, I didn’t stress about speed, but just took it easy because I knew that it was going to be the easiest part of the day so I wanted to enjoy it and come out of the water fresh. My goggles did fog up 2x but I just stopped and wiped the fog out and continued on my way, no problem!

** It might be more enjoyable to try to swim the entire 70.3 miles!

Transition was certainly not the frenzied event that it is in shorter TRI races. We were relaxed, joking around with one another, talking with our families, and pretty much stalling to AVOID getting on our bikes! In my relaxed state, I managed to forget my energy gels in transition.  Bad, really bad.

The bike had a great first half, on great roads that were freshly paved. There were lots of very large rolling hills. It was a “what goes down, must go up” theme. The hills also made me realize almost immediately that at some point in transit, something happened to my bike and the chain was loose. Not good, I needed  gears badly with the large hills and they were making a lot of noise and not shifting properly. My chain then popped off at mile 7 at the bottom of a very large hill.

**Mile 10 of bike: Riding is such a great time for self reflection, prayer & quiet thinking.
***Mile 17: It is such a beautiful day, the road is smooth, the sun is shining, and I love these hills!
**Mile 20: Wow, I got up to 33 mph coming down that hill; and it isn’t even bad going up because I get to stand and it allows me to stretch my quads a little! This is really great!
**Mile 40: Why didn’t I make up for sale signs for my bike before I came??
**Mile 41: No biggie about the for sale signs, maybe mom can sell it while I run? No, I’ll just put it on Craig’s List tomorrow!
**Mile 42: A triathlon tattoo was a really bad idea! Wonder if I can have it turned into a cross? I really like crosses!
**Mile 44: There is no shame that a full iron distance person just passed me. I am sure he was a really fast swimmer!!!
**Mile 47: Gel = life/energy and being able to finish the race! If I weren’t so tried I would be really excited.
**Racking the bike = awesome feeling of “last ride”, I don’t even need to sell it, we’ll just throw it in the lake because I’ll get better gas mileage on the way home!

I don’t think we need to relive the run portion of the 70.3 since I won’t be doing the run portion this time.  Although, I’m not looking forward to a DNF, I’ve certainly accepted it.  My strongest part of a TRI is always the run but it’s not meant to be this time around.  So I will be swimming & biking and am thankful I can handle that much!

** Happy TRIing **  Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Scheduling Conflicts…..

I start planning my race schedule a year or so in advance.  I know this “may” seem OCD to some but there are a handful of races which I run each year, mostly because I like the course, or the race director (example:  Palos Half Marathon that Mel from Running For Kicks organizes in May), or it’s a charity event, or it’s close to my mom’s house and gives me an “extra” reason to go for a visit.  Whatever the reason, I certainly have my favorites and I will choose a small event over a big expensive event each and every time. Therefore, I have never delved into real Ironman territory.  I participated in an awesome 70.3 event, the Great Illini Challenge, in 2008 while I was trying for Mr. Michael but it was a generic version of the half “Ironman” distance and a fraction of the cost.  I normally stay away from big name events where you pay for an after party, band, and/or the brand name, etc. with your entry fee.  It’s just not my thing because I participate for the running/TRIing, not the party.  However, as this year’s schedule plays out, I have paid for both an entry into a Rock N Roll event and now I am registered for the Ironman 70.3 Muncie.

In my defense, I got a super deal on the RnR Chicago event when I registered for it last November with a coupon code and as an early bird.  As for the Ironman event, hey, that’s where my friends are going and I want to be there with them, and the timing/location is right.  Plus, my one friend is a kickass great biker, which is my weakest link, so I will just focusing on “trying” to catch her or if by chance I get out of the water first I will be pedaling my ass off fast trying to stay away from her!  I know that she will still crush me on the bike but a little added incentive is worth the price tag.  🙂

Unfortunately, I had to nix a really GREAT race on my schedule to take part in the IM 70.3 Muncie.  I gave up the Evergreen International TRI in Hudson, IL due to scheduling conflicts with family, run & other TRI events.  This event is on July 14, 2012.

If you are available on July 14th, I highly recommend this race!  It is in a great location, great course, plus they offer both a sprint and an international distance so good for everyone in your party.  This is definitely one of my favorites and the course is fast, I will miss it on my 2012 calendar but please partake, take photos and send them to me and I will  post them while congratulating you on your achievements!  Go, register for Evergreen HERE.  As an added bonus, the race director a super cool lady who puts on a series of events under the TRI Mom/TRI Shark name.  In the last event I raced for TRI Mom, I was handed a sack lunch as I was leaving for my drive home.  Thanks, Mom!  I was starved and much appreciated that sack lunch.  Some times it’s the little things, you know?

So how is your racing season shaping up?  Is it coming together smoothly or are you coming across a few speed bumps like me?  I honestly can’t fit in one international/olympic distance TRI this year and will just be focusing on the two 70.3 distance events.  Not ideal and I’m sure my transitions will be slow due to lack of practice but attitude and an over abundance of confidence will make up for transition issues because I plan to totally crush both 70.3s this year.  I only have one time in which to compare and that is the pre-Michael race but the time still stands and counts in my books.  The 2008 Great Illini Challenge brought me a 6:33 finish and I am hoping by drafting off Renee the Muncie race will get me under the 6:30 mark so I can go on to really get after it at the 2012 Great Illini Challenge 70.3 on Labor Day weekend.  BELIEVE!

If you would like to join me at the 2012 Great Illini Challenge 70.3, they offer both an Olympic and 70.3 Distance, so feel free to come and have fun at whatever distance you are ready to tackle!  This course is really user/spectator friendly too as it has 2 loops to each part.  You will be close to your car transition several times during the race in the event that you “need” anything.  I hope to see you out there!

**Disclaimer** – Drafting in a triathalon will get you disqualified.  Don’t do it.  And if you do, don’t tell them that TTF said it was ok cuz it’s not! 

Sidenote:  Let me just say how excited I am for all of you over the PunkeeLove Headband Giveaway!!  I wish I had a headband to send each and every one of you and I will be on  pins and needles doing the drawing on Monday.  Good luck everyone!  Don’t forget to use the one time only code for 20% off:  tootall20   to order the bands that you want on discount.  I’m certainly taking advantage of the code and placing an order today since I don’t need to wait for the drawing!

Happy Running & TRIing,                                                                                             Amanda – TooTallFritz