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

Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3 Race Review

I’ve never heard anything but good about the REV3 Triathlon events.  So last year when I was planning my 2016 triathlon schedule, I added the REV3 Cedar Point 70.3 to my roster.  I figured it would be a great event for me & a fun trip for the kiddos.  Each race entry comes with a free park pass for the weekend for the athlete & then a voucher for a $45 weekend pass for each family member/friend who accompanies you on the trip.  Win, win!

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Rev3 is notorious for putting on a series of events to include the entire family.  This weekend at Cedar Point they did a Sprint & kids triathlon on Saturday, then a full & half iron distance triathlon & a GLO run on Sunday. All events, plus the expo started in the Cedar Point parking lot in front of the park.  The expo was small.  Packet pick up was smooth.  The race meeting was informative.  Then off to the park with my munchkins.

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Saturday was extremely windy.  Thankfully they waived the mandatory bike check for the full & half athletes.  I was seriously concerned that my bike would blow away overnight.  It was difficult to roll my bike thru the parking lot on SAT, I wasn’t sure how to anchor it in transition.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about it.  But then I had my bike in a hotel room full kids.  Made things a bit tight but they rolled with it.  However, getting it back to transition on SUN morning wasn’t fun.  We were told that the best way to get to transition was down the beach from the hotel.  I didn’t realize that the boardwalk ended shortly after the hotel and that I’d really be hiking the beach …. with my bike …. and all my  gear.

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Due to that famous wind, the swim start had been moved from Lake Erie (in front of the Breakers Hotel) to the Cedar Point Marina.  I wasn’t really sure why.  The water looked calm to me.  I mean, honestly, I’ve been swimming in Lake Michigan all summer.  I’ve raced every event except Cedar Point sans wetsuit.  Lake Erie was calm.  Rev3 said they couldn’t’ secure the buoys in Lake Erie without them floating off to Canada.  Pic from the Breakers Hotel of Lake Erie on race morning (courtesy of David Standley).

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So the Marina swim it was and the water there was very calm and very warm.  I would hazard a guess that the water was too warm for wetsuits BUT I race mostly Ironman events which has a lower water temp limit (76.1 degrees) verses non IM branded events who use the USAT limit of 78 degrees.  Regardless, I was warm.  Pic of the marina water by Jill Kromer. 

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The swim venue change also changed the start.  Instead of a wave start, it was a self seeded rolling start.  I was pretty sure I would swim around 50 minutes.  So I seeded myself around people who were thinking the same.  I was a bit nervous about the new swim.  Not because of the swim itself but because I couldn’t see all the buoys.  It was a blind swim to the right toward a narrow channel in the marina.  One side of the channel was docks & big fancy boats.  The other side a rock wall.  I had no idea how far we had to swim in that channel.  No idea how many buoys were on course.  No idea when I hit half way.  And honestly, I didn’t even know where our swim stopped.  I just followed the crowd, buoy to buoy.  They did have orange turn buoys so that was good.  And then once I got toward the end, I saw a red buoy that was our stopping point.  First half of the swim was great.  I was swimming well.  My back wasn’t bothering me.  I felt strong.  I was passing people.  But I was really warm and started overheating.  At some point on the back side of the course, possibly around half way, I felt a wave of water enter my wetsuit.  Strange sensation but it had a cooling effect.  I couldn’t really figure out what was happening but water kept coming in and was actually ballooning in my wetsuit, I could even see it ballooning in the sleeves as my arms would come out of the water for each stroke.  I was also slowing down although I wasn’t sure why I was slowing.  I felt good.  I was calm.  I was sighting well enough.  Oh well, just keep swimming, right?  Once I stood up to exit the water & reached for the cord on my wetsuit, I realized why I was so slow on the back half and why I had so much water in my suit.  It was unzipped.  All the way  down to my hips.  We had zipped it up when I started but it must have come loose.  Swim split:  50:47

Rev3 had wetsuit strippers who helped us out of our suits (and me off the ground when I couldn’t get up).  Nice touch. Then we had a half mile run back to transition with our wetsuit, goggles & swim cap.  Fortunately, some Rev3 Cedar Point alums warned us about this possibility and I had a pair of extra shoes to put near the swim start.  Yes, there was a whole staging for shoes, by race numbers, at the swim venue.

Onto the bike.  This was the part for which I was most nervous.  If you read the last post, you know that I haven’t trained much in the last month.  My bike has been broken on & off all summer but Felt finally sent new shifters and the bike was ready to roll.  But my body wasn’t ready.  Long story short, I’ve been going to physical therapy for my back.  They believe that I have at least one disc that is bulging from the front and the back of my spine.  So instead of a circular disc, they think it is now oblong, like an oval.  Then to make things extra fun, its pressing on some nerves & causing issues with my legs, lack of power on the bike, etc. I’m sentenced to 6 weeks of therapy before insurance will pay for the MRI, then after that, I can see a pain specialist for injections to reduce whatever is left of the swelling/pain.  For now, I live with it.  Rev3 was my last ride of the season & I’m not allowed to ride or swim til we get this all figured out.

First 5 miles on the bike away from Cedar Point was rough.  Bad road.  Nobody will admit to owning it so Rev3 can’t find anyone to repave it.  Same route for the last 5 miles.  Most of the first half of the ride was with the wind.  I was moving pretty well.  Got loose a couple times in the wind & actually thought it would sweep me away at the bottom of one hill where there was an opening in the trees on both sides of the road.  Good news, I didn’t crash.  Lots of turns in the course.   As soon I got moving pretty well, then I had to brake & turn but that worked out when the wind was really bad on the back half.  Some hills but not horrible.  Not much spectator support but lots of awesome volunteers & the police did an excellent job of keeping the road clear for us.  Last half of the course was significantly slower, back into the wind, plus I had some serious knee pain which is related to my back issues but still irritating.  3:21:15 bike split.  I believe there were 4 aid stations on the bike.   That’s one more than most IM 70.3 courses, if you’re counting.

Time to run.  I had Biofreeze in transition.  Slathered some on the aching knee.  Slathered more on my aching back.  Off to run.  I realized quickly that it was going to be a “long” run.  I saw people running back to the finish and I was just getting started.  That felt a bit defeating.  I normally just focus on my race but there wasn’t a lot going on and it kinda felt like a training run.  Not a lot of spectators out on course.  The highlight was definitely the aid stations positioned at every mile.  Such awesome volunteers.  Aid stations were stocked with gels, power bars, powerade, bananas, coke, water & ice.  One even had broth.  I utilized the ice a lot and dumped some down the back of my tri kit at every aid station.  Between the biofreeze & the ice, I was numbed out and just focused on one foot in front of the other.  I thought overall the run course was cool.  They ran us over the Cedar Point causeway, into town & back toward the water where we got to go thru a couple other marinas that had walking paths, bridges & one even had a swimming pool.  We could even see Cedar Point across the water.  The course did get a bit confusing for those of us on our first loop.  The course wasn’t a full double loop but there was one section that had a double loop.  I could see varying distances signs for the full and half that didn’t make sense. As soon as I finished the first loop, I was okay.  The course was extremely well marked and there were volunteers helping direct runners.  No confusion on where to go, just a bit of doubt initially that I had messed something up due to the signage.  I won’t lie, turning away from the marinas & heading back toward town and the finish line made me one happy lady.  I was ready to be done.  I was ready to be reunited with my family.  I just wanted to finish.  Run split:  2:21.  Finish 6:43.

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Swag bag is below & included a personalized note in each bag.  A full sized towel from Gatorade.  Rev3 Cedar Point visor.  Gender specific tee.

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So, I know a lot of you are thinking about your first 70.3.  I get asked over and over again, Ironman or “off brand” triathlon for the first 70.3?  The bottom line is that if we don’t do these off brand races, they just won’t be available in the future.  In case you haven’t noticed, Ironman (World Triathlon Corp) is trying to buy up as many triathlon companies as possible.  The non IM branded races are cheaper.  Smaller.  Less competitive.  They are family focused & will most likely let you run down the finishers shoot with your kids, baby, dog or hubby.  They will bend over backwards to make sure your race is as good as they can make it.  And your fellow competitors will be there for their own reason, which probably won’t include attempting to qualify for the 70.3 Championships or up their position to All World Athlete status.  If they bump you on the swim, they will probably apologize verses pushing you harder under the water so they can swim over the top of you.  It just a different feel at these events vs an IM event.  Way more relaxed.  They try to personalize the experience for you.  When I crossed the finish line on Sunday, the Rev3 announcer said my name, told everyone that I blog at TooTallFritz.com, that I’m a Marathon Maniac & that I’m currently attempting to run a marathon in every state.  I would get lucky if my name were even announced at an IM 70.3 event.  That being said, there would be people to cheer my down the shoot & along the course in an IM event and at Rev3, it was pretty lonely.  I’m pretty sure Rev3 had more volunteers than actual participants and spectator support was virtually non-existent.

What do you get for your extra $$ at an IM event?  Consistency.  Accurate distances on the swim, bike & run.  Accurate info in the Athlete Packet for race meetings, transition opening/closing.  Larger group of competitors.  Spectators.  A community that is “all in” to support the race.  Finisher swag.  Free athlete tracking. World class venue.  Large expo.  Insurance for the race registration in the event you are injured prior to the race, plus insurance on race day to cover any issues on course that may require emergency care.   Numbered swim buoys:  the first half yellow, the second half orange.  Ironman is like the fortune 500 company that is well polished & sparkling.  Off brand races are like the mom & pop business.  What’s right for you is really about what YOU want out of a race experience.  I go both ways depending on the day.  I was on edge all weekend with Rev3.  Partially because I was rushed getting there with it being Cross Country & Soccer season for the kids.  Both had meets/games on SAT before we could leave.  I felt like crap with my back.  It hurts to do the very basic things like sit, drive, bend over …… so I’m CRABBY and trying to pretend like I’m “fine”.  Then I felt pulled between being with the kids at the park & doing what I needed to do for me & my body.  The last minute changes that Rev3 had to make then put me further into crabbiness. BUT, nobody swam over me, ran over me or even bumped me at all during the race.  And let’s just say my body couldn’t take anymore jostling.  I was in the right spot with Rev3 this weekend and applaud their willingness to make last minute changes to keep the racers as safe as possible.  I just wish I felt better and could have enjoyed it a bit more. 

Rev3 offered a great race at a great venue.  Great fun for the entire family.  I hope that you give them a “TRI’. 

** Cheers – Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Swim, Bike, Huh?

I’m 3 days out from the Rev3 Cedar Point 70.3 and I should be excited.  This was to be my “A” race.  I was hoping to go under 6 hours.  I started my training in January & I was very focused.  But the bottom line is that I was in better Swim-Bike-Run shape in May than I am now.  I had a full season of marathons from January thru April, 6 marathons in that period, 4 were doubles (Back to Backs, SAT/SUN races).  I was strong.  Tired but strong. But in May, I “downcycled” to rest & recover.   I rested.  Then I was training more than racing, all easy paced.  I was planning to refresh my legs and add some speed to my TRIs.   I had registered for four 70.3s, one a month from June thru September.  I knew the June race would be a bust.  I would still be tired from the marathons.  But I thought it was important to get out there and do my thing.  Most would probably do a shorter race  as a “rust buster” but I’m an endurance athlete.  I gravitate toward longer races.  It helps my mommy guilt to know that when I pack my bags its for a race that’s important to me.  So the 70.3 or the “half ironman” has become my signature triathlon distance since Michael was born in 2009.  Baby boy just turned 7 yesterday!!!  Happy Birthday, Michael!!!  Aby turned 15, in late August.  My babies are getting BIG!! 

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If you have been following my sporadic posts this summer, you know that I’ve had a less than stellar season.  My body hasn’t been right and the answer as to what exactly was wrong has been elusive.  My quads have been constantly fatigued like I just ran up a horrendous hill, 2000x.  My power on the bike has been poor.  I lost almost 3mph from my 56 mile bike split.  I have an ongoing glute/hamstring pull that has been lingering since November when I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and bloodied myself.   Then as the summer progressed the issues dominoed:  hip, knee, back.    What you probably do not know, is that after my poor showing at the Cutting Edge Half 70.3 in June, I took some downtime to rest & recover & refinish the basement from the flood last summer.  It needed to be done.  I thought it would be good to do something other than swim-bike-run.  Well, apparently I was wrong.  What could have just been fatigue turned into a real issue from all the bending, stretching, lifting as we turned our basement into useable living space again.  The basement as of June 2015.  Yeah, our furniture & cats were floating.  IMG_7313  IMG_7351

June 2016

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After all the painting, cutting & installing the floor (that Aby & I did all by ourselves), then moving in the furniture …… I basically couldn’t move.  My back was in a bad place.  It’s been bad before, thanks to an old college injury, but it just wouldn’t get better this time, not even with the Chiropractor & Active Release.  My training slowed, my bike pace further plummeted.  More rest.  More recovery.  Fewer and fewer workouts.  Less and less sleep as the back just kept getting worse and I was miserable laying down.

So, where am I now?  One has been issue resolved.  My bike has been repaired & is actually working.  Yes!  Thanks, Felt for sending new shifters!!  The bike is ready to go! 

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My body is still damaged.  I still don’t have any power in my quads and feel like I’m riding thru sand.  The theory is that the neurons in my back are not firing the message to my quads to do the work.  My back continues to get worse.  I can hardly bed over now.  I can’t lift pots & pans out of the cabinet or bed over to pick something up.   It hurts to swim, run, sit, lay down & drive.  Ironically, it does not hurt on the bike but I’m still slow.  I’ve been thru 5 sessions with a new PT.  Not going great.  X-rays have been taken.  MRI was scheduled for today but canceled because insurance won’t pay until I’ve had 6 weeks of PT.  Ironically, I’m worse now that I’m doing PT than before (which is what usually happens with me & PT).  My GP is trying to get me into a pain specialist.  His theory being that this isn’t going to go away.  I ruptured discs in college while I was high jumping.  I opted out of surgery in 1993 for a series of magical drug cocktail injections of steroids, nerve blocker & anesthetic.  But alas, the magic has faded over time. Its theorized that the time is near for another series of injections.  Until then, I’ll keep hobbling along.  I haven’t been training much.  I opted out of my run last night, the short swim-run brick this morning because I really just feel horrible.  If there is any chance of getting to the start line on Sunday, I need to lie low this week.  Fortunately, I’m done with PT this week & have a few days to heal.  AND my therapeutic massage lady messaged me yesterday and said she had a cancellation for Friday.  So I’ll go get a massage tomorrow and see if she can take some of the pressure off my back & put some power into my quads.  Overall, my body should be fresh because I just haven’t been logging any miles. 

So that’s what’s up.  I’m still planning to do Rev3 but my expectations are very low.  And honestly, if I can’t do it, I just won’t.  I’m already stressing over the thought of carrying my loaded transition pack.  And water.  I always carry a jug of water to fill my aero canister.  I remember how badly it hurt my back carrying the water to transition for Steelhead and I’m much worse now than I was at Steelhead.  I hate the thought of blowing off the money of the registration fee, so I won’t be a DNS but I’m just going to be realistic and see how the day plays out.  The kids are ALL IN for Cedar Point so at least there is that.  I won’t be riding any rides but I can walk around and let them enjoy the park.  Maybe, just maybe, the walking will take some pressure off my back.  We’ll see.  My power word for Sunday is DETERMINATION.  At this point, that’s what I need to focus upon.  I’m determined to finish this TRI season with a smile on my face. 

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** Happy TRIing ** 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

Cutting Edge Half Classic 70.3 – Race Review

Effingham, IL is a town that feels like home. Its 5 hours from my current home, just north of Ft Wayne, IN.  Three hours from the south Chicago burbs.  It’s a frequent stop when I travel alone or with friends.  I’ve spent more time in Effingham hotels than anywhere else so it felt right to head there for the first TRI of the season, the Cutting Edge Half Classic 70.3 on the shores of Lake Sara.

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Pretty much my only concern about the weekend was the heat.  I knew I could cover the distance.  I still don’t feel 100% recovered from the 6 marathons I’ve already ran this year.  Make that 12 since last June.  But I’m getting there or at least I tried to really focus on resting last week.  Wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be but I was in a good place with it.  The forecasted temps though, had me concerned.  The “feels like temp” was predicted to be 105 by 2pm when I anticipated finishing.  I was hoping they would be wrong.  They weren’t.  Possibly the first forecast I’ve ever know to be exactly right.  Oh well!

Packet pick-up was easy and quick at the race site, inside, with real bathrooms.  About 100 yds from the beach.  Next to the finish line.  Option of race day packet pick-up.  Lake Sara was calm, clean and warm.  80 degrees, which means that wetsuits were not allowed according to USAT rules. 

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Transition was small.  It probably would have accommodated 100-150 racers.  Wooden transition “racks” that let our back tire slide into a slot.  Kinda cool and one I hadn’t seen before this event.  Enough space to put my transition bag behind the bike and out of the way without taking it back to the car.  Sweet!!  Speaking of the car.  If you are an iron fan, you may park a mile or further from transition.  And don’t forget your cash, cuz you’ll pay to park in that spot!  But at Cutting Edge, parking was about 100 yds from transition.  Easy.  No fuss.  Free parking. 

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Quick selfie with my bike.  Smile

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The swim.  One wave.  Two loops.  Each loop 0.60 miles.  Must stop swimming between loops, stand up and shout out your race number so they could keep track of everyone.  I thought this was a great thing for them to do and a smart way to watch the swimmers closely.  Also, I’d like to make a note about the swim setup.  They had the buoys out, parallel to the beach, going both to the left and the right.  The swim did not look crazy intimidating like some I’ve seen.  It was nice. The water was nice.  I was planning for a good swim, even without my wetsuit!!  Gun goes off, I was a bit nervous but was confident I could do it.  But alas I could not get a seal on my goggles.  I was a bit surprised because they had never failed me previous.  Then I realized I had both sunscreen on my face & an under eye moisturizer (cuz my allergies are leaving me with bags beneath my eyes every morning!!!).  Yeah, something “new” on race day.  Ugh, I couldn’t see anything.  My goggles were full of lake water.  The first loop was definitely easier than the second cuz I was around more swimmers.  It was harder for me, and my blurry vision, to see and stay on course the second loop!  I did attempt to dump the water and reseal my goggles at the half way point since I had to stop swimming and stand up to report my number.  Didn’t work.  So I just tried to swim on even though my eyes were irritated and I couldn’t see.  “Fast” swim for me, even with my stupid goggles & blurred vision.  40:05 for the distance.  But my watch only called it 1851 yards instead of the 2200 yds that I was expecting. It was the theme for the race, my watch not equaling the specified distance and I’m pretty sure the race officials were right.  I think my watch was just as overheated as I was from the very beginning. 

Bike.  2 loops.  Windy.  Hot.  My bike computer did not pick up my sensors.  I can’t read my watch in aero.  Yeah, I was flying blind but felt so slow.  Verified by looking at my watch a couple times, yep super slow but I felt powerless to change that.  Roads were decent.  Mostly tar & chip.  Aid stations every 10 miles.  3 turns each loop, around a cone in the road.  Course was well marked.  Course officials and/or police were at key intersections/turns to help.  Traffic on course but the drivers were courteous.  Wind was head on or a cross wind 90% of the course.  There were a few short places with it at our back & I was flying but yeah, otherwise, it was kinda miserable.  Not because of the course but  because of the wind and heat.  56 miles, my watch read 55.4.  Time – 3:25:19.  My last half IM had a bike time under 3 hours so I was slightly disappointed but I did it. 

Run.  2 loops.  Hot as Hell.  Where did that stupid wind go?  Aid stations every mile.  Glorious volunteers giving out cold sponges, soaking our nasty dirty, sweaty sponges in cold bowls of ice water.  Helping to put ice down the back of our tri suits.  Offering water, ice, gatorade, shade from their tent, electrolyte tabs, orange slices, bananas, gels, cheers and support.  The further we got away from the lake, the hotter it got.  So that “feels like” temp of 105 had to be so much higher out on those country roads.  I’m not sure I would have made it thru without the volunteers and aid stations.  The middle aid station even had a sprinkler.  Passed that sprinkler 4x and utilized it each time.  We’ve all had hot races.  Some people manage it better than others.  I’m big and soak in a lot of heat and sun and it just melts me.  But with the aid stations close together and knowing they had ice ahead, I was able to keep moving a little better than I normally would with a heat like this.  Many races in conditions like this will have hot water & gatorade.  No ice.  This race went above and beyond, I can’t even imagine the amount of ice they went thru and it was a saving grace for so many people, myself included.  13.1 miles. Time 2:37:52.  My watch said 11.8 miles and a time of 2:19.  Not accurate at all on my end.   

Overall, great race.  I’d go back.  I thought the course was very manageable.  It was fun to see the people I had met along the way and pass them on the loops.  Kinda made things go by faster.  I’d definitely recommend this event to newbies and seasoned triathletes alike.  And guess what, when I finished they had food. I’ve been to a couple of those iron events where I didn’t get food because they ran out (or were waiting on more) or because the line was so long that I didn’t have the energy to wait. Not the case at Cutting Edge.  Plenty of food and COLD drinks at the end.

I won the Athena division with a total time of 6:48.  Only one other Athena finished.  It was such a hot day and there were a lot of DNFs.  Only 67 age groupers finished.  2 Athenas.  1 Clydesdale.  My trophy & Heed were my division award.  Gender specific tee & finisher medal below.

 

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That’s a wrap for the first 70.3 of 2016.  It wasn’t pretty but I’m hoping I can only go up from this point.  Know that there are days where a DNF is not wimp out but a necessity.  But also know that when you look inside yourself, the answer will be there, its always easier to quit but if you can continue, do it.  The finish line is a sweet reward.

** Happy TRIing, All ** 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

Great Illini Half Iron Distance TRI – 2013

image

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

The Week Of Ironman 70.3 Racine

So the time has arrived and I’m staring down Ironman 70.3 Racine this weekend.  That’s 1.2 miles swimming, 56 miles biking, and 13.1 miles running.  Pure awesome.  Add all those miles up and you’ll get 70.3 miles.  This is merely half of an Ironman race like you might have seen on ESPN but there is nothing “half” about it in my world.

Ironman-70_3-Racine

Am I nervous?  Not really nervous yet but I certainly would have liked to have more training time in the books.  Most who tackle an event of this magnitude use a training plan (check out Triathlon Geek or Beginner Triathlete).  Possibly you’ve heard the phrase “fail to plan, plan to fail” but that’s not my reality.  A training plan for the 70.3 distance just gives me a ton of workouts that I’m unable to fit into my real life as mom, wife, employee & suburban commuter.  So I do what I can do, use the TTF “finish it” plan and that results in 1 swim, 1 bike and 3-4 runs each week (more running because I can do that at home on the treadmill while watching the kiddos!).  Yep, that’s it.  How will that play out this weekend?  We could probably call what we are about to witness a “sufferfest”.  It’s gonna hurt.

The good news is that I’m well aware that the race will be difficult.  I’ve done the distance previously with the same training schedule.  However, I was younger then, weighed less and had an extra month of “training” under my belt.  So how will that play out this weekend?  Sufferfest.

My plan is to focus on each discipline and not get ahead of myself.  Relax on the swim.  Not be upset that I’m a slower swimmer and acknowledge that most of my age group will most likely be out of the water and onto the bike well before me.  I’m a proficient swimmer; I’m just not fast.  Whatever.  The goal is to get out of the water and onto dry land.  Last time I did a 70.3, I swam the 1.2 mile distance in 44:23.  Anything under 45 minutes would make me a happy, happy camper.  Actually, just dragging my ass out of the water will make me a happy, happy camper.

The bike is long, 56 miles in this event.  That’s a long ass way on a bike.  My butt hurts just thinking about it.  My issue with the bike is that I like to ride fast.  As fast as I can go.  Well, that’s only fun for the first 20-30 miles, then I want to cry.  So I am going to try to keep things in control so that the last 20-30 miles don’t feel like dog crap make me cry.  Think I can make it thru this entire event without a tear?  No?  I gambling on a yes because it’s going to be so flippin’ hot that I’ll be dehydrated.   Smile  I’ll let you know on that one.  Anyhow, last time, I biked the 56 miles in 3 hours 22 minutes for a 16.58 mph average.  I’m hoping for a 17 mph average this time so that puts me around 3:15 and if I’m honest I’m dreaming of being closer to 3 hours but I know that’s just a dream and not my current fitness level.  

The run is a half marathon.  How many half marathons have I ran?  Close to 20 since I started pushing the distance card circa 2007.  So I think I can run one more, even if it is hot.  Even after I’ve swam 1.2 miles and biked 56 miles.  I can do it.  The good thing about the “run” is that you’re on solid ground it is what you make of it.  You can acknowledge that it will be a sufferfest and just keep moving or you can obsess about how bad it sucks and take yourself out of the game.  Choices.  Remember, you always have a choice, even if you don’t like the options.  I choose to run.  I choose to move my butt closer to the finish line at whatever pace I can manage.  I have no illusions of speediness but I do know that I can usually run faster than I can walk.  So I’m going to try to focus on running and if I need to walk I’m going to do so for a short time and then get going again.  My run may look like a shuffle but I plan to keep on shuffling right to the finish line.  Last time, I ran the half in 2:20.  That’s a 10:43 pace.  I’m hoping to be under 2:10 this time, which is just under a 10 minute mile. 

So for comparison, here is how I hope predict the race to stack up against my previous attempt in 2008.  I know it’s been 5 years but I’m older and wiser right?  Plus I’d like to think that Mr. Michael has made me tougher in more ways than you can even imagine.

Great Illini 70.3 – 2008

Goal for IM 70.3 Racine 2013

Swim – 44:23 Swim – 45:00
T1 – 2:37 (small transition) T1 – 5:00
Bike – 3:22:40 Bike – 3:15:00
T2 – 3:56 T2 – 5:00
Run – 2:20:23 Run – 2:10:00
Final – 6:33:51 Final – 6:20:00

There it is in black and white.  I’m looking to go under 6 hours and 30 minutes this time.  Will it happen?  Only time will tell.  Will I be disappointed if it doesn’t happen?  Hell, no.  I’m in to finish it and it will be a HUGE accomplishment for me to put this in the done column.  I’m looking forward to the race.  I’m looking forward to pushing my limits.  I’m looking forward to the sufferfest.  Let’s do this!!  Whoooooooop!

you can get thru this    stronger than you think

** Stronger Than I Think ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

88 Laps….

For me, swimming is a task like no other.  When I run or bike, I have a constant stream of thoughts and am actually able to work things out in my head.  When I swim, I focus on not drowning, breathing, stretching my stroke and counting my laps.  I have random thoughts that come and go but mostly, I just focus on not drowning and counting.  No joke.

88 laps in a 25 yard pool is equivalent to the 1.2 miles I need to swim in the two half iron events in which I will be participating this year.  I swam the full 88 laps yesterday for the first time.    I am only 55 days away from the July 7th Ironman 70.3 Muncie.

A few of my random thoughts….

  • 44 minutes, the amount of time it took me to swim 1.2 miles in my last half iron event.
  • 56 minutes, the amount of time it took to swim the 88 laps yesterday.
  • 4, the minutes I hope to eliminate from my swim with it being in open water and not having to turn around every 25 yards.
  • 5, the minutes I hope to eliminate from my swim by using my wetsuit that will hold my momma hips up in the proper position.
  • 10, the number of mini prayers I sent up asking for water temps on July 7th & September 1st to be cool enough to be USAT wetsuit legal.
  • 78, the max water temp for an event to be wetsuit legal.
  • 3, the lap I was swimming when I started thinking about Kelly’s post on her first swim lesson.
  • 4, the lap I was swimming when I thought about contacting Maggie’s cousin, Coach Judie, or MJ at TriSmart , or anybody somebody to tell me if my swimming is even remotely adequate.
  • 50, the number of times I tried to “hear”  my stroke like Kelly discussed in her post on the first swim lesson.
  • 0, the number of flip turns I performed.
  • 6, the number of times I stopped to readjust my goggles.
  • 4, the number of times I breathe in 25 yards.
  • 7, the number of years that I have owned the TRI tank I was wearing that I will never again wear.  Can you say skintight and see thru?  UGH!

2XU Tri top

  • 35, the lap I was swimming where it finally all came together and I relaxed.
  • 36, the lap I was swimming when I started to wonder if the turnover rate of my arms during the swim is also called cadence like the rate of turnover of foot fall/pedal stroke while running/biking.  Answer:  YES, look HERE.
  • 3, the number of sets I did to equal 88 laps.  Set 1 = 48 laps, Set 2 = 30 laps, Set 3 = 10 laps.  Don’t ask why, it’s random, just like my thoughts.
  • 25, the lap in the 2nd set where I was wondering if CrazyBoyDon actually counts laps or if he somehow adapts 99 bottles of Beer on the Wall to keep track…..  88 laps to swim in the pool, swim one down, flip it around….yeah that doesn’t work. 
  • 1, the lap in the last set where I realized that I don’t know how to kick.  I have spent so much time “not kicking” to save my legs, that the kick just seems foreign to me now.
  • 12 the number of times Michael asked me if I had been swimming with Santa when I got home.

Santa Swim

Michael is obsessed with Santa and wants to go swimming with him so badly.  He is always flailing around the bathtub pretending to swim with Santa.  If you know of any swimming Santa’s, please let me know.  PLEASE

What do you think about when you swim?  Will you be thinking of swimming Santa’s the next time you go to make some laps?  Maybe you should! 

Santa Swimming_scuba

Happy Swimming **  Amanda – TooTallFritz ** amanda@tootallfritz.com